Sunday, 23 November 2014

King Arthur: Dragon's Child, by MK Hume

3 stars

A decent reimagining of the early years of King Arthur, or Artorex as he is known here - a blend of the Celt and Roman in one tall and ginger man (or 'russet', if you're sensitive about gingerness). 

Unaffectionately known as Lump by the foster family that has raised him in a small Roman settlement near Aquae Sulis and little better than a slave, Lump is ignored by most and valued by none except for the elderly slave Frith, at least until the family is visited by three travellers (one of whom bears the name Merlinus) who exhort them to train the young Artorex in the ways of battle, diplomacy and other qualities needed in a leader of men. Content to live the life of a simple steward at Villa Poppinidii, events are soon set in motion that leave young Artorex no choice but to venture into the wider, scarier world of ancient Britain and take up the sword against the marauding Saxons while discovering his true birthright as the only son of the dying Uther Pendragon, the malicious, cruel and murderous rapist who's High King of the Britons.

Apparently inspired by a note in a historical text referring to Guinevere as King Arthur's second wife, MK Hume has done a pretty decent job of building the world young Artorex lives in with the Britain of the time a curious mix of the Roman, the Celt, and the various other tribes who would have made up a large part of the population of the time, reminding me a little of the Clive Owen starring King Arthur (which, despite being mildly disappointing, did have the advantage of including both Hannibal Lecter and Will Graham looking like this:


One of the book's strengths were the small details on how life might have been and how society may have functioned and I have zero problem with the liberties taken with the myths as I know them, but did find that the book faltered somewhat whenever dealing with emotion. While it is quite fitting that the inscrutable Artorex not be mastered by his, there were still many times where the ordeals being faced should have stirred some feeling within me but, other than a small gulp of sadness concerning Frith, I was left completely unruffled. The characters were also drawn with pretty broad strokes, so while there was at least some effort to provide motivations and shades of grey, the villains of the piece were all blatant moustache-twirlers of the highest order.

That said, with the world outside of books needing a bit more of my brainpower at the moment, this was an undemanding and still fairly entertaining bit of brain-candy that will hopefully continue to soothe my tired brain as I plow through the rest of the trilogy.

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