One of my favourite series on Arthur is BERNARD CORNWELL'S WARLORD CHRONICLES (The Winter King, Enemy of God and Excalibur). They are more battle focused with the story being told by Dervel who is one of Arthur's champions. Dervel is a Saxon who was taken in by the British and has earned a name for himself fighting for Arthur. It does have some of the magical side of the tale as well, but be prepared for blood and guts galore!
Another essential series is MARY STEWART'S MERLIN SERIES (The Crystal Cave, The Hollow Hills, The Last Enchantment and The Wicked Day). They follow Merlin from a young boy and discuss his childhood and role in the story. The final one tells the story of Mordred and was written at a much later date than the first three and is not quite as good. Many other re-tellings use her stories as a basis for their mythology.
THE MISTS OF AVALON BY MARION ZIMMER BRADLEY was a book I fell in love with. It is not the first in the series, but is the only one about Arthur and the others. It tells the tales from the viewpoint of the women in the story, mostly by Morgaine Arthur's half sister. I loved the magical sides of this book and it was the first to tell a different side to Morgaine and look at her motivations and feelings. It has a lovely Pagan feel to the novel.
Other series I have read and enjoyed are:
STEPHEN LAWHEAD'S PENDRAGON CYCLE (Taliesin, Merlin, Arthur, Pendragon, Grail). The first was my favourite as it told of the fall of Atlantis and sets up the story nicely. It is similar to the Bernard Cornwell books in that it focuses on the battles, but I felt that the later books don't live up to the promise of the earlier ones sadly. It was nice to have one told through the eyes of Bedwyr though who seems a neglected knight in other tales. Personally I found this series a little too Christian in focus, but that may appeal to other readers.
ROSALIND MILES GUENEVERE NOVELS (Queen of the Summer Country, The Night of the Sacred Lake, The Child of the Holy Grail were enjoyable as well. They tell the tale from the viewpoint of Arthur's wife, Guenevere. She isn't always portrayed too favourably in The Mists of Avalon and this was a good counter balance to that which explained her version of events in more detail.
THE QUEEN OF CAMELOT BY NANCY MCKENZIE (originally sold as two seperate books, I have the version with both in one) was another tale of Guinevere. It used the Mary Stewart books as a background and then told a tale over the top of them and sadly it does not better them.
THE MABINOGIAN is a book of Welsh myths and tales which was Arthur in the background of a couple of them when he is King. Worth reading if you have a love for folk lore and mythology, but not just as an Arthurian read.
The best thing about the different re-tellings is that they use different versions. Sometimes Morgan is a temptress and evil, sometimes she is a pawn in anothers game and in others she never sleeps with Arthur. Others choose whether Guinevere is faithful to Arthur or not by sleeping with Lancelot. Yet others have Merlin as a powerful magician and others don't really involve him much in the tale. I have many more I hope to read and my list may get added to depending on time (I hope it's ok to read more that 12 books Becky!).
What I would really love to read is a tale based around The Lady of the Lake who is a favourite character of mine. Besides the poem The Lady of Shalott by Alfred Lord Tennyson little is written about her as a character in her own right (besides some in The Mists of Avalon). If anyone knows of anything or can recommend something please let me know.
Suggested ebooks:John Stearne - A Confirmation And Discovery Of Witchcraft
Juliana Horatia Ewing - Old Fashioned Fairy Tales
Aleister Crowley - Ahab And Other Poems
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