Firelord by Parke Godwin, Morrow/Avon edition 1994.
This is probably the most definitive version of the legend of King Arthur published in the last thirty years, in my opinion. Godwin has done his research, and traces Arthur’s origins from a high-born Romanized Briton in the twilight years of Rome’s presence through his rise to power and the creation of a well-organized, effective kingdom that is capable–at least for a while–of holding back the encroachment of the Jutes, Saxons, Angles, and other mainland tribes. If Arthur actually existed, well, it could have been like this.
Good as his research is, that’s not what makes this book so worth reading. Godwin has the natural ability to bring his characters to life in a way that few other writers can match. There are no “minor characters” in a Godwin book. Everyone is there for a reason, and everyone has their own story to tell, be it Geraint, Lancelot, Guenivere, Isolde, Tristram, even that legendary whipping-boy King Vortigern gets his due. Everyone is at once larger than life but very recognizably human, and all play their parts for good or ill according to who they are and what they think is best. Godwin doesn’t stray too far from the broad outlines of the story of Arthur, but within that outline he has all the room he needs. Highly Recommended.
Sounds good! If you’re interested in historical fiction and King Arthur, you should read Rosemary Sutcliff’s Sword at Sunset. Hers was the first to really make him a believable historical figure, and it’s my opinion that hers is still the best realistic version available. This is an Artos who does not get overshadowed by other characters, but who strikes out boldly to do what he believes is necessary for the salvation of Britain. I recommend this review by J. Holsworth Stevenson, but more than that I recommend the book itself!
You also might be interested in this blog. The author is an Arthurian scholar who has read just about every retelling of the legends, including Parke Godwin’s.
I read Sword at Sunset years ago in HS, and enjoyed it thoroughly. I agree that it’s a very fine book and well worth reading for anyone even remotely interested in the subject.