[star] "Spellbinding . . . A standout in this enormous canon."--Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"A subtle, many-layered tale . . . It is, as the book's ending tells readers, 'an old story but a good one,' and Yolen does it honor." --VOYA (5Q--highest rating)
[star] "[A] page-turning tale of magic and adventure, betrayal, loyalty, and love."--School Library Journal (starred review)
[star] "Combining old and new, adventure and idealism, this will leave many readers hoping for a sequel."--Booklist (starred review)
Yolen works her reliable magic on the old tale of the sword in the stone, not by re-telling it but by borrowing its themes and characters and shaping it into a whole new story, shot through with equal parts humor, intrigue and poetry.
Morgause feels that her 17-year-old son Gawaine belongs on the throne of England, in what PW's starred review called "a spellbinding twist on the Round Table legend." Ages 12-up. (Aug.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
To quote from the review of the hardcover in KLIATT, May 2003: There's a great secret in this story, kept so until the final chapters! There are hints here and there, but still, it is amazing when the secret is revealed. Otherwise, we have here another well-told story about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Arthur is young yet, unmarried; his mentor is Merlinnus, of course. There is a sword in the stonethe sword of legend: anyone who can pull the sword from the stone will be the rightful king of all Britain. There is the evil Queen of the North, Morgause, who from Orkney tries to murder Arthur and gain all the power. She sends her young sons to be knights. She herself journeys south to the court, at the time of the solstice when the sword will be removed from the stone. It takes all of Merlinnus's magic and the cunning of our young hero Gawen to defeat her. Gawen is a young man come to court who apprentices himself to Merlinnus rather than take on the schooling to become a knight. Yolen is a gifted writer of fantasy and has returned to this legend of Arthur and Merlin time and time again. She makes the action flow, blending the magic with reality. There are lines like these: "Merlinnus laughed. 'You are going to be a great king, Arthur. Not because you know the truth, but because you act as if you do.'" For all collections where there are those who enjoy the King Arthur stories. (An ALA Best Book for YAs.) KLIATT Codes: J*Exceptional book, recommended for junior high school students. 2003, Harcourt, Magic Carpet, 361p., Ages 12 to 15.
That the King Arthur legends continue to inspire variations demonstrates the deep resonance they have for today's culture. Now, following her Young Merlin Trilogy, Yolen imagines the beginnings of the fateful relationship of Arthur and Guinevere. Arthur's claim to the throne of the High King is not yet assured, so Merlin devises the test of the Sword in the Stone. Magic will ensure that only Arthur can withdraw it, thereby solidifying his kingship. Merlin's bitter rival Morgause, however, covets the throne for her sons and applies her black arts to foil the king. Meanwhile a young boy, Gawen, arrives at Camelot, where his quick mind and ready tongue soon earn him a place as Merlin's assistant. This Gawen is really Guinevere, who seeks revenge for the supposed rejection of her sister by Sir Gawaine, eldest son of the scheming Morgause. Arthur, a brilliant leader but a man of action rather than subtlety, is no match for these women. Spying and counterspying, magic and manipulation-all reach their height at the Summer Solstice, when any who wish may try to draw the sword from the stone. Yolen employs simple vocabulary and straightforward storytelling to weave a subtle, many-layered tale. Her characters have depth and personality. Delicate foreshadowing reminds the reader where the pageantry, the violence, and the rivalries will lead, lending bittersweet poignancy to the love story of Arthur and Guinevere. It is, as the book's ending tells readers, "an old story but a good one," and Yolen does it honor. VOYA Codes: 5Q 4P M J (Hard to imagine it being any better written; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2003, Harcourt,368p,
"It was an old story but a good one" ends Yolen's text, and in her hands, this old tale of King Arthur is fresh and alive. Merlinnus, to ensure that Arthur is recognized by all as the "rightwise king born of all England," uses his magic to place a sword in stone that can only be retrieved by Arthur. In the meantime, Morgause has sent four of her sons, Gawaine, Agravaine and the twins to Arthur's castle. Intrigue and assassination plots, as well as the arrival of a mysterious person who becomes Merlinnus' assistant, all keep the reader turning the pages. Arthur comes alive as a real person with strengths as well as weaknesses. Yolen conveys a strong sense of place and a real understanding of her characters Small details, such as the superstitions of the people, give richness to the story. She plays to her audience, the readers, when she references the Green Knight and has Gawaine ask what it is that women want. Yolen's words and phrases evoke this ancient time yet will appeal to today's reader. Put this at the top of your read-aloud list. 2003, Harcourt,
Gr 5-8-Fantasy fans will appreciate the delightful twist Yolen introduces into the legend of King Arthur. A page-turning tale of magic and adventure, betrayal and loyalty, and love and hate. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Political intrigue dominates this new version of how Arthur came to pull the sword Excalibur from a stone. Arthur, already an adult, is king but without full support of the country, so his advisor Merlinnus creates a stone with a sword in it that only Arthur will be able remove--thus demonstrating that he’s the rightful king. Meanwhile, Morgause, whom informed readers will recognize as Arthur’s evil half-sister and former lover, turns her powerful black magic against Arthur, plotting to put one of her sons on the throne. She sends four them to Arthur’s court, where one may be trying to kill him--a mystery. Another mystery is the real identity of Gawen, a boy with golden hair and slim build who becomes Merlinnus’s new helper and Arthur’s increasingly important friend. Fans of King Arthur will be the best audience for this tale; the reading benefits significantly from already knowing the characters’ backgrounds, not offered in any detail. Although the prolific Yolen usually supplies more action, those who can’t get enough of Arthur and his court will likely enjoy the different slant on his rise to power. (Fiction. 11+)