Lancelot by Giles Kristian
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I firmly believed that I would never experience another Arthurian novel as magnificent as Bernard Cornwell’s Warlord Chronicles trilogy. I was wrong.
I’ll start my review by saying thank you to Robin Carter from Parmenion Books for recommending this book to me. Without him, I wouldn’t have known about this book at all. Seriously, other than his one-time recommendation, I literally never heard of or saw anything about this book anywhere else, and that’s seriously a sin because this is a brilliant book. If you’re into Arthurian Tale or historical fiction, this is a must-read.
The Arthurian legend, as most of you know, has been reenacted countless times. It’s honestly one of my favorite tales out there but although I’ve experienced tons of stories inspired from this, they’re almost always in another medium besides novels. It wasn’t until last year after I finished reading The Faithful and the Fallen series by John Gwynne that I found out about The Warlord Chronicles by Bernard Cornwell; suffice it to say that I was completely mesmerized and it became the best Arthurian retelling I’ve ever experienced in any medium. Why am I saying all this? Lancelot is a book that’s as good as Cornwell’s take on the Arthurian tale.
However, please do know that this is a very different book from Cornwell’s trilogy. Unlike Warlord Chronicles, Lancelot is a highly character driven book with minimum action sequences; it’s a character study about… well… Lancelot. No surprises there. Now, I don’t know about you but I can only speak from my experience. I have experienced a lot of Arthurian retellings and they’re all unique in their own way, but there’s one thing that stays the same: the story is always told from Arthur’s or his faction’s side. If this was another retelling about Arthur, there’s a chance I wouldn’t have picked this up. However, this is about Lancelot.
Kristian brings a huge level of depth and characterization to Lancelot within this book. Telling the story exclusively from Lancelot’s POV, beginning from his childhood, makes him much more of a flawed and empathetic character. Here we see him not only as a betrayer but a true friend that is faced with the toughest of choices: friendship, loyalty, or love. I’ll admit that I was quite shocked by the prologue because the writing in that section is really not for me; I still have no idea what the prologue was supposed to mean, and the prose was too poetic for me. Luckily, once I’ve reached the 11% mark of the book, the flame of empathy inside my soul was lit. Lancelot became a character in whom I was fully invested; his love towards Guinevere, the friendship he formed with Arthur and many more aspects were all precious. Just take a look at this simple passage for example. Those of you who are familiar with the Arthurian tale will know just how much pain and complexity of feelings are imbued.
“Arthur would fight for Britain. I would fight for Arthur. And Guinevere would always own my soul. The gods are cruel.”
This line alone summed up precisely how complicated Lancelot’s feelings are in between choosing loyalty for Arthur or love for Guinevere. Kristian’s prose flows like a clear river with no obstructions. It was beautiful, enchanting, and lyrical. I have no idea if the fact that the author used to be in a boyband helps his prose or not, but I do know that every word was worth savoring.
There are usually two kinds of books: one that fly by quickly and others that you have to savor. Both can and are amazing in their own way, but Lancelot is a book that fell in the latter category. Take your time with this scintillating piece of art. The grief, the agony, the tragedy, the love, let all of these seeps into your blood through the words. Savor them. In the end, you’ll be just as grateful as I’m feeling now.
Thank you, Giles Kristian, for not giving up on writing this book despite the harsh circumstances you had to deal with during the time of writing. This is my first time reading your book, it certainly won’t be the last. May you rise like a hawk through all the difficult times ahead.
Side note: Please read the author’s note at the end of the book. It may be short but it shows just how much heart and soul were poured into this book. Speaking of author’s notes, maybe it was destiny for me to read this book because it was written on my birthday this year. :p
You can order the book HERE!
Review originally written on June 6th, 2018