by Vivian Vande Velde
Before this novel the most I’d heard about King Arthur and the knights of the round table came from the 1998 movie Merlin (directed by Steve Barron and starring Sam Neill), the Whoopi Goldberg movie A Knight in Camelot, and our readings in English class, including “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.”
This was an interesting book and gives even more insight into the life of people and mythology from these times. The writing style and voice is not quite to my liking, but I enjoyed the book more when I got to the part narrated by Keira. (This book is divided into three parts, each narrated by a different woman [Alayna, Nimue, and Keira] who was important in Mordred’s life. They take us on separate adventures.)
The part with Nimue is very interesting. I did not imagine a blonde-haired witch with the habit of second-guessing herself for Merlin’s wife, and I didn’t like how Nimue got between Alayna and Mordred. I was really routing for that couple.
As the inside cover summary warns, this is a different interpretation than the usual Arthur legends. It is a focus on the villain, Mordred, not so much a villain in this version, and actually a part of the knights of the round table. I liked this alternative look at the dashing rogue, but I was looking for a little more depth in his reasoning and the factors that contributed to tipping points in his thinking and actions.
But things are definitely different. From HomeschoolBuzz.com: “Lancelot is not a hero, and Mordred is simply a misunderstood, strong, charismatic, and likeable old fellow.” And new characters are introduced. You probably didn’t recognize the names Alayna and Keira, they’re new, and so is an evil wizard named Halbert.
(Details about the ending are hidden below, stop here to avoid plot spoilers!)
One thing I really liked about this book is the ending. Mordred does not die as the legend goes. He is restored from his mortal wounds by Nimue when he does the good act of throwing Merlin’s ring into the lake, to prevent any further misuse. Mordred and Alayna finally end up together, and Keira gets to go to Avalon. It wrapped things up perfectly.