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The Arthur Trilogy: The Seeing Stone

The Arthur Trilogy: The Seeing Stone

by Kevin Crosley-Holland, Kevin Crossley-Holland, Michael Maloney (Read by)
Read by Michael Maloney
Approx. 7 hours, 30 minutes
6 cassettes

It is 1199 and young Arthur de Caldicot is waiting impatiently to grow up and become a knight. One day his father's friend Merlin gives him a shining piece of obsidian and his life becomes entwined with that of his namesake, the Arthur whose story he sees unfold in the stone.

In this


Read by Michael Maloney
Approx. 7 hours, 30 minutes
6 cassettes

It is 1199 and young Arthur de Caldicot is waiting impatiently to grow up and become a knight. One day his father's friend Merlin gives him a shining piece of obsidian and his life becomes entwined with that of his namesake, the Arthur whose story he sees unfold in the stone.

In this many-layered novel, King Arthur is seen as a mysterious presence influencing not just one time and place but many. The 100 short chapter are like snapshots, not only of the mythic tales of King Arthur, but the earthy, uncomfortable reality of Middle Ages.

Editorial Reviews

bn.com review
The Barnes & Noble Review
Kevin Crossley-Holland spins an enchanting tale of magic and mystery in The Seeing Stone, the first book in a planned trilogy based on Arthurian legend. The story opens at the cusp of the 12th and 13th centuries, when a 13-year-old lad named Arthur discovers that his life is about to take some unexpected turns. At the heart of all this change is Merlin, a mysterious man who possesses incredible knowledge and power. It is Merlin's special gift to young Arthur -- a shiny piece of obsidian -- that gives this book its name and much of its magic.

All that young Arthur can think about is his desire to become a squire and, eventually, a knight, a goal his father seems determined to prevent him from reaching. At first, the only thing Arthur has to feed his dream are his hopes and his imagination, which are often tempered by the harsh realities of life. But then his mentor, Merlin, gives him a shiny stone, uttering a cryptic message about its power. When Arthur looks into the dark surface of the stone, images appear -- snippets of past events from other people's lives, including a powerful King named Uther and a young knight named Arthur. When certain aspects of young Arthur's life begin to parallel those of his namesake in the seeing stone, he begins to wonder if the images might not be a glimpse of the future rather than the past. Arthur's quest for the truth answers some of his questions but also raises plenty of others, no doubt as a lead-in to the second chapter in this trilogy.

This is no fluffy tale of Camelot. Arthur tackles a number of provocative issues in his dealings with others, and his observations provide a grim but realistic commentary on the filth, hunger, and barbarism that was a regular part of life in the Middle Ages. But the book's overall structure -- told from Arthur's point of view in 100 very short chapters -- and its mystical overtones make The Seeing Stone a quick and engaging read. (Beth Amos)

Publishers Weekly
In this first volume of a planned Arthur Trilogy, British author Crossley-Holland inventively reworks the legend of the Round Table through he diary of a 13-year-old boy named Arthur, living in an English manor in the 12th century. One day, his friend Merlin gives Arthur a magical stone that shows him visions of the once and future king, whose story parallels narrator Arthur's so closely that at first the stone seems to depict the hero's destiny. More accurately, though, "Arthur-in-the-stone is not me. We look and talk like each other. But he can do magic, and I cannot Sir Ector and Kay are not exactly the same as my father and Serle, either." The boy recording the events is not King Arthur, but rather someone infused with the king's spirit, living a largely parallel life. Told in 100 very short chapters, the plot builds slowly, laying the groundwork of chivalric codes and court etiquette, and the character list in the opening pages is essential to keeping track of various personalities and their hierarchical relationships. Some readers may wish for more jousting and less of the domestic squabbles and local politics, but many will revel in Crossley-Holland's portrait of the period and the humorous observations conveyed through the diary entries. A clever, ethical and passionate hero plus several intriguing loose ends will have readers itching for the sequel. Ages 13-up. (Oct.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature
Arriving from England with hoopla and honors is the next Great Harry Potter Hope. It's a shame there will be comparisons, because Crossley-Holland's book is very fine in its own right. Yes, there is an Arthurian subplot, and yes, there is a wizard—named Merlin, no less. But the young hero, Arthur, of this novel lives in 1199—and what this book is about more than anything is life in a small manor on the Welsh borderlands during the late Middle Ages. Through the eyes of thirteen-year-old Arthur, Crossley-Holland recounts this life believably and well—from pig-slaughtering, to the lamented ascent of King John, to the call for a fourth Crusade to Jerusalem. The hero is a hero in the Arthurian sense—intelligent, compassionate, and anxious to find his quest. Undoubtedly Books Two and Three will take us along on Arthur's quest, too. It is something for which to look forward, because these pages slipped by altogether too fast. 2001, Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic, $17.95. Ages 10 up. Reviewer:Kathleen Karr
In Book One of his Arthur Trilogy, Crossley-Holland transports readers to the year 1199, in which King John has taken England's throne, Pope Innocent wants men for his fourth crusade, Welsh raiders are poised to invade from the west, and people worry about the new century. Arthur, the thirteen-year-old narrator of this novel, lives at Caldicot manor and is affected by historical events and the day-to-day happenings at the manor. Arthur guides readers through the seasonal chores and celebrations on the manor and offers a clear look at life as a teenager during the Middle Ages. He excels at reading and writing, and it is through his journal that readers learn about his daily life as well as his thoughts and dreams. Merlin, a friend to Sir John de Caldicot, gives Arthur a seeing stone, which is to remain a secret between them. In the stone, Arthur can see and hear those who divulge the story of King Arthur. King Arthur's story often mirrors and portends events in Arthur's life;at one point Arthur realizes that the king looks like him but can not fathom what this might mean. This compelling novel is a quick read thanks to completely real characters and plenty of action. Medieval life is evoked effectively through vivid descriptions, deft characterizations and dialogue, and archaic vocabulary with a helpful word list that appears in the back of the book. Young adults interested in King Arthur or the Middle Ages will find this novel a marvelous read, as would teachers looking for a medieval historical fiction tie-in. Glossary. VOYA CODES:5Q 2P J S (Hard to imagine it being any better written;For the YA with a special interest in the subject;Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9;Senior High,defined as grades 10 to 12). 2000, Scholastic, 368p, $17.95. Ages 12 to 18. Reviewer:Rachelle Bilz—VOYA, December 2001 (Vol. 24, No. 5)
This was first published in Great Britain, to great acclaim, as yet another book about the Arthurian legend. It is set apart by its setting and the attention to detail about life in 1199, at a manor house on the Welsh border just at the death of Richard Coeur de Lion and the beginning of the reign of his brother King John. As a complicated plot conveyance, the 13-year-old Arthur of 1199 is given a seeing stone by Merlin, and in this stone Arthur is able to see the life of the Arthur of legend, although it isn't clear to him at the beginning just what he is seeing. Slowly the identifications of the people in the stone are revealed to Arthur, including his own and Merlin's. This first part of the trilogy ends as 14-year-old Arthur discovers the truth about his parentage and prepares to set off on the 4th Crusade to Jerusalem. Crossley-Holland comes to this work with great devotion to historical accuracy. Therefore, the 340 pages (long for a "children's book") are filled with details of all kinds: foods eaten, songs sung, pigs butchered, and so on. Add this 1199 detail to the parallel story as it unfolds in Arthur's obsidian stone (the basic myth of Tintagel, King Uther and the sword in the stone that reveals Arthur as the rightful King of England) and this becomes a serious literary effort. American YAs who don't know much about English history or the Arthurian myth would probably do well to start someplace else as an introduction; but those with the necessary background will find Crossley-Holland's work an engrossing reading experience. (Arthur trilogy, book one) KLIATT Codes: J—Recommended for junior high school students. 2000, Scholastic, 340p., $17.95. Ages 13 to 15.Reviewer: Claire Rosser; September 2001 (Vol. 35 No. 5)
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-Kevin Crossley-Holland's story (Scholastic, 2001) about medieval British life combines the legend of King Arthur with sensually rich details of 12th century reality. Arthur de Caldicot is a 13-year-old boy, son of Lord John, whose manor includes a household of four children, an elderly Welsh grandmother, Lord John's wife, and assorted servants, as well as the village of farmers and laborers, Oliver the priest and Arthur's teacher, and Sir John's often visiting yet mysterious friend, Merlin. It is Merlin who gives Arthur the seeing stone in which he spies an earlier Arthur. As the story progresses, Arthur de Caldicot's identity melds with that of the legendary Arthur. Michael Maloney's reading is rich and compelling. Each character speaks with his or her own tones and accents, from Arthur's very young sister to gruff Sir William, Sir John's elder brother. The book is divided into 100 chapters, each with its own setting and climax, but the novel moves in a unified and irrepressible path toward Arthur's destiny, replete with his extraction of the sword from its stone lodging. This book makes excellent curriculum support material as well as welcome free reading. The excellent audio version invites a wide audience into this rich literary experience, and Maloney's performance breathes immediacy into every nuance of plot and character. -Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
In Great Britain, this first volume in a projected Arthurian trilogy was shortlisted for the Whitbread Award, the Guardian Children's Book Prize, and won the Bronze medal, Smarties Prize. On the level of medieval fantasy, it works very well indeed. The 13-year-old Arthur of this tale lives in the year 1199, the time of Richard Coeur de Lion, at Caldicot, and someone named Merlin also lives within the castle grounds. Merlin has given Arthur a piece of obsidian in which Arthur scries glimpses of another history: of Uther and Gorlois, of Sir Kay and a sword, and of a boy who shares his name and his countenance. He does not know these stories, but he is obsessed with reading and writing, with being named a squire, and with why his older brother hates him so. Arthur is a most engaging companion and a plenitude of historical facts about life in 12th-century England is imparted, but not a whole lot happens. At the end of this doorstopper all we know is that Arthur is not who he seems, nor is Merlin, and that his quest is about to begin. One cannot help but compare it to T.H. White's Once and Future King, and one might be far more inclined to put that in the hands of youngsters eager for legend. (Fiction. 11-15) $100,000 ad/promo

Product Details

Random House Audio Publishing Group
Publication date:
Arthur Trilogy , #1
Edition description:
Unabridged, 6 Cassettes, 7 hrs. 55 min.
Product dimensions:
4.14(w) x 6.13(h) x 2.65(d)
Age Range:
9 - 12 Years

Meet the Author

Kevin Crossley-Holland fell in love with the Middle Ages and Anglo-Saxon poetry while he was an undergraduate at Oxford University. He wrote his first work for children, a retelling of a medieval romance, in a London park during lunch breaks from his job as a children's book editor. In 1985, he received the Carnegie Medal for his novel Storm. A longtime resident of the United States, where he taught at the University of Minnesota, Kevin and his wife, Linda, now live on the coast of the North Sea in Norfolk, England.

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