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The Death of King Arthur: The Immortal Legend [Hardcover]

Thomas Malory , Peter Ackroyd
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (88 customer reviews)
Price: 16.21 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

10 Nov 2011

A gripping retelling of the timeless epic of romance, enchantment and adventure, Peter Ackroyd's The Death of King Arthur recasts Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur in clear, compelling modern English prose, published in Penguin Classics.

'In the old wild days of the world there was a King of England known as Uther Pendragon; he was a dragon in wrath as well as in power ...'

Born with the help of Merlin's magic, blessed with the sword of Excalibur, Arthur becomes King of a troubled England, beginning a golden age of chivalry at the court of Camelot. But his reign is soon to be torn apart by violence, revenge and tragedy ...

Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur made the legend of King Arthur immortal. Now Peter Ackroyd's retelling brings his timeless story of love, heroism and betrayal to new life for our times.

Sir Thomas Malory (c.1405-1471) was a knight and estate owner in the mid 15th century, who spent many years in prison for political crimes as well as robbery. He wrote Le Morte d'Arthur, the first great English prose epic, while imprisoned in Newgate.

Peter Ackroyd (b. 1949) is an award-winning writer and historian. Formerly literary editor of The Spectator and chief book reviewer for the The Times, he is the author of novels such as Hawksmoor (1985) and The House of Doctor Dee (1993), as well as non-fiction including Dickens: Public Life and Private Passion (2002), London: The Biography (2000), and Thames: Sacred River (2007).

If you enjoyed The Death of King Arthur, you might like Ackroyd's The Canterbury Tales, also available in Penguin Modern Classics.

'I admire this version enormously ... This story has to move with both swiftness and dignity, and yoking those two qualities together is not an easy task; but Ackroyd does it with ease'

Philip Pullman, author of His Dark Materials trilogy

'Ackroyd's lightly trimmed and streamlined Le Morte d'Arthur makes it eminently readable'

Sunday Times

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Books (10 Nov 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670023078
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670023073
  • Product Dimensions: 2.9 x 15.9 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (88 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 74,474 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Peter Ackroyd is the author of biographies of Dickens, Blake and Thomas More and of the acclaimed non-fiction bestsellers London: The Biography and Thames: Sacred River. Peter Ackroyd is an award-winning novelist, as well as a broadcaster, biographer, poet and historian. He has won the Whitbread Biography Award, the Royal Society of Literature's William Heinemann Award, the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, the Guardian Fiction Prize, the Somerset Maugham Award and the South Bank Prize for Literature. He holds a CBE for services to literature.

Product Description

Review

I thought Peter Ackroyd's Morte d'Arthur was masterful. The quality I admired most was the absolute clarity of the storytelling. This story - or set of stories - has to move with both swiftness and dignity, and yoking those two qualities together is not an easy task; but Ackroyd does it with ease. I think he can probably do anything. I admire this version enormously (Philip Pullman )

Peter Ackroyd's lightly trimmed and streamlined Le Morte d'Arthur makes it eminently readable (Sunday Times )

...the majesty of Malory's book survives too, not least in the final chapters telling of the internal conflicts that destroy the Round Table, the passion of Lancelot and Guinevere, and the destiny that Arthur has had coming to him for a long time: death in battle. This, as retold by Peter Ackroyd, remains a bizarre but thrilling piece of writing. (Michael Caines Wall Street Journal )

'In this ingenious decanting of an old wine into a new bottle, [Peter Ackroyd] he has taken a glorious part of our cultural heritage and made it more accessible to the readers of the 21st century. ' (David Robson Sunday Telegraph ) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Sir Thomas Malory was a knight and estate owner in the mid 15th century, who spent many years in prison for political crimes as well as robbery. He wrote Le Morte d'Arthur, the first great English prose epic, while imprisoned in Newgate. Malory is believed to have died in 1471.

Peter Ackroyd is a well known writer and historian. He has been the literary editor of The Spectator and chief book reviewer for the The Times, as well as writing several highly acclaimed books including a biography of Dickens and London: The Biography. He resides in London and his most recent highly acclaimed work is Thames: Sacred River.

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing 27 Oct 2010
By Sid Nuncius #1 HALL OF FAME TOP 10 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I have been an enthusiast for the Arthurian legends ever since reading Roger Lancelyn Green as a child, and I have enjoyed many of Peter Ackroyd's previous books so was looking forward to this very much. Sadly it was a considerable disappointment. It is an abridgement and "translation" of Malory's Morte d'Arthur, but I am afraid that it doesn't really capture Malory's spirit, nor the high, myth-like drama of the tales of magic and flawed heroes.

Ackroyd's prose is generally very flat which robs these odd stories of their magical air, so that much of the book seems like a series of rather similar vignettes involving knights jousting, enchantments and deceptions, ladies whose virtue is in peril and so on. The Quest for the Grail and the Death of Arthur do work better, but still failed to grip or involve me in any way. Part of the problem is a noticeable inconsistency in language - a real surprise from such an accomplished writer as Peter Ackroyd. For example, in the same paragraph at the start of the Quest for the Grail we get Arthur saying in a flat modern vernacular "...you have come close to killing me by making that vow..." and then "Why should I not grieve?" - two wholly different styles. A few pages later Galahad says "I await your return with interest," which sounds more like the close of a modern business letter than a knight talking to a loved friend who is going to mortal peril. I'm afraid it just didn't work for me.

I am sorry to be so critical of a book I expected to like very much, but it's not a patch on Malory's original. This will do as a serviceable summary of Malory for reference, but for a really involving (if eccentric and personal) re-working of the Arthurian legends, I'd recommend T.H. White's fabulous The Once And Future King.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Round The Round Table 5 May 2013
By Charles Vasey TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
King Arthur and his band have been transmogrified over the years even more than has Robin Hood. From a Romano-British war-chief to the parfait gentil knight who appears to live in those tall castles of Les Tres Riches Heures of the Duc de Berri. Peter Ackroyd's recasting reminds me immediately that this is a book for menopausal knights, written in an age where the knight was less one who pricked forth and broke a lance for Christ and more an administrator and official.

Looked at from a distance the whole chivalric construct has serious internal inconsistencies. There is the religious fervour on the one hand (a very formal Christian impulse). But on the other hand there is the old Germanic warrior cult, it matters little whether Sir Lancelot is right, he's simply going to beat you. A consideration of importance in an era when duels were an essential part of relationship counselling. On the...er...third hand there's the women, one minute they are the object of platonic love and the next in bed with their knight. This is the world of Les Rois Maudits where duty points one way and desire the other. The Death of Arthur covers these inconsistencies by usually disregarding them; a good answer for its audience. But occasionally even the bone-headed knights spot the problem. In an age where (post Black Death) there was great ferment and a great consumption of fermented potables the heightened emotion of these inconsistencies comes through.

A fine reworking of an old classic, but like in the Iliad there's an awful lot of fighting. And if you were hoping for something magic then I have to report the general style is that of reading football results (Sir Lancelot 10, Barbarians O) but that was much as I imagine it sounded to the original readers. And you do need to try to get Monty Python out of your head.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By Bruce TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
There have been so many works of art and fiction based on the legends surrounding King Arthur over so many generations, that you think there has to be something there that is quite unique - to have inspired so many people and to have stood the test of time. We have "Merlin" on prime time Saturday night television - so there can be no denying the continuing hold of the legends.

Therefore it seems a worthy exercise to try to update these texts for our times and it needs no excuses or justifications - these are stories that still hold us fascinated.

Having failed to get into Malory many years ago, I felt this was the ideal opportunity to explore what it was that inspired previous generations. The actual language has been simplified and made very easy to read - there are no problems with understanding - the ideas are laid bare with nothing preventing us.

Nothing that is - apart from the lack of what we take for granted in most fiction that we read today! So what stands out is that we learn nothing about these characters - Arthur is a hollow shell and we understand nothing of his motivations or his ideas. Each person is thrown at us with no description or explanation - they just are.

Secondly - we have no clear story line or arc - it's almost like a shopping list of battles and quests. None of it makes sense, but maybe here we gain an insight into a culture where all of these characters were already well-known and if we are honest - we do know all about these characters, as we have seen them portrayed endlessly.

We also know that these stories had a part in shaping the early history of Britain. So the task is to see that we have an oral tradition passing on the events that were important to people then - the events that shaped them.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent version
An excellent modern translation by an author who has faithfully retained the spirit and poetic usage of Mallory's original work. Highly recommended
Published 7 months ago by Residency
4.0 out of 5 stars The Death of King Arthur
In the wild old days of the world there was a king of England known as Uther Pendragon; he was a dragon in wrath as well as power. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Erin Britton
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful
Peter Ackroyd does a magnificent job in up-dating Mallory's 'La Mort D'Arthur'. So very easy to read and understand.
Very enlightening.
Published 10 months ago by F. A. Allen
5.0 out of 5 stars fabulous!
I really enjoyed this book, it is an original retelling of the Arthurian legend after Malory and just very well written! Read more
Published 14 months ago by J. Turner
4.0 out of 5 stars 'the wrath of the king is death'
'In the old wild days of the world there was a king of England known as Uther Pendragon; he was a dragon in wrath as well as in power. Read more
Published 21 months ago by purpleheart
3.0 out of 5 stars Accessible
This isn't the best thing Ackroyd has done, but it is not the worst. A faithful and spirited retelling of the Arthurian legends as per Malory. Read more
Published on 22 April 2012 by Otto99
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Modern Version
I've always been a sucker for the Arthurian Story, ever since seeing various films as a child in the sixties. Read more
Published on 29 Mar 2012 by H. meiehofer
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic
This is an absolute classic - beautifully written and if you are a lover of all things Athurian, you simply must own this book. Read more
Published on 19 Nov 2011 by mutlien
4.0 out of 5 stars A cracking retelling
This is a cracking retelling of the Arthurian tales written by Thomas Mallory in his novel "Le Morte d'Arthur" by writer Peter Ackroyd who brings the original to the modern... Read more
Published on 28 Oct 2011 by Gareth Wilson - Falcata Times Blog
4.0 out of 5 stars The English Iliad
King Arthur and his band have been transmogrified over the years even more than Robin Hood. From a Romano-British war-chief to the parfait gentil knight who appears to live in... Read more
Published on 22 Oct 2011 by Charles Vasey
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