Tag Archives: Arthurian legend

A Fresh Perspective (Merlin Fanfic)

Author: dr4g0ngrl

FanFiction ID: 8495208

Status: Complete (14 Chapters)

My rating: 5 of 5

An innocuous (if extremely annoying for Merlin) hunting trip with Prince Arthur turns into something drastically different when the two find themselves attacked by a group of sorcerers who manage to shove a suspicious potion down Merlin’s throat. After dealing with their attackers, Arthur turns around to find . . . an unconscious Merlin who is now a little kid of around four years old. Oops. Unsure what to do with a child, Arthur makes the natural decision–take the kid back to his mother. So the two of them show up on Hunith’s doorstep, and Merlin’s poor mom gets dragged into the mess, trying to comfort her confused son while also keeping his magic a secret from Arthur and the rest of the magic-hating world. But for a little child to keep secrets, especially a secret as big as this one, is not exactly easy, and Arthur is in for more than one surprise on his way back to Camelot.

A Fresh Perspective is just about everything I wish for in a fanfic–or in any story, for that matter. The writing flows well, uses excellent grammar, shows a very readable use of third-person narrative, and is just generally pleasant to read. The plot, as the author admits directly, is basically an excuse to write Merlin-as-a-kid fluff. And the result is absolutely adorable. The author’s grasp of Merlin’s character, as well as how that would display as a four-year-old kid, is excellent if flavored towards a highly favorable view of his personality and character (just as I like it). This view of him and his utter devotion to Arthur and to Camelot is vital to the way in which the plot develops, especially after Arthur and the knights discover Merlin’s magic. I also love that the knights (Gwaine, Percival, Elyan, and Leon, specifically) are heavily included in this story, because they’re fabulous and they’re individual reactions to kid-Merlin are important in developing their own personalities, histories, and relationships with each other and with Merlin. The bromance between Merlin and Arthur, as well as between Merlin and Gwaine, is well crafted here, and I think the way in which the author handled that uncertainty of relationship at the point where Merlin is suddenly a child and has no memory of Arthur or Gwaine was very well done. Honestly, I would change nothing about this story, and will probably re-read it many times over. I just want to find more stories by the same author!

Note: You can find A Fresh Perspective at https://www.fanfiction.net/s/8495208/1/A-Fresh-Perspective.

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The Ballad of Sir Dinadan

Author: Gerald Morristhe ballad of sir dinadan

The Squires Tales, vol. 5

My rating: 4.5 of 5

All Dinadan really wants to do with his life is be a minstrel, writing great ballads and accompanying himself on his rebec. The chances of actually getting to do that are pretty slim, though, when you’re the disappointing second son of a nobleman knight and the younger brother of a legend. Tristan has never returned to their home in the eight years since he set off to seek his fortune, but the tale of his skill still reach his family and their father never tires of pointing out the differences between his sons. Finally, after being humiliatingly knighted by his drunken father, Dinadan rides off, taking little but his armor and his rebec, to seek his own fortune. For his own part, he would be well-content to ride along incognito, earning his way with his music, but fate seems to have different plans as he continues to get drawn into the affairs (worst of all, the love affairs) of those around him. And worse yet, when he finally does meet his brother Tristan, he finds an arrogant idiot who has somehow managed to get himself ridiculously obsessed with some equally idiotic queen by the name of Iseult–yet another absurd love affair for Dinadan to get dragged into. He’s well on the way to swearing off of love forever!

I love, love, love Morris’ Squires Tale books–they’re good for numerous, frequent re-reads and they’re equally engaging and funny every time. Plus, I love the way their insight into human nature often tells me something important about myself as I’m reading. In any case, although The Ballad of Sir Dinadan is technically the fifth volume, the books are only loosely connected, so there’s nothing to be lost by reading this one independently. As I said, the prose is remarkably well-written, insightful and funny both, without taking itself too seriously. Actually, this volume is probably less serious than many of the other volumes, in spite of its  roots in the tragedy of Tristan and Iseult. Dinadan’s character is very well developed, and as he is the sort of person to think that this sort of love is rather absurd, we do get a more ridiculous perspective on it than in some stories. It’s actually pretty refreshing, particularly the way in which Dinadan eventually comes to discover that he can have true friendship and love without necessarily having to be “in love” with all the absurdities that entails. I think I’ve mentioned before that an intentional singleness isn’t something books often address, and it’s nice to see an author brave enough to broach the topic. In any case, there’s lots of good fun and adventure outside of Tristan’s story as well, and some incredible character development also. I would highly recommend The Ballad of Sir Dinadan to anyone, say, 15+ who enjoys Arthurian legends and retellings.

NOTE: Sorry, I’m doing the reviews of this series out of order. I’ll fill in the gaps soon. But really, with this set, it doesn’t matter what order you read them in.

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The Squire’s Tale

the squire's taleAuthor: Gerald Morris

The Squire’s Tales, vol. 1

My rating: 5 of 5

Imagine spending your entire childhood being raised by someone who can see the future as clearly as you see the past and to whom the past is as dim as the future is to you. You can imagine, it would give you a different perspective . . . and cause you to accept that when that person says something’s going to happen, it will. Thus it is that Terence, who has grown up with the unusual hermit Trevisant, doesn’t question the old hermit when young Gawain rides up to their hermitage and Trevisant declares he will one day be a great knight. Nor does Terence argue greatly when the hermit sends him packing to be Gawain’s squire. And thus begins an adventure that will span the reaches of Arthur’s kingdom and beyond . . . and a lifelong friendship, whatever protocol may say about the relations between knights and squires.

I love The Squire’s Tale; actually, I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve read it by now, or how many times I’m likely to read it in the future. This is a book that only gets better the more you read it, although it’s a delight from the first. This book is a refreshing conglomeration of random traditional stories about Sir Gawain, knit together into a single story told from the perspective of Gawain’s squire, Terence. I love what Morris does with the stories–they all work together well and are told with an immense sense of humor and good sense. Moreover, they showcase that which is absolutely best about this story: the characters, especially Gawain and Terence. They’re both just really enjoyable characters to read (and people I’d actually like to meet in real life!)–practical, good-humored, men of character and courage, insightful, and not over-ready to bow to social norms just because they’re the norm. This book is very clean, and would be absolutely appropriate for late elementary and up, but I think The Squire’s Tale will be appreciated by some adults even more than by children; I know I often find insight into who I am and why I do things when I read this book and the others in this series. In any case, if you haven’t read this yet, you should check it out!

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The Winter Prince

Author: Elizabeth E. Wein

Capable, strong, and intelligent though he is, Medraut will never be king of Britain, eldest son of the king though he be. His father’s mistake, and his own illegitimacy, haunt him . . . as do the deeper secret of his mother’s true relation to King Artos and the excruciating physical and psychological scars his mother has left on him. Worse yet, Medraut’s half-brother Lleu is so sure of himself and his position as the king’s heir and so cruel in his surety, despite his physical weakness and lack of skill in many areas in which Medraut excels. Placed in a position to either shelter and nourish his brother, or to harm him cruelly, can Medraut defy his own wounded pride?

What a complex and beautiful story. Elizabeth Wein’s name has been coming up a lot in connection with her more recent work, Code Name Verity, but I would say that The Winter Prince proves that she has been a talented author for quite some time. She takes the skeleton of the Arthurian legend of Mordred, Arthur’s illegitimate son by his sister Morgause, and fleshes it out into a haunting, moving historical novel. The descriptive prose sets the scene beautifully throughout as told through Medraut’s own eyes, and the complexities of the relationships and emotions of all the characters, but particularly between Medraut, Morgause, and Lleu are wrenching and thought-provokingly beautiful. I think the way the whole story is told in Medraut’s voice as addressed to Morgause is particularly effective in showing just how deep the scars she left on him are. I also greatly appreciate the surprise ending; it fits and makes me happy, is unexpected enough to be fresh, yet is wholly appropriate to the characters and plot. I would highly recommend The Winter Prince as a historical novel, as an Arthurian retelling, and as simply an incredible character study and psychologically involved novel.

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Passager

Author: Jane Yolen

At the age of eight, the nameless boy has been abandoned in the forest for nearly a year. That year of living along with only the wild animals around, struggling on his own to survive, has left the boy more wild animal than human. Still, when a man comes into the woods to train his hawk, something stirs in the boy–to the extent that he secretly follows the man home.

Passager was (as I’ve said before, all Jane Yolen books are) an excellent read–sparse, yet with an unexpected warmth. Theoretically, this is the tale of the great wizard Merlin’s youth, but there’s almost no hint that it is so in this book–just the fact that the boy names himself “Merlin” at the end and a few bits of people whispering mysteriously about his destiny. This is the first of a trilogy though, so there’s probably more wizardly development later. I’m looking forward to it. As it is, Passager is simply a beautiful tale, a very human story. Of note, the chapters are quite short, and the vocabulary is decently manageable (not “Bob saw the cat” easy, by any means, but still). Passager would be a good choice for a developing reader, although I would recommend it for anyone.

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The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp

the extraordinary adventures of alfred kroppAuthor: Rick Yancey

My rating: 4 of 5

Alfred Kropp, vol. 1

Take one part Arthurian romance, one part action movie, add one bumbling kid who can’t seem to get anything right, and you might get something vaguely resembling this book. Maybe. Rick Yancey’s ability to mesh story elements that seem impossible to reconcile is what really makes this story shine. The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp has the fast-paced thrill of a typical action story, complete with high-speed chases, shoot-outs, and blood splatters. However, what stands out most about this book is the skill with which the author weaves in not just the knights and swords of Arthurian legend, but the concepts as well. Right from the beginning, Alfred is faced with the choices between right and wrong. And after he’s chosen wrongly, he is faced with the choice again and again until he finally gets it right–a choice that might cost him his life. I would recommend this book for people on both sides of the divide–action or traditional romance–as it is a beautiful fusion of the two that somehow surpasses its parts to become something unique and brilliant of its own.

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Knights of the Kitchen Table

knights of the kitchen tableAuthor: Jon Scieszka

Illustrator: Lane Smith

My rating: 3.5 of 5

Time Warp Trio, vol. 1

Joe and his friends, Fred and Sam, never intended to leave Joe’s birthday party. Or to end up in Arthurian England. They just weren’t careful to avoid idle wishes around his Uncle Joe’s present. And everybody knows idle wishes are dangerous . . . don’t they?

I have to admit, I only picked Knights of the Kitchen Table up because I’d read Jon Scieszka’s story in The Chronicles of Harris Burdick and enjoyed it. I’m glad I did. I’d walked past it and the many other volumes in Scieszka’s “The Time Warp Trio” series innumerable times, thinking the spines looked too dull to bother with them. The spines lie. Knights of the Kitchen Table is distinctly written for the elementary-school-boy demographic, but would be an enjoyable, quick read for anyone–it’s only around 50 pages long, and the print’s fairly big. I recommend that you check it out and see for yourself.

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