cover image The Bright Sword: A Novel of King Arthur

The Bright Sword: A Novel of King Arthur

Lev Grossman. Viking, $35 (688p) ISBN 978-0-7352-2404-9

Bestseller Grossman (the Magicians trilogy) turns his hand to Arthurian legends, delivering a breathtaking tale that honors past iterations while producing something entirely unexpected. Young Collum escapes the lordly household where he’s been raised, liberating a suit of armor and a steed in the process, and travels to Camelot, where he hopes to serve King Arthur. He arrives too late—Arthur has already fallen at the Battle of Camlann. The few knights left at Camelot know that others will come seeking the throne but aren’t sure what to do. Grossman interweaves stories of each knight’s past with the ongoing quest to find a worthy heir to Arthur’s crown, which takes them and Collum into the Otherworld in search of a holy lance. In his historical note, Grossman acknowledges that he is among the camp of Arthurian writers “who pick and choose what they like,” producing a work “full of a lot of authentic historical detail but also a lot of anachronisms and contradictions.” Indeed, Grossman has his own take on beloved characters: Sir Bedivere is in unrequited love with Arthur, witty Sir Dinadan is trans and learned swordcraft from a fairy, and Sir Palomides is secretly a prince of Baghdad. There’s even a hint that Collum may be something more than he first appears. Grossman does a remarkable job of pulling together these disparate strands while providing enough combat and magic to keep the pages turning. Epic fantasy fans will hang on every word. (July)