King of the Middle March

The final volume of Kevin Crossley-Holland's Arthur trilogy, King of the Middle March, is a rather grim conclusion to the story of Arthur, a medieval squire turned crusader, who watches the life of the mythical King Arthur unfold in parallel with is own, in a magical stone (The Seeing Stone of the first volume).

I saw this on Brotherhood Books, and fresh from reading and revelling in Gatty's Tale, I snapped it up. I have read this before but I snuck in a second reading before lending it to my friend Suzanne, who loves these books as much as I do.

But the Arthur of this book, and his experience of crusade, is less joyful than Gatty's prilgrimage. He witnesses treachery and bloodshed, the cruel and muddled realities of war, and participates in violence himself. He doesn't even reach Jerusalem, his lord is wounded and Arthur must turn back to escort him home to England. There are plenty of truths here, about politics, religion and betrayal, that are just as relevant today as they would have been eight hundred years ago. And at the same time, in Arthur's magical stone, the story of King Arthur is reaching its own tragic conclusion.

But there are still moments of wonder and delight. Crossley-Holland's rich, poetic writing is as beautiful as ever; but I'm pleased this wasn't quite the last word in the story of Arthur's world. I'm glad that belongs to Gatty.

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