The Classic Guide to King Arthur (Classic Guides) by Dr Keith Souter

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The Classic Guide to King Arthur (Classic Guides) by Dr Keith Souter

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Buy The Classic Guide to King Arthur (Classic Guides) by Dr Keith Souter at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Category: Reference
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Robert James
Reviewed by Robert James
Summary: Dry but useful reference book on the tale of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 192 Date: May 2012
Publisher: Golden Guides Press Ltd
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1780950068

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This is a comprehensive guide to the Arthurian legend, with the first half taking readers through the tale from Merlin helping Uther Pendragon to sleep with Gorlois - thus giving birth to King Arthur - right up to the deaths of all of the principal players in the story. The final section gives details of literary sources used for the legend, Arthurian poetry, folklore, the real people who may have inspired the legend, and depictions of King Arthur in popular culture. In between, there's a fairly short but useful guide to 'Who, What, Where and When In Arthur's Realm'.

As the above paragraph suggests, this has real strengths as a reference book. However, I rather struggled to engage with it because it's so incredibly dry. Compared to the other book in this series I've read, The Classic Guide to Famous Assassinations (Classic Guides) by Sarah Herman, which had me hooked really quickly, this suffers from stilted language and a lack of any emotion. (I've been trying to decide if that's a fair criticism of a reference book, and I think it will probably depend on the individual reader. Personally, I felt that reading about Lancelot and Guinevere's love affair and the treachery of Mordred, amongst other famous stories, lost a fair amount of impact due to the rather weak language used to describe them. Other opinions may well vary!) I was also disappointed that the folklore section, placing one of England's most famous legends in the context of basic plots and of the need for heroes, lasted a scant six pages as there seemed to be much more that could be said about it.

Still, it's definitely got its uses and the middle section, despite its brevity, is a real boon to anyone looking to find the basics about characters or places in a rush. The poetry section is very good, by the way. Full texts of Tennyson's The Lady of Shalott, Keats's La Belle Dame Sans Merci, and Yeats' beautiful The Black Tower make this a higher recommendation for fans of poetry than for readers in general.

Overall, this is certainly worth looking at if you want to know all of the details about the story of Arthur, even if the pedestrian style makes it harder to recommend in general.

As mentioned above, I really enjoyed The Classic Guide to Famous Assassinations (Classic Guides) by Sarah Herman in this series. For more on chivalrous knights, For Honour and Fame: Chivalry in England 1066-1500 by Nigel Saul is an extremely interesting read.

Buy The Classic Guide to King Arthur (Classic Guides) by Dr Keith Souter at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Classic Guide to King Arthur (Classic Guides) by Dr Keith Souter at Amazon.co.uk


Buy The Classic Guide to King Arthur (Classic Guides) by Dr Keith Souter at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Classic Guide to King Arthur (Classic Guides) by Dr Keith Souter at Amazon.com.

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