A series opener offers a dog’s-eye look at Arthurian legend.
When readers say, “I had no idea what was going to happen next,” it’s usually a compliment. Sometimes, though, they mean that the book was rambling and difficult to follow. This fantasy novel falls into both categories. The first quarter of the book is a sort of tourist’s guide to Camelot. Cavall—King Arthur’s dog—wanders around the kingdom meeting his new master, chasing deer, and chatting about philosophy with the Lady of the Lake. (The book never challenges the modern, mistaken notion that the major Arthurian characters were white.) When the plot begins to take shape, it centers on Arthur’s bad dreams, which makes a strange premise for an adventure story. How can even the bravest dog fight off a dream? But the appeal of the book is that it doesn’t always rely on battles or chase scenes to draw readers in. In the tradition of T.H. White, it’s about the moral questions that lead people into battle or make them walk away. Cavall says, “I don’t think we should hurt people,” and “it’s important to understand why someone or something wants to hurt you.” These sorts of ideas are a surprising and satisfying contrast to the big battles and chase scenes near the end. But some readers might have appreciated a little more foreshadowing before the battle starts, just enough to hint at what happens next. Godbey supplies the chapter heads.
The characters are good company; here’s hoping Book 2 offers more of a story. (Fantasy. 8-12)