As a child I absolutely LOVED the King Arthur stories and legends, and so I was excited to dive back into these legends with this read! And let me tell you, Lancelot delivers. It is, quite simply a fantastic and engrossing retelling of the legends and myths of King Arthur.
The Arthurian legends are absolute classics that I bet most of us know at least the basics and key characters of. These stories tend to get done in one of two ways: high medieval fantasy with knights, castles, wizards and witches or as a mixture of historical fiction and fantasy set during the 5th century Saxon invasion of post-Roman Britain. The latter is the way this one was done. The fantasy elements are pretty minimal and subtle, with the historical fiction elements feeling stronger, but the fantasy is there. After all, this is a story with Merlin in!
One of the key ways this story differs from most Arthurian retellings, and I bet you can guess this from the title of the book, is the way it focuses around the story and life of Lancelot. We first meet Lancelot as a child, fleeing for his life from his home in Armorica with his father, King Ban, and the rest of their family. This story then follows him throughout his formative years under the tutelage of the mysterious Lady Nimue and the warrior Pelleas on the Cornish isle of Karrek Loos yn Koos. Here he learns the ways of war and discovers his talents with the sword and spear. His youth takes up a large swathe of the book and it is is not until around half way through that we really get to the classic parts of the story: his time with Arthur, the fight for a united Britain and the wars to drive the Saxons out.
With so much focus on Lancelot’s childhood and adolescence, this book’s opening isn’t the most fast-paced – though the later chapters are! These early chapters, however, really are crucial to how great this book is. We get a very intimate and in-depth knowledge of Lancelot as a person during this time that makes everything that happens later, the heart-breaking story of Lancelot, makes sense – and this tragic element to Lancelot’s life being another thing that makes this book different as it takes him away from the role we usually see him in: Arthur’s betrayer.
Alongside this, the slower paced opening also allows Kristian to build up some great relationships throughout the story that make this a very character driven book. Personal favourites of mine were Lancelot’s friendship with Bors, his student-mentor relationship with Palleas, his rivalry with Melwas and, of course, his relationship Guinevere. How these relationships interweave through the story, affecting and guiding Lancelot’s life and choices, make this a story, at its heart, about friendship and loyalty as much as the epic struggle to save Britain and recreate a forgotten golden era that is the story of Arthur.
Overall, I would 100% recommend this book, It is a vivid, brilliant and heart-breaking retelling of the Arthurian legend with the fresh twist of being seen through Lancelot’s eyes. Filled with fascinating characters and relationships, bloody and thrilling battles, and beautiful, descriptive writing, I think this is a book with something for almost everyone to love!