In this expansion of a short story first published in Jane Yolen's Camelot (1995, not reviewed), Springer (Secret Star, 1997, etc.) sees Arthur's son more as a tragic hero than a villain, a teenager engaged in a desperate struggle to wiggle out from beneath the doom cast upon him before his birth. Raised in seclusion and ignorance, far from Camelot, Mordred is aghast when he learns that he is both the son and nephew of King Arthur, who had tried to have him drowned as an infant. Though he grows into young knighthood with little regard for his own courage or strength, in fact he holds up well under the awful weight of his foreknowledge; readers will have no trouble comprehending both his stubborn wish to be himself rather than a tool of destiny, and his hatred of and eventual love for his flawed but great-hearted father. After inadvertently causing the death of his only friend, Mordred gives up the fight against fate, ridding himself of doubt and soul-searching by ridding himself of his soul. Springer places characters and internal conflicts, as strongly drawn as those found in Donna Jo Napoli's powerfully re-envisioned folk tales, into a world lit by flashes of wonder and humor, where politics and magic are brutal, inexorable forces.