Book Review: Arthurian Legend Remixed into Two Delightful Adventures

One of the delights of a familiarity with Arthurian legends is that it makes reading Arthurian literature even more interesting. You can enjoy the story for what it is, but knowing the legend adds another dimension, as you can appreciate the way in which the author took the familiar characters and stories and spun them in a new direction, playing with or against what we know about them from the stories of old. Arthur’s Legacy, Tyler R. Tichelaar’s first book in his Childen of Arthur series, provides both a new, present-day story and an intelligent reimagining of the classic Arthurian legend of lore, making it a delightful read for anyone who loves to immerse themselves in mythic stories and how they still resonate in the present day.

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After a brief prologue describing the final moments of Arthur’s grandchildren, we move to 1994, where we meet Adam and Devin, two young men with intriguing parental histories and an interest in Arthurian scholarship. They attend a lecture in which a strange man, later revealed to be named “Merle Remington,” raves that Mordred was actually a hero, and has received a terrible rap through history. From there, we are off on a whirlwind adventure of romance and intrigue as Adam meets his long-missing mother, and both friends learns a great deal about their entwined fates and the details of their parentage. Adam meets the charming Anne, and Merle works a bit of magic to get them to enjoy a night together. Soon after, Adam sees a man on a “Great Castles of Europe” TV show and realizes—this man may be his long-lost father! He travels to England, he meets the man, he realizes that he is the man’s son and he is arranged as the heir to the whole lot! And then….

Merle (who attentive readers will recognize as Merlin) takes Adam, in a dream, back to Arthurian times. The novel then shifts gears entirely, and we are treated to a very informed, knowing retelling of the later years of the Arthurian legend. Author Tichelaar has written scholarly, nonfiction books examining the legend, and what one senses as we read his remix of the story is that he had done a very intelligent job of rearranging (and sometimes using lesser-known names for) the characters and bringing out less well-known aspects of the legend. For example, if you’re familiar with the tale of the two Guineveres (it was left out of Le Morte D’Arthur), you’ll find a wonderful and vivid imagining of how that tale could have played out. The last half of the novel is this Arthurian story, in which we get to know Arthur and Guinevere in depth, as well as Morgana, Bedwyr (a new take on the Lancelot character), Mordred (now noble and sympathetic), and many less familiar characters. They go through events of the legend as we know them, now rearranged in such a way to make the tale entirely new.

The novel is fun and jam-packed with secrets, lies, and unexpected twists. Again, if you are familiar with the legends, including some of the lesser-known tellings, you’ll find a very informed reimagining of the story, but if not, you still get an exciting, action-packed story—in fact, two of them. I really liked the wild, unpredictable nature of the novel and that the author had the courage to set up a situation and then just run with it, throwing in complications and twists and unexpected detours that keep the mood fun and buoyant even as you’re trying to sort through all the complications.

What Tichelaar has done is provide a present-day story that plays on the way the Arthurian legend has resonated through the centuries, then immerse us in the gravity and the emotions of the legend itself. He offers a vision of a fleshed-out Arthur and shows us a view of his mind developing in a way that makes him the leader that he was (Arthur’s journey to the isle of Avalon is a standout in this regard). We also get a very fierce and determined Guinevere whom we get to know far better than we ever do in the sources, as well as a convincing and complicated Mordred. Tichelaar’s vivid versions of characters both well-known and less familiar make for an enthralling read.

The end of the novel brings the two stories together and sends our contemporary heroes on their way with a fascinating send-off that unites past and present. In that way, this book becomes the kick-off to a new series, and I am eager to learn where our characters end up in the next book.

Buy Arthur’s Legacy at Amazon

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