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Arthur: The Seeing Stone Thursday, June 25, 2009

Posted by j128 in Literature.
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First paperback edition of Arthur: The Seeing Stone is the first book in an Arthurian trilogy by Kevin Crossley-Holland, retelling the Arthur legends in a first-person view by the protagonist named Arthur de Caldicot, who lives in England/Wales Middle Marches during the Middle Ages, around 1199 just before the Fourth Crusade.

The chapters are in varying length, sometimes only one page, and total in one hundred chapters. For those who have not seen the book’s size and are overwhelmed with the idea of so many chapters, rest assured: it is nowhere near as thick as, for example, The Count of Monte Cristo and, the paperback version, is only three hundred sixty-six pages long. It is probably around the size of the paperback version of Jonathan Stroud’s Buried Fire. (Another book that I will also be writing a review on sometime in the future.)

During the course of the story, there are two plots that overlap each other: that of the world of our protagonist Arthur de Caldicot and within the Seeing Stone in which Arthur watches the eventual rise of King Arthur.

Summary

Arthur de Caldicot, our protagonist, is thirteen years old at the start of the story and wants to be a knight, but first he must become a squire and this want of his is put at stake as it is hinted at that his father, Sir John, might wish to make him a scribe as his reading and writing are very good.

His parents are Sir John de Caldicot and Lady Helen de Caldicot of Camelot and his siblings are his sixteen-year-old brother Serle whose disposition towards his younger brother aren’t always kind and his younger sister, Sein, who’s only eight.

One day Arthur helps his friend, a girl named Gatty whose only a year younger than him, pen the two bulls who accidentally escaped and are now in the same field. He and Gatty get into trouble: he, for helping her as it was not his place, and she is severely whipped by her father as she had torn his best coat to put the bulls back in their proper pens. Arthur is also punished in accordance to his actions.

One of the reasons why he wishes to become a squire and then a knight is because as he is not the firstborn of Sir John and his wife, he isn’t applicable to inheritance of his father’s land and must get his own. There are obstacles to be faced, nevertheless, especially as he is left-handed and due to the times back then, has to practice with his right hand in skills such as jousting and sword-play, which makes him not particularly good at them. The other obstacle, as already mentioned, is the possible prospect of Sir John making him a scribe.

His uncle, Sir William de Gortanore, is a rough and tough old man and he is the father of Arthur’s cousins Tom and Grace, whom he is to betrothed to, and the two like each other very much and await the day they should be united. Another important figure in Arthur’s life, who lives with Sir William, is Lady Alice and she is described as being beautiful with almond eyes.

Early on in the story, Arthur is given a magical stone, which is obsidian, by Merlin, who is Sir John’s friend and also becomes Arthur’s guide throughout the story. Only Arthur is to know about the Stone and no one else is to see it or else the Stone’s power will cease. When Arthur looks into it, he is able to watch the legendary King Arthur’s rise to power. Our protagonist Arthur comes to believe that this could be himself in the near future and indeed often times the Stone’s plot is parallel to the boy Arthur’s world.

The Stone’s plot begins with the birth of King Arthur, who is taken away by the wizard Merlin to foster parents and is raised to believe that his foster parents are his birth parents until the truth is revealed to him and he succeeds to become the King of England.

This part of the plot, in particular, mirrors Arthur de Caldicot and his discovery of truth: all anxiety of becoming a scribe is dissolved when, on his fourteenth birthday, Sir John reveals that Sir William is actually Arthur’s true father and this creates a growing subplot about the fate of Arthur’s true mother as it is said that Sir William killed his mother’s husband due to jealousy.

While Arthur is happy to know that he will inherit land, he is also sad because that is the death of his and Grace’s formerly marital future as she is his half-sister. The book ends as Arthur accepts being a squire, in service to Lord Stephen de Holt: the lord of the Middle Marches.

Sequels

The story continues in the following sequels: Arthur: At the Crossing Places and Arthur: King of the Middle Marches. In 2006, Kevin Crossley-Holland published a follow-up to the trilogy, titled Gatty’s Tale, a story about Gatty joining a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

Links

Kevin Crossley-Holland’s personal website

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