REVIEW: Camelot by Giles Kristian

James’ Review:

I received an uncorrected proof copy of Camelot in exchange for an honest review. I would like to thank Giles Kristian and Bantam Press for the opportunity.

Set ten years after the conclusion of Lancelot, Camelot follows the first-person point of view perspective of Galahad, Lancelot’s son. Galahad is a novice monk of Ynys Wydryn and is soon to ascend to the status of a fully-fledged brother of Christ. After witnessing the death of a newborn child and during a horrendous storm, he is met by two strangers. A Saxon-killing, bow-wielding lady of the wilds, Iselle and an ageing warrior who was a former companion of his father’s, Gawain. Circumstances dictate that together they have to leave the monastery, leaving Galahad to question everything he has ever known, completely turning his world upside down.

Camelot is an incredible sequel to Lancelot. It is beautifully written, plucks at the heartstrings throughout and has numerous tragic, truly gut-wrenching moments. The novel packs so much excellence within its pages. It features an adventure to retrieve a mythical treasure, tragic deaths of likeable characters, epic battles for the future of Britain, mysterious druid magic, and young love. It also has some instances where certain facts are revealed that I’d love to share, yet it would be unfair of me as those moments were utterly awesome, left me speechless and occasionally emotionally shattered.

I suppose you could start cold with Camelot if you hadn’t previously read Lancelot however I do believe you would be missing out greatly. Half of the ensemble here were present in the previous novel. Players like Gawain, Constantine, and Parcefal were great to read about again. Some of the other standout characters are new additions such as the previously mentioned Iselle and the intriguing young lad Taliesin. Certain towns are frequented again and it was intriguing to see how things had changed in the previous ten years. Britain is a darker and grimmer place than it was before with Saxon’s running amok and causing chaos, with the Kings of Britain only caring about their own settlements. The characters that were involved refer often to the good old days when Arthur and Lancelot brought Britain together under a united Bear banner and pushed the Saxon’s back to the sea. Is there any chance that Britain could unite again in this novel, without the aid of Lancelot and Arthur? It is mentioned frequently about how much Galahad reminds people of his father.

I’ll finish by saying that Camelot is a sublime, often poetic and hauntingly beautiful historical fiction epic. Featuring its fair share of grit and violence as well as camaraderie and loyalty, fans of heroic fantasy will find much to adore here. I’m unaware if Kristian is planning to return to his version of Britain’s early middle ages but he leaves the possibility open at the novel’s conclusion. Events wrap up nicely, the ending being riveting and hugely engaging. Camelot is a fine continuation to the equally excellent Lancelot and I raced through it in three days.

Edward’s Review:

A massive thank you to Giles Kristian and Bantam Press for the advance copy of Camelot. I was so excited for this read and it did not disappoint!

Camelot gave me one-hell of a punch. It contained some of the best writing in historical-fiction today and completely knocked me off my feet. It had the emotion and intimacy of Lancelot, just with something more. A phenomenal read.

“I am an old fool, but I know that a man so loved by some and hated by others must be a man who was true to his heart.”

Camelot took me completely by surprise. Where I loved Lancelot I adored Camelot, where I felt the emotional pulls in Lancelot I felt my heartstrings well and truly mauled in Camelot. Executed wonderfully, Camelot is completely worthy of its predecessor of Lancelot. After the ending of Lancelot I did not think I would read a book in this world by Giles Kristian again, my excitement levels at being sent a review copy Camelot was indescribable.

Before I carry on I have to say that I loved Lancelot. The whole arc, the characters, I loved it. I loved Camelot even more. There is an edge to Camelot and Kristian’s writing that is evidently honed to perfection. The tone felt right and the characters were believable and memorable.

“A fronte preecipitium a tergo lupi, a precipice in front, wolves behind”

Without wanting to go into the story for fear of spoilers, of Camelot or indeed Lancelot, I will pinch this quote from the Goodreads description of Camelot. For this is the story of Galahad, Lancelot’s son – the reluctant warrior who dared to keep the dream of Camelot alive…

Usually I will not love a novel if I don’t feel a connection with the characters. Camelot contains a host of fantastic characters that are all individual and brilliant in their own rights. There were old-strings that were cut and new bonds that were made. Galahad was a superb POV, a young reluctant hero who was written in such a way it felt like a breath of fresh air. There is hope in Galahad and everything he comes to stand for, flashes of his lineage that left the characters and even myself in awe.

“The dead must be avenged.”

Within Camelot there was some of the most polished and well-written passages I have read. Not just within the plot and characters, but the prose. Kristian’s prose is inspiring to read. He manages to incorporate such time-period specific phrases and feelings into some deeply descriptive writing that makes you feel like you understand the world that our characters are living in. It is, obviously being a 5th Century Arthurian tale, immensely different to our own worlds but Kristian does it superbly world.

There was a couple of chapters just after the halfway point that were some of the best chapters I have ever read. Terrifying and brutal they added so much to the story and the bond forged between a band of warriors set on the same hope-filled quest.

“He is a fool who plants no trees because he knows he will never sit in their shade.”

As a fan of Arthurian tales such as Cornwell’s Warlord Chronicles (of course, and I’m sure every review of Lancelot and Camelot will keep Bernard’s portrayal in mind,) Tolkein’s Fall of Arthur alliterative verse and other classic renditions, I never once thought I’d be able to be fully immersed into another telling of Arthur and his knights. However, as you can guess I was indeed wrong. The golden ticket here is containing the bones of that mythology that we know, but making it completely your own, and it is that. Kristian has carved his own path through the jungle that is Arthur, with the action of the Raven Saga, the history of classic tellings and characters that forge a connection with you.

There were a few moments where I felt frustration based on some characters actions and I felt myself urging these characters to do a little more to live up to the song of Arthur, but as Kristian’s tale show us, these legendary characters are human and can go completely against your wishes.

“I was Galahad ap Lancelot and I was a killer of men.”

5/5 – In short, I loved it. In long, I loooooooved it. Lancelot was a wonderful read and Camelot followed it up brilliantly.  Galahad is one of my favourite main characters of historical fiction and I really enjoyed the whole setting of Camelot. It was tense, nerve-wracking but full of hope. Containing beautiful prose, strong characters and authentic action, Camelot is a great Arthurian tale.

Buy Camelot by Giles Kristian

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James Tivendale

James reviews fantasy books, is a pretty good pool player and likes the musical Hamilton.