King of the Middle Marchby Kevin Crossley-Holland is the final book in the Arthur Trilogy.

This book continues the tradition of the short chapters as Arthur takes up the cross. Unlike the other books which are side by side, there’s a year-long gap between At the Crossing Places and King of the Middle March, which is slightly jarring at first.

This book is darker than the others, both in what happens to Arthur as well as the events in the Seeing Stone. Anyone familiar with Arthurian Legend won’t really be surprised by the events in the Seeing Stone, as King Arthur’s dream falls to pieces, as a result of both Guenevere’s affair and the machinations of Mordred.

But, as before, the events in the stone are primarily a reflection of the other Arthur’s experiences, and more central here than ever before. Arthur joins the crusade with fairly romantic ideals, but he also suffers some confliction at the same time. In the earlier books, Arthur had received mixed messages about how horrible the Saracens are, and this is only heightened as they begin to mobilize. Over the course of this book he sees good Saracens and bad Christians. He sees rape, theft, and murder. He struggles more and more to find the right thing to do, even questioning if there is a right thing.

Kevin does a good job getting across Arthur’s confusing and mounting hopelessness. Arthur feels very real, and that makes this a satisfying conclusion to the series.

One small qualm I had was that the resolution with Arthur’s mother (I won’t go into any further detail to avoid spoilers) is a bit anti-climactic. It’s built up a lot in the second book, but the third just doesn’t really manage to deliver much on it.

All in all a good finish to an enjoyable series. If you’ve read the first two, there’s no reason not to pick up King of the Middle March.

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