a novel of king arthur
by jane yolen
jane yolen is one of those writers who probably gives a lot of other writers fits - even those who feel that they are relatively hard workers. the well-known author of books for young adults and children has turned out about 300 works in all in the course of her career and a few of these have tackled the arthurian legend she's so fond of.
most notable of these are probably the young merlin trilogy and this volume, which the author says began life as a short story. i'm well past the target age for this type of book but i thought i'd give it a whirl anyway. i found that though i had some reservations about the whole affair, it was actually quite a page-turner overall.
as things get rolling, morgause (morgan le fay, in many versions of the legend) is plotting to take power from arthur, who is already king. four of her five sons are dispatched to arthur's court and the story is told mostly from the perspective of gawaine, the oldest. as for merlinnus, he's no spring chicken in this version of the yarn, but he's still pretty sharp and decides to come up with a pr gimmick (essentially) involving a sword and a stone that he hopes will cement arthur's position as the big cheese.
what follows is mostly a straightforward yarn that presents these parties working toward their respective goals and that's that. yolen does throw in a pretty great twist along the way that totally blindsided me but then again i'm probably not as clever as the average young adult reader.
the biggest drawbacks for me as i read this one is that it was just one small segment clipped from the greater whole of this story and didn't really seem all that substantial. one might have expected a few books to precede it and several more to follow, but in a brief q&a at the end of the book yolen says she has no interest in continuing into the darker areas of the legend. my other minor quibble was with morgause, who is presented as a rather cartoonish villain and an incarnation of pure evil who has absolutely no redeeming qualities whatsoever.