This is the third in this series and is different in scale and tone. In the others, you are immersed in the medieval world of the manor house, seen though the eyes of a boy. That must be hard enough for an author to write accurately and entertainingly, but this one takes the boy off on the crusades - the greatest adventure of his life - and you experience it all: the politics, relationships, petty fights and bullying to gory battles and siege warfare. It is occasionally difficult to follow because of the complex politics and the obscure terminology, but it is so involving that his return home - with its familiarity, changes and new responsibilities - was quite emotional, and his maturity about his situation and his future was touching and truly wonderful and uplifting to read. Some of the poems are a bit lame and indulgent, but the horrors and nonsense of the crusade and the development of his relationships are heart-rending and memorable.
The final instalment in Kevin Crossley-Holland's Arthur trilogy, "King of the Middle March", takes his protagonist far from his familiar surroundings on the Welsh borders. It is the year 1203, and Arthur de Gortanore (formerly de Caldicot) is now sixteen, on the verge of manhood and about to become a knight. He and his lord, Stephen de Holt, have travelled to Venice to join what will become the Fourth Crusade as it begins its long journey towards Jerusalem and the Holy Land. Guiding Arthur on the way is his obsidian seeing-stone, a magical artefact given to him years before by the wise man of his village, which reveals to him another world: that of his namesake, the King Arthur of legend, and of his Knights of the Round Table.
On crusade Arthur is confronted by new challenges as well as old enemies, but he is a different character to when we left him at the end of "At the Crossing-Places" - older and slightly wiser - and it is interesting to see how he deals with those challenges. In particular it is refreshing to see him forge a friendship with his cousin and one-time bully Serle, while even Arthur's father, William de Gortanore, previously depicted as boorish and unprincipled, is shown to have some redeeming qualities. Indeed few characters in the novel are truly good or evil; each has his contradictions, his own demons. It is this kind of realistic touch which makes the world that Crossley-Holland has created so believable. Arthur finds that love can be complicated, that it is not always easy to do the noble thing, that the difference between right and wrong is often unclear - all of which allows the reader to closely identify with him.
The device of the seeing stone is also used to greater effect in "King of the Middle March". Whereas the first two books dealt with the founding of the Round Table fellowship and the adventures of the various knights who comprised it, this one sees its dissolution: an event which is mirrored in the crusaders' own internecine struggles, in which ideals are often cast aside in pursuit of power and of wealth. Again, the seeing stone reflects Arthur's own experiences, showing him that life is messy and that happy endings are not guaranteed, but take effort to achieve. The same message pervades the book's ending, which cleverly leaves a number of issues unresolved, showing that whereas the stories of legend often have a discernible structure, real life is seldom so neatly divided: our stories and journeys, like Arthur's, are ongoing.
"King of the Middle March" is an an excellent climax to the Arthur trilogy: a complex and enchanting coming-of-age tale which will appeal to all ages, meditating as it does on the transition from childhood to adulthood, and the compromises we all have to make in life. It will be interesting to see how the author develops the same themes in "Gatty's Tale", a semi-sequel to this trilogy featuring Arthur's best friend from the first two books.
This is one of the best books I've ever read. In my opinion it is better than even the Harry Potter series. It is imaginative, thoughtful, funny, and fantastic. I may be a kid but i know a good book when i read one and this is the best. A must for all people who love fantasy and heroics. Amazing!
Oh dear, blubbing again. Kevin Crossley-Holland can have me howling with sorrow in a very short time. In the first book, Arthur and the Seeing Stone it was the death of little Luke, in this one, well it was practically everything. But don't let the salt water deter any reader - these are wonderful, wonderous books. I was intrigued to see how the author would tie together the parallel worlds of Arthur in the stone and Arthur out of the stone. I was not disappointed. He has pulled off an amazing juggling act, making it all knit together with perfect symmetry. But oh how sad, how tragic, and how sore the reading was. Arthur sees with his heart and with his head at once, a saracen fortune teller informs him: the same could be said of Crossley Holland who writes with both soul and intellect. Laced with a gentle poetry it is in the small details that the power of the writing tells - the little rag doll found in an abandoned room, the petty violence meted out by the crusaders, the smell of spice and jealousy in the air. I can't say more without saying too much. It is enough that this book is everything and more that I had hoped it would be: one of the most enthralling and sophisiticated pieces of writing I have had the fortune to read.
I love these books,is all i can say! I am probably the biggest Arthur stories lover, this retelling was fabulous. I recommend reading these books with a passion because they are so in depth and capture your heart, you feel everything he's going through and sometimes i swear I could almost be there in the book. I also spoke to my Dad about these books, and being the critical person he is he simply presumed that they were the sterotypical medieval version, but even these books changed his mind completely. They may not be telling the supposedly druid version of Arthur, but they sure are a good read,whatever version you prefer. Read them, you will be drawn in completely.
This stunning trilogy plunged me right into medieval Britain: every detail, from food to fighting, entertainment, life and death, is well-researched and colourfully presented. 'King of the Middle March' takes the young narrator, Arthur, to Venice to join the Crusades. But war isn't as he expected it to be...
While I enjoyed the first two books more, this is still a five-star read, and a worthy conclusion to a brilliant series.
Although this is a children's book I found it great to read for an older reader (54years) in it's bite size chunks. History around Arthurian legend has always fascinated me. I love the way the stories of Arthur and Arthur in the stone are interwoven and the colourful array of characters that we meet within the stories.