(Cover picture courtesy of Booktopia.)
Dinadan rode out of the front gate of his father’s home, promising himself that he would never again enter those walls.
Young Dinadan has no wish to do any of the knightly things expected of him. But he was born to be a knight, and knights, of course, have adventures. So after his father forces his knighthood upon him, he wanders toward King Arthur’s court in the company of a misguided young lad named Culloch. There Dinadan meets Sir Kai and Sir Bedivere, and the three find themselves accompanying Culloch on the worst sort of quest. Along the way, Dinadan learns that though minstrels sing of spectacular heroic deeds, honor is often found in simpler, quieter ways.
The first four books in The Squire’s Tales have had humour in them, but they never reached into the realm of laugh-out-loud humour. The Ballad of Sir Dinadan does because of Sir Dinadan’s attitude toward love and knights and because of the sheer craziness of some situations he gets into. This is the most cynical, irreverent take on the Arthurian legends and I absolutely love it. In some ways, it makes the first four books seem pale in comparison.
This is the first time we’re actually in the point of view of a knight. The problem is, he doesn’t want to be a knight. Dinadan is no good at sword fighting, jousting or wooing ladies. He is cynical to begin with because his father knighted him while drunk, but he is also hopeful that the world outside his childhood home will be better. But after an incident with a beautiful maiden, Dinadan turns full cynic and that attitude is proven correct time and time again throughout the story. The ineptness of Culloch, the horror of discovering what his older brother Sir Tristram is actually like and the folly of Queen Isuelt…wouldn’t you be cynical too?
The plot of The Ballad of Sir Dinadan moves along fairly quickly and is mostly driven by Dinadan, who seems to get himself into all kinds of trouble. He also solves a lot of problems and encounters a lot of people we now consider legendary in the Arthurian canon. To some it will seem like Gerald Morris is going out of his way to be irreverent toward beloved figures, but when you think about it, these people (if they really existed) were probably like that. I guarantee that Gerald Morris’ fifth book in The Squire’s Tales will change your view of at least one character. If you’re looking for a traditional happy ending, you won’t find it, but the ending isn’t tragic either. In the context of the story, it makes sense.
I give this book 5/5 stars.