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4.4 out of 5 stars32
4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 18 January 2010
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
As a physical object, this book has to be commended. It has a delightful feel to it and considerable effort has gone into the artwork. The artwork in itself is not entertaining but succeeds in providing an atmospheric backdrop to the text.

Unfortunately the writing is where the book is let down. The book consists of short passages of information about each of the characters and quests of the Arthurian world. There are no stories to follow, no poems or songs. The text lacks emotion of any kind and is altogether dry.

Children will love that a map of Albion is included. I didn't like the numerical index on the map, but it may be more appropriate for some children.

There are many varied versions of the Arthurian legend. Matthews has chosen to base his writings solely on the olde English tradition. I did find the author's writing style uneccessarily wordy at times. I also found my self mildly irritated by a couple of linguistic oddities, such as renaming Sir Hector as Sir Ector.

The best place for this book is probably in the library of a primary school. There any child with a few minutes time to fill can open it at any page and read a little of the Arthurian World. The lack of story means it isn't very good as a bedtime book. Most older readers will wish for meatier passages. It might work as coffee table book, but do be wary of children picking it up to use it as a weapon.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
John Matthews is a well-known Arthurian scholar, with many publications on the legendary king to his name. Pavel Tatarnikov is an artist from Belarus. Together they have created a beautiful introduction to the myths of King Arthur, aimed at children but suitable for anyone.

One must remember that this is merely an overview book, and not designed to be a detailed re-telling of the stories. There are parts of the book that are more of an encyclopaedia - for example, the section on magical creatures, or the pages on the Ladies of the Lake. One of two of the standard stories (such as the pulling of the sword from the stone) are re-told in more detail. But if you are looking for a detailed book on Arthurian legends, you should look elsewhere. What marks out this book are the high production values, and the gorgeous illustrations.

I was going to give this copy to my nephew once I'd finished with it (as it is about time he got interested in Arthurian legends); but I'm thinking I might keep it for myself, at least until I am sure my nephew will really appreciate and cherish it!
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on 25 January 2010
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
What a very lovely book. The artwork and reproduction are excellent, full of captivating detail yet still conveying a sense of magic and the fantastical.

While predominantly a picture book, the text is much more than a few lines and is divided into section or chapters that help tell the story of Arthur is easily digestible chunks. Let;s face it, even older readers need to take things easy these days. For kids it means the book is easily navigated time and again.

But the big attraction for any age is the artwork and for this alone the is book is highly recommended
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VINE VOICEon 19 February 2010
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is a lovely book. I am a bit of an 'Arthur' fan, and have lots of literature and books giving different viewpoints of the legend. This is a great addition to that library, and one my 3 1/2 year old son also enjoys. It has descriptions of all the characters, the settings and the time, explanations of Knights, Quests, and best of all, it has a map! Showing all the locations and settings of the major castles, forests, lakes that form part of the Arturian legend. This is all complimented by some lovely, bitesize stories of key points of the Arturian legend (sword in stone, Excalibur, Gawain and the Green knight) perfect to read to children. (The Lancelot and Guinevere saga has been omitted though!)

A great introduction to the legand of Artur!
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I got this book for my 11 year old daughter, who has been fascinated by the recent Merlin series on TV.

This books gives a more traditional picture of the Arthurian legends, but none the less fascinating. The illustrations are gorgeous and stylish, and very well fitted to the subject matter.

Different aspects of Arthurian legends, and surrounding tales such as Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, are told in relative short (4-5 page) chunks, just the right size for a pre-teen to take on in one go. Also, just the right length for a bedtime tale if reading to a younger one.

Quality of the book is excellent - it is largish but not too big to handle comfortably. Beautiful full colour throughout and definitely worth the Amazon price.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 10 June 2010
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
These really are some of the most wonderful illustrations I've ever seen in a book ostensibly targeted at a young readership. Pavel Tatarnikov's pictures bring a fresh and passionate perspective on well-loved tales. His Russian stylistic roots show through in his interpretations of the scenes and I was glad to turn the pages slowly and gaze at each page.

John Matthews, therefore, has a hard act to follow in breathing life into the text. It's clear he loves the subject and tells the stories with clarity and detail. But exposed against the beauty of Tatarnikov's illustrations, his words fall - just very slightly - flat. It wouldn't be fair to be too critical; bringing Arthurian legend to a new readership in such a high quality product is a worthy cause in itself and his writing is very readable. It just feels a little bit of a mismatched partnership and that is the `fault' of the exceptional quality of Tatarnikov's illustrations rather than any fundamental defect in Matthews work.

I am delighted to own this book and will be returning to it once my daughter (now two) is old enough to appreciate it fully. She already loves the pictures, although to be fair the subject matter is fairly repetitive, but in the context of these ancient tales they are easy to enjoy again and again.
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on 9 March 2010
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is a beautiful book - lovely, rather classical illustrations, nicely bound and with an attractive map included.
The contents take two forms - there are brief descriptions of different aspects of Arthurian mythology, and in between short stories of one of the myths taking about 4 pages. I've read a few of these to my children (aged 5 and 8) who enjoyed them, but the language was a bit complicated for my 5 year old in one or two places, and it is probably best suited for the 7-11 age group. Having said that, even for an adult it's a nice book to look at and browse.
There aren't as many of the Arthurian stories included as I would have liked, missing out some personal favourites.
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VINE VOICEon 22 December 2009
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
In a large coffee table format, this is a beautifully produced book, rich with natural colours and hints of gold to give it a traditional earthly feel with a hint of magic. The illustrations are plentiful and evocative transporting the reader to the green countryside of Albion many centuries ago. The classic stories of Arthur and his round table knights, such as Sir Gawain and the green knight, are broken down into a dozen or so short tales which are cleverly interspersed with additional contextual information and the text flows well. It's well-written and yet is simple and straightforward enough to read to a child of 6 and for good readers from perhaps age 8 to read to themselves. There's also an inspiring map of the Tintagel area to inspire a young mind.
This is without question one of the loveliest books I have picked up all year and I have one very happy (and quiet) seven year old boy. A total triumph.
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VINE VOICEon 20 May 2010
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
As a hardback, this is physically an attractive book - it feels light yet durable, and the illustrations are a delight. They look like paintings, rather than the cartoonish or simple drawings seen in many children's books, which makes it attractive to adults, and gives it a more long-lasting mature look.

The content is designed to give an overview of some of the various characters, creatures and legends. The writing does seem to have been made more readable for younger readers, and yet I'm not sure how interested this age group would be.

It's a nice coffee table book, designed for both adults and older children to pick up and look through. The sections are the right length for a quick read, and it gives a good overview. It's not, however, for those looking for more depth.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This immaculately bound large-format book is an artistic triumph of polish and presentation over literary content. Folded away in a pocket on the inside of the back cover, there is even a map-poster showing a possible representation of where the events described by the Arthurian legends might have taken place.

The beautiful and heavily stylised but slighly blurry drawings draw the eyes away from the mixture of roman and italicised text, and perhaps this is just as well, because I found the stories somewhat fragmentary and insubstantial when compared with those I remembered enjoying as a child. I did not like the way key elements of some of the other original stories not told here in full were broken up into blocks of brief notes taken out of context.

So I re-read my much-loved pre-1931 copy of Stories of King Arthur. Retold by Blanche Winder. With 48 colour plates by Harry G. Theaker to compare it with this version by John Matthews and Pavel Tatarnikov. The eighty-year-old book won hands down, simply because it was easier to read, there were more of the Arthurian stories, and they were told in better English, and its pictures in the pre-raphaelite style were clearer and more evocative and more varied. (I've posted some of the Theaker pictures for the Winder book.)

One could spend hours as a child studying Tatarnikov's illustrations, finding more details, but they are also too much the same. If you've never seen the old 1920's Ward Lock style of books, nor read the fuller Arthurian stories, then you will not be disappointed by this modern approach. But you also don't know what you are missing - the five people I showed both books to in the last week all preferred the old one. So only four stars.
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