Rosemary Sutcliff's adaptation of the King Arthur legend is truly a unique and inspiring work, told in a highly descriptive yet very concise format. It is not only powerful and thought-provoking, but creates a sense of the ancient and medieval time it owes its existence to. Starting years before Arthur comes to power, Sutcliff tells the story of young Merlin and how Arthur came to be, following him through his rise to High King, the meetings of such brave and infamous knights such as Lancelot, Tristan and Gawain, right up to just before the quest for the Holy Grail begins. Sutcliff not only tells the traditional and time-honored stories, such as the sword in the stone, but also adapts other variations of the quests that individual knights took upon themselves to maintain peace and honor in Britain. For example, although he may not have actually been a knight of the round table, Sutcliff tells the tragic and romantic story of Tristan and Iseult, the ironic tale of Beaumains, and the humorous story of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, all of which reflect the honor and love which bounded King Arthur's kingdom together. This book easily stands alone, but simultaneously lays solid groundwork for the next two books, The Light Beyond the Forest and The Road to Camlann, two other excellent books written by Sutcliff on the rise and fall of Arthur. By taking her stories to a level above just the basic story-telling, Sutcliff also helps put King Arthur's place in history into perspective and gives an excellent reason for retelling this timeless legend again for this day and age. The book is really a medieval romantic story at heart, but has enough battles and swashbuckling adventures to keep readers more interested in action than a rambling story hooked. I would recommend this book to those who have never read a King Arthur book in their life, to those who might know the story by heart, and anyone in between those two categories, because it is an excellent way of reacquainting ourselves with the days of princes and knights, of villains and dragons, chivalry and fair maidens, and the ultimate triumph of good over evil. The Sword and the Circle and the other two books in the trilogy truly deserve a place all their own among those stories about the knights of the round table. Reading through it page by page, I truly felt drawn into a dim and room, lit by a crackling fire while the wind howled outside, listening to the voice of an excellent story-teller speak of a bygone age and long-dead heroes.