Top critical review
4 people found this helpful
Not for casual reading
on 2 May 2005
As a piece of literature, perhaps this is indeed worth 5 stars. As something to read for entertainment, I'm sorry, but I've had to give it 2 (and to be honest, I'm feeling generous).
I bought this book because I wanted to read the Arthurian legends, but I'm no scholar of old English and have found myself really struggling with the language. Yes there's a glossary so you can look up unfamiliar words, but I found it wanting: apparently, the editor must consider many of these old words obvious in their meaning, despite often radically different spelling from today's equivalents. Some words do sound vaguely similar and so might warrant a guess, but it'd be nice to have some confirmation! There are a fair few sentences that, even with the glossary, I didn't manage to decypher, and for me that's something of a spoiler. Indeed, at one point I read on, fairly convinced a character had just been killed, only to find him chatting away merrily a couple of paragraphs later.
I freely admit that there are portions that I find "very easy" to read once I get into the flow of it, but all too often I come up against a word that needs looking up, and this stop-start reading doesn't sit comfortably with me.
Another reviewer says that the battles get a bit repetitive; I'd certainly agree with that: the last bit I read had at least half a dozen consecutive instances of someone smiting an enemy and nicking his horse for a chum. Thoughtful, yes; an enthralling read, no.
To summarise, I suppose I'd say that if you want to study the language and style, get this book, but if you actually want to read the legends, get a version in modern English (or - please don't hit me, fellow reviewers - a retelling).