My Favorite Arthurian Books and Why The Arthurian Stories Still Attract Me All these Years Later

Here is a list of my favorite Arthurian (aka King Arthur) Books:

Mary Stewart:

  1. The Crystal Cave
  2. The Hollow Hills
  3. The Last Enchantment
  4. The Wicked Day

The series tries to have a realistic/historical feel to it. It is clearly set in the Post-Roman/Pre-Dark-Ages Britain. The First three are from the point of view of Merlin and begin before Arthur is around. The last covers the Arthurian Story from the point of view of Mordred…with a different spin. This was the first of the Arthurian novels I read that were not of the Medieval knights-in-shining-armor variety.

Rosemary Sutcliff:

If you can only read one Arthurian book, this is the one. This is a non-magical Arthur as war leader fighting in post-roman Britain for civilization against the encroaching barbarians and the dark ages.

Parke Godwin:

  1. Firelord
  2. Beloved Exile

Beloved Exile also serves as a sort of an Arthurian post-script, in that it tries to imagine Britain post Arthur, and often from the view of the Saxon invaders and settlers.

Bernard Cornwell:

  1. The Winter King
  2. Enemy of God
  3. Excalibur

Cornwell’s story take place in a post-Roman Britain on the edge between civilization and the dark ages – right were I like Arthurian stories. I came across Cornwell first when I was bored in Canada on a job and drove an hour to a bigger city with a bookstore and saw a display for his Sharpe’s books.

Keith Taylor:

  1. Bard
  2. Bard II
  3. Bard III
  4. Bard IV: Raven’s Gathering

This series has more fantasy then history, but it is set in the right time period and helps flesh things out. Arthurian characters and settings are at the fringes.

Geoffrey Ashe:

This is a a non-fiction look at a possible historical basis for Arthur. The Author makes a good case that the main (or a major source) is the historical figure Riothamus.

Prince Valiant (A color Sunday Comic Strip since 1937)

This is a gorgeously drawn Arthurian epic whose main character is Prince Valiant of Thule and companion to King Arthur. I have been reading these for the the last 30 years. I have also also read the first 20 years or so which were republished by Fanatagraphics. A recent strip can be viewed here. It remains the first thing I read in the Sunday paper.

I often wonder why the Arthurian Legends call to me. I think it has something to do with fighting against odds to hold the line as civilization (post Western Roman Empire) collapses and darkness spreads. It is a sad story. The romance of fighting the good fight – the right fight – even though defeat is assured, has a hold on me.

Updated: Corrected  typos (lots).

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6 Responses

  1. You should also look at Jack Whyte’s Series of books. They are well written and make you feel as if this truly could have happened. Start with the first book The Skystone, you will not regret it.
    Nych

  2. I will note it and add it to my “to read” list.

  3. I love this list! I’ve been looking for some more Arthurian books to read. What about the ‘return of Arthur’ type books though? My favs are ‘The Dark is Rising’ series and ‘Shadowlands’ trilogy – really different takes on the same basic idea.

  4. Thanks Jenny. I do not know those. I will look into them.

  5. Jenny, who is the author for Shadowlands?

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