PAGAN KING by Edison Marshall

PAGAN KING

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Another telling of the roots of the Arthurian legend concentrates on young Ambrose (later Artay, then Artyr) and the gradual revelation of the prophecies of the Song of Camlon, the battles fought to establish his kingship and the conflict between the old gods and those of the departed Romans, with Christianity only a weak threat. Under Merdin's tutelage, Ambrose in the 5th century is in ignorance of his heritage and as parts of the Song are told him, he learns of the auguries that guide his destiny, fulfills them, acquires an army and fights his way to overcome the kings of Cambria, Monmouth, Cornwall, Severn -- and eventually their overlord, Vortigern. His one true love is Elain, the baleful influence in his life is the demi-witch Vivain, and his wife, Wander (Gwynever), is discarded on his wedding night; his familiar demon is his half brother Modred, and in ""collecting many glories and amassing many enemies"" he comes into his kingdom, which he leaves when he kills his son by Elain. He returns to rout the Saxons, to see Merdin killed by Vivain, to unearth not only his bastardy but the rape-incest that fathered him, to save Elain, to destroy Vivain at the price of permanent disfigurement, and to leave, with Elain to create his legend as a wandering troubadour. The fractional civilization of the period, the emergence of a sense that churls, slaves and vassals are men, the aim to ""make men more and beasts less"" -- keep this new version alive while its action keeps it lively, even if it does not have the depth of either the Treece or the White versions.

Pub Date: July 9th, 1959
Publisher: Doubleday