16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars
Useful Guide, 1 Dec. 2005
After reading various books on the subject of the historical King Arthur and the history of the Dark Ages you would expect to be fairly confident as to who you believe he was and what part of the country he operated in. This is unfortunately not the case. Every book has offered totally different but usually plausible explanations for why a specific area was his Kingdom or why a specific person was the real King Arthur. The only thing that these books have in common is that they almost always place King Arthur in their own locale. So I came to this book and having read a “Mammoth” book before, albeit on a totally unrelated subject, expected that some of the mist would clear. Thankfully I was proved right.
For a start, Mike Ashley seems to have read an amazing amount about Arthur; you only need to look at the bibliography to see that. He includes a lot of the theories and evidence from the more “respected” historians and archaeologists such as Alcock and Morris but thankfully does not ignore the massive outpouring of ideas on names, places and Arthur’s identity from enthusiastic amateur detectives like Wilson & Blackett, Blake & Lloyd, Keatman & Phillips e.t.c. His conclusions (which have a likeness to the Holy Kingdom about them) are clear and logical and I think a fair summarisation of the wealth of evidence he has examined.
The second section covers the myths and works that grew out of the medieval fervour for Arthur and although this mythical Arthur is not my area of interest, I still found it interesting to see how the layers to the story were added over the centuries. There are also some very useful lists containing all the names (and variations) of the ‘Knights Of The Round Table’.
There are some minor irritations however. Ashley says “the genealogy’s say” a lot, yet he seemingly never explains where he got this information from. There is also the fact that although the list and descriptions of Arthurian films is superb, the list of websites isn’t anywhere near as in depth. There are many Anglo-Saxon websites that have been omitted which deal with this time period and have plenty of information on the background to the historical Arthur. Nonetheless these are only minor irritations and I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending this book to any Arthur enthusiast.