The Swithen Book 4: The Flower of Chivalry is in the hands of the proofreader right now, and I’m ridiculously excited! Mainly because I think it’s a great book and I can’t wait to get reader’s reactions and see how everyone likes it. This is the book in which Arthur himself joins the story, moving into his role as the main character, and will be front and center for the next 21 novels in the series (save for one, but I’ll leave that ‘til later). As we move toward an April 1st, 2020 release, I thought I’d give a little preview of what to expect and some of the highlights of the upcoming novel.
By the way, if you pre-order the ebook before April 1st, you’ll save $2 and pay only $0.99 for the Kindle edition, which can be read on any device with the help of the free Kindle app. Yes, at this time the Amazon page says it’s released in October, but I only chose that date to ensure I had enough time to get it right before release—so ignore that.
King Arthur’s story starts here
This is one of a very few novels to imagine King Arthur’s childhood, and I’m confident that I have found a fresh new way to approach the material. You may know that my series is committed to staying faithful to the actual Medieval Arthurian legend, so most of my novels come with a basic plot outline laid down for me. There is nothing, however, in the source literature about this period of Arthur’s life—except the way in which he pulls the sword from the stone at the end—giving me free rein to imagine it the way I wanted. It was a challenge to invent a story that could coexist with the rest of the Medieval material in my series, while also offering a view of this period that differs from other versions, and… again, I can’t wait to see how readers react.
You can start here, too
Since this is the beginning of the King Arthur story—in a series devoted to King Arthur—I suspect that a lot of people will join the series here (and hopefully go back into the prologue trilogy if they like it). For that reason, I deliberately wrote it so that one could begin the series here without needing to read the previous installments, while also rewarding those who have been with the series from the start. So you can pick up this book and thoroughly enjoy it without feeling that you’re missing anything, while those who have read the previous books will get a lot of extra intrigue and surprises when they recognize elements that resonate with characters and events from previous books.
About the title
The title The Flower of Chivalryis a phrase from the source material that usually refers to Arthur (as in “He is called the flower of chivalry”), but sometimes refers to Lancelot in later parts of the legend. Here the title does double duty because in addition to referring to Arthur proper, the novel attempts to show the earliest glimmers of how the ideal of chivalry took root in young Arthur’s mind, which we will see continue to develop as we get deeper into the series. So it is also about the floweringof chivalry as a value and ideal in Arthur’s mind as he matures.
About the cover
You’ll notice that the cover, being mostly white, makes a change from the darker, more color-saturated covers of the previous books in the series. This is not by accident. For one, I wanted this book to look a bit more literary, as the feel of it is much closer to a classic novel of childhood, like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,than an epic fantasy novel. Secondly, we are now entering the second trilogy in the larger series, one that will see Arthur mature from boy to king, and I wanted to give each subsection of the series a distinctive look. Finally, as an extra touch, this book is dedicated to my partner, and the man on the left of the cover… ismy partner. So not only is it dedicated to him, he’s right there on the cover!
Meet the Ectors
Since the novel covers the period of Arthur’s life in which he’s growing up with his adoptive family, Sir and Lady Ector, as well as their son Kay, these people make up the bulk of the characters, and we spend a lot of time with them. This is why the tone here isn’t very “epic fantasy.” A lot of time, the tone is closer to the gentle family comedy of Pride and Prejudice than one might expect from an Arthurian novel.
We get to know Kay and Sir Ector quite well as we laugh, cry and get frustrated with them, but a particular pleasure for me was to create the character of Lady Ector, Arthur’s adoptive mother. This is another character—like Merlin’s mother—who does not receive so much as a name in the original sources. However, unlike Merlin’s mother, Arthur’s adoptive mother barely receives more than a sentence in the original legend. She is simply a non-person. That is far from the case in this novel, where she is a very fleshed-out, fully-conceived individual, and I hope that readers fall in love with her as much as they’ve embraced Meylinde, Merlin’s mother.
Other notable cameos
This book continues the story of Margause, Arthur’s half-sister, as well as her younger sister Morgan, who has transformed into famous sorceress Morgan le Fay by the end of the novel. We also catch glimpses of young Gawain, Bedivere, Lucan, Balin and Balan, and even see baby Guinevere just after she’s born. We visit with knights Ulfius and Bretel and even track the Round Table as it makes its winding way to Arthur’s side—five books from now!
Birth-to-death life stories
Most exciting for me as a writer, and hopefully for readers—although the scope of it all might not come fully into focus until later—is that this is the beginning of birth-to-death life stories for many of these characters, including Arthur. Most writers visit a character at certain points in their lives, dropping in at major periods, but this series will follow numerous characters and their intertwining stories from infancy, through adolescence, into adulthood, middle and then old age and finally to death, giving me the opportunity to create whole, extremely rich lives for a whole society of fascinating people. Of course, it helps that they’re the most legendary characters in existence, living one of the greatest stories of all time.
Pre-order and save
All that said, I can’t wait to get it out! And again, if you pre-order the Kindle edition prior to its April release (again, ignore the October release date on Amazon), you’ll pay only $0.99 and receive it as soon as it is available. The price will increase once it is released. Don’t have a Kindle? The free Kindle app makes it easy to read Kindle books on any device, from any manufacturer.
I’m very excited, and very proud, of this book, and I can’t wait to get it out and find out what others think. By the end I am confident that you’ll feel you know Arthur very closely, very personally, and I hope you’ll fall in love with him as much as I have.