|About the Book|
Another reworking of the Arthurian legend, but so bereft of Arthurian resonance that it might have worked better as an unvarnished or unvarnished historical novel of the Roman twilight in Britain. As the Saxon pillagers sweep ever farther west, young Baradoc, Roman army veteran & son of a British tribal chief, meets Tia, a Roman girl fleeing the troubles. Their son Arturo, a child hugely endowed with wildness, blarney & arrogance, grows up to inherit his fathers dream of uniting Britain against the Saxons. The story is chiefly concerned with the slow building of his campaign, from his early rebellion against the delaying tactics of the anti-Saxon forces to the great victory of Mt Badon. Like many imaginers of an earlier Britain, Canning is best when describing the wild countryside & the homely skills of its inhabitants. His attempts to graft this material onto the Grail legend are effortful platitudes. Merlin appears & disappears at climactic moments, saying things like Only the gods know that. Speeches are peppered with ritual interjections of Aie... to indicate deep thought. People look at each other & instinctively know something, or undergo some tremendous change from that moment...Cannings Arturo does occasionally come to life during his stormy childhood in the Tribe of the Enduring Crow- once he is grown, one feels that Canning, like Sir Bedivere, has lost sight of the barge.--KirkusBeginning note: At the time of this story—roughly 450 AD—any effective Roman presence in Britain had long gone. The shadow of the Dark Ages—which were to last nearly 300 years—had already fallen across the country. The Saxon mercenaries, hired originally to fight against the Pictish invasions from the North, were now breaking out of the lands granted to them in the East. Constantly reinforced by more of their kind they were beginning to sweep westwards across the country, massacring & pillaging, to make it their own.Postscript: Altho there are no incontrovertible facts about King Arthur, the renown of his life & deeds in the Dark Ages was lodged for over 600 years in folk memory. & folk, being what they are, invariably alter & embroider a good story. Wm of Malmesbury, Geoffrey of Monmouth & then Sir Thomas Malory were landed with the result. Lesser as well as better writers have followed them. Acknowledging that I come in the first of these two categories, I feel no shame in entering the lists poorly armed but securely mounted on a horse I have ridden for years called Imagination.