An admirable sequel - poetic and enthralling,
This review is from: 02 At the Crossing Places (Arthur) (Paperback)
"At the Crossing-Places" is the second instalment in Kevin Crossley-Holland's Arthur trilogy, and the sequel to the award-winning "The Seeing Stone". Set on the Welsh Marches in the year 1200, it continues the tale of thirteen-year-old Arthur de Caldicot. Arthur has recently been made squire to Lord Stephen de Holt, who is preparing to go on crusade against the Saracens. But as Arthur readies himself to go with his lord, he also begins his own quest to find his real mother, whose identity has been kept from him his entire life.
Just as in "The Seeing Stone", the story is narrated by Arthur over the course of 101 short chapters, each one no more usually than a handful of pages in length. In these he describes not only daily life on the manor at Holt, but also the visions he receives through his obsidian seeing stone, of his namesake King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. Compared with the previous volume, however, the sections set within the seeing stone lack coherence, and do not seem to bear as much relevance to Arthur's real life, even though they take up a greater proportion of the book. This can prove frustrating at times, particularly since Arthur's own quest takes some time to develop.
Nevertheless, the writing is still as poetic and evocative as before, with touches both of humour and of sadness, and an authentic feel which is never heavy-handed. Crossley-Holland has an exceptional eye for detail; the depth of his research as well as his passion for his subject are evident. Every location is expertly and clearly evoked - the splendour of Holt castle forms an excellent contrast to the humble manor of Caldicot, the place of Arthur's childhood. Meanwhile the characters - from kind Lord Stephen to two-faced Haket, the village priest - are well-drawn and each have their own characteristics. In particular it is hard not to be touched by Arthur's relationship with Gatty, the daughter of the reeve at Caldicot, especially as their close friendship blurs into love. Indeed it is the lightness of the author's touch that makes these scenes all the more powerful.
"At the Crossing-Places" is, all in all, an admirable sequel. While it may lack some of the drama of "The Seeing Stone", it nevertheless lays firm foundations for the final book in the trilogy, "King of the Middle March".