In this first novel in a projected trilogy based on the King Arthur legends, Jones, like Jean Auel, links some anthropological guess-and-by-gollys to an adventure tale--except that Jones's stories were created centuries ago out of whole (but golden) cloth. Here, he has chosen to de-mythify the magical doings down to easily explained event. Still, even with his stolid, thick-pated cast, there are adventures aplenty. The story begins with the boy Pelleas (Lord of the Isles, remember?), Arthur's half brother, about to be filleted in honor of the Oak King god by a particularly nasty druid. He's rescued by Myrddin (Merlin)--here not one whit magical--by near in situ surgery, and will help care for the newborn Arthur, whisked away at birth. Through the years, Pelleas, a Pict (Jones's substitute for ``Saracen'') will see the youth Arthur proclaimed High King of the Britons, make war on the Saxons, train two generations of wolves to scout and fight alongside, work at the forge under Myrddin's tutelage, and feud with Gaels, some Britons, and Arthur's snooty knights--like Tristram, ``a pain in the butt.'' Arthur is a lackluster sort here, easily fooled by the Lady of the Lake, who dives from a secret tunnel to hold up the magical sword Excalibur. (Now what's the fun in that?). With gory hack-and-chop warfare, fighting wolves, chest- thumping speeches, and hilarious anachronisms (``This tournament is sponsored by Arthur of Wales. Let's hear it for Arthur!''), a talky, busy fifth-century adventure tale in which the Arthurian legends go down for the count.