Kingsman dabbled in it, but Once Upon a Time and Guy Ritchie are definitely doing it: reimagining the story of King Arthur. A noble king and queen, knights and quests – what’s not to love? (I’ve loved this story since I was a kind and willingly watched Clive Owen in his King Arthur movie. Several times) Season five of OUAT is due out later this year and Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur movie is just over a year away, and while both promise to be epic, being patient sucks.
I never realised though just how many reimaginings of his tale were out there, like these. Yes, they’re a wee bit odd and left of centre, but I don’t mind something off the beaten path every so often.
Knights of Breton Court series by Maurice Broaddus: The Wire meets Excalibur in this stunning urban fantasy. From the drug gangs of downtown Indianapolis, the one true king will arise. The King Arthur myth is dramatically retold through the eyes of street hustler King, as he tries to unite the crack dealers, gangbangers and the monsters lurking within them to do the right thing.
Epic cover right? This is the one for the omnibus, but really the rest are just as fabulous. But more than that, a POC as King Arthur? Yes please. Diversity ahead of its time. (Also, Taye Diggs for King Arthur, please)
Knight Life by Peter David: King Arthur, the once and future King, has been called forth by the wizard Merlin to lead a land in turmoil-the United States of America. But with no throne to sit upon, Arthur must run for elective office-starting with the Mayorship of New York City…
Yes, this one’s old but it’s *drum roll*… le-gen-dary (like I haven’t been waiting to use that one). Besides NYC and Arthur? Another resounding YES PLEASE from me.
Orion and King Arthur by Ben Bova: More than human, less than god, Orion has fought across time and space at the whims of his Creators, god-like beings from the future who toy with human history like spoiled children playing with dolls. From the frozen wastes of the Ice Age to far-flung interstellar empires, Orion has been both assassin and hero, all the while striving to be reunited with Anya, the ageless goddess who is his one true love.
Now Orion finds himself in Britain in the dark years after the Romans abandoned the island kingdom. Minor kings and warlords feud amongst themselves even as invading hordes of Saxons and Angles threaten to sweep over the land. There Orion befriends a young warrior named Arthur, who dreams of uniting his quarreling countrymen and driving the invaders from their lands. Along with a few brave comrades, Arthur hopes to the stem the tide of barbarism and create a new era of peace and prosperity.
But Orion’s vainglorious Creator, Aten the Golden One, has other plans for the timeline. Arthur’s noble ambitions interfere with Aten’s far-reaching schemes to reshape history to his own ends. He wants Arthur dead and forgotten—but Orion does not. Defying his own creator, and risking his own immortal existence, Orion will battle the gods themselves to see that Arthur fulfills his destiny. But can even he save Arthur from the tragedy that awaits him?
A three-para blurb summary and a cover that harkens to the old age of covers — not golden, you’ll note. I feel like I’m looking at an old Star Trek novel for some reason. It’s awesome! This blurb is just so insane, I had to include it, if only to remind me to look up the rest of Orion’s series.
The Pendragon Protocol by Philip Purser-Hallard: The Circle are the modern-day successors of the Knights of the Round Table. Armed with the latest military hardware and operating from a hidden fortress on the South Bank, they protect 21st-century Britain from certain very specific threats – criminals who, like the Circle’s own Knights, have characters from Arthurian legend living inside their heads.
Jory Taylor, the Knight bearing the device of Sir Gawain, has grappled on the Circle’s behalf with mercenaries, serial killers and far-right terrorist cells. However, when he is captured by Gawain’s traditional enemy the Green Knight, he discovers a new side to the myths he lives by – one which, as he learns more about this clandestine world, becomes both threateningly personal and terrifyingly political. The legends of King Arthur are not the only stories with influence on the British psyche – and some of the others have their own, very different agendas.
A smart, contemporary political thriller and a new kind of urban fantasy, The Pendragon Protocol is the first volume in The Devices Trilogy.
This one’s more my style I think, but many a reader has commented on this author being a hidden gem of Britlit. I definitely want to read this one.
The table of less valued knights by Marie Phillips: (Longlisted for the 2015 Baileys Prize for fiction)
Sir Humphrey du Val of The Table Of Less Valued Knights – Camelot’s least prestigious table, with one leg shorter than the others so that it has to be propped up with a folded napkin – doesn’t do quests … until he meets Elaine, a damsel in distress with a secret to hide.
Meanwhile, Queen Martha of Puddock is on the run from an arranged marriage to the odious Prince Edwin of Tuft. But an encounter with the Locum of the Lake (standing in for the full-time Lady) leaves her with a quest of her own: to find her missing brother, long believed dead.
The two quests collide, introducing a host of Arthurian misfits, including a freakishly short giant, a twelve-year-old crone, an amorous unicorn, and a magic sword with a mind of her own.
I dare you to read that blurb and not burst out laughing. Alright, it’s not exactly a retelling, but I couldn’t resist adding this because of the sheer hilarity of this blurb. I maintain humour is THE hardest thing to do in books, and Marie Phillips has it down in her blurb. Can you imagine the rest of this gem?
Your turn, do share! What’s your favourite King Arthur retelling or version? Movie, book, TV — I’m all ears!