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Arthur: At the Crossing Places

December 9, 2010

Arthur: At The Crossing Places
Kevin Crossley Holland

This was a lovely, lyrical follow-up to Arthur: The Seeing Stone. Arthur of Caldicot’s life is still mysteriously intwined with the life and legend of King Arthur. Young Arthur sees visions of the famed king in his obsidian seeing stone. These images and departures from his own life give the story a sometimes dreamlike quality which is gorgeous, even though it can get confusing. How are Arthur and King Arthur connected? What about Merlin, appearing in both vision and reality? What do you call narrator-Arthur when writing a book review?

Young Arthur (as opposed to King Arthur) is growing up, wanting to be betrothed and to join the Crusades. His visions show him King Arthur, and some familiar Round Table knights like Percival, Gawain, and Lancelot, as well as Guinivere and Morgana.

Each story, Boy-Arthur and King Arthur, is gorgeously told, with imagery and poetry I wanted to savor, rather than read fast. The Round Table is described as a giant, crystalline, polished stone, with sparkles of light and shadow floating in its depths. Guinevere and Lancelot’s inevitable tragedy (at least I think it’s inevitable, from what I know) seems almost hopeful, it’s so beautiful.

Boy-Arthur’s adventures are fascinating as well, a window into the historical life of the time, the daily routines of training to be a page, while also nurturing the education of a scholar. The castle’s rhythms of feast days and the divisions between lords and the people. Each scene has such rich detail, it’s easy to imagine, and tremendous fun to read.

I don’t remember whether I mentioned this while reading the first book, but this trilogy seems like spiritual and thematic kin to Mary Stewart’s Merlin books. The language and imagery work in similar ways.

Will have to put volume three on my library list.

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