Book Review: King of the Middle March

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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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Book Review: At the Crossing Places

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This week’s book is At the Crossing Places by Kevin Crossley-Holland. It’s the sequel to The Seeing Stone

There’s not much I can say about the plot without giving too much away about the first book. Arthur has to learn to deal with the revelations from the end of the first book. As the title suggests, this is a very transitory stage in Arthur’s life, even more than usual for a coming of age story.

The story’s level of focus both increases and decreases. Arthur’s story meanders less than it did before. He has an important goal now to focus on, and a few slightly smaller goals as well. But the chapters that take place in the seeing stone have changed format a bit. Arthur-in-the-stone has become an adult, while Arthur is still a child. The story stops following King Arthur directly, spending much more time on his knights and their famous quests. The book suggests that the parallels between what happens in the stone and what happens in Arthur’s life are still there, but with a few exceptions, they’re much more subtle, and I have a feeling I missed more than I noticed.

I enjoyed this book more than the first one, I think, largely due to Arthur’s increased focus. If you didn’t enjoy the first book, though, I wouldn’t recommend the sequel.

Book Review: The Seeing Stone

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This week’s book is The Seeing Stone by Kevin Crossley-Holland, the first book in the Arthur Trilogy

The Seeing Stone stars a young page named Arthur, who both is and is not King Arthur. Merlin gives him an obsidian stone that let’s him watch the lives of another boy named Arthur who lived two hundred years ago.

The book is a slice of life story. Arthur has to deal with things like his older brother’s insults, getting in trouble for helping the field-hands, and his general desire to find his place in the world. In the mean time, there is odd parallels with what he sees in the seeing stone, sometimes very similar events and sometimes quite opposite ones.

The story itself is a bit erratic. It’s not that it doesn’t know where it’s going, it’s just not in any hurry to get there. It’s split into one hundred chapters, some of which are only a page long (and some of them even shorter).

This defines Arthur’s character, though. At thirteen, he’s a bit unfocused himself. He longs to be a squire, but his father seems to have some hidden plans for him. He want to be betrothed to his cousin, but he also has a deep relationship with Gatty, one of the field-hands. This dichotomy of youthful spirit helps make Arthur seem real.

All in all, I enjoyed the book, but I can’t recommend it for everybody. The flitting style of the book might be offsetting to some. Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to pick up the book and read a few chapters to determine if you’ll like the rest or not.