Tagged: the squire’s tales

The Princess, the Crone, and the Dung-Cart Knight by Gerald Morris

The Princess, the Crone, and the Dung-Cart Knight(Cover picture courtesy of Rainbow Resource Center.)

Sarah knelt and cleaned her blade on the grass, then sheathed it.  Her stomach was tight and she was slightly nauseated, but she felt no emotion.

Ever since her mother and guardian were killed, thirteen-year-old Sarah has been living on her own, searching for the murderer.  Her quest for revenge leads to greater adventure when she witnesses Queen Guinevere being kidnapped.  Soon Sarah is accompanying Sir Gawain and Squire Terence on a remarkable journey to rescue the queen.  But as the plot thickens, Sarah begins to learn the true consequences of vengeance and what it really means to be a princess.

Well, this was Book 6 of The Squire’s Tales series and I can confidently say that so far I love the whole series.  There is no ‘bad’ book in Gerald Morris’ retellings of the Arthurian legends; they’re all great.

Although from the summary I expected Sarah to be a typical girl empowerment character, that was far from the truth.  Her actions make sense and her character arc is gradual, but very powerful.  Just as a warning to younger readers, let me say that this book is more graphic than the others and may offend sensitive readers.  After all, the reason Sarah is looking for revenge is based on real, very tragic historical events.  And the road to revenge is not without its victims, so just keep that in mind.

Once again Gawain and Terence show up near the end of the book, but it is Sarah and her Dung-Cart Knight that play a much more important part in the story.  Gerald Morris certainly has an interesting take on Lancelot, who shows up later on.  Lancelot has changed immensely from the first few books when he was a caricature of a proper knight: foppish, immersed in courtly love, etc.  He has actually acquired some depth in this book and I look forward to seeing him in the next few books, if only to see how these changes affect his new life at court.

With a fast plot, amazing characters both old and new and hints at the tragic ending of the Arthurian legends, you won’t want to put down The Princess, the Crone, and the Dung-Cart Knight.  Even though it’s aimed at younger readers I loved it, which is why I recommend it to readers of all ages.

I give this book 4.5/5 stars.

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The Ballad of Sir Dinadan by Gerald Morris

The Ballad of Sir Dinadan by Gerald Morris(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.

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Parsifal’s Page by Gerald Morris

(Cover picture courtesy of Better World Books.)

Piers, watching from the door to the shop, gaped with awe at the night.

Piers is desperate to escape the dirty, tedious labor of his father’s blacksmith shop.  So when a knight shows up and says he’s on “the quest,” Piers begs to go along.  Surprisingly, his father lets him, and soon he is off on a series of adventures he never dreamed possible.  However, Piers’s knight quickly runs into difficulties and is slain by an odd character named Parsifal, who is on his own quest.  Piers has no other choice but to join him.  As their journey continues, Piers begins to realize what being a knight really means.

Apparently the legend of Parsifal is quite famous, although I have only heard of it through the title of Richard Wagner’s opera, fittingly called ‘Parsifal‘.  And no, I had not even watched the opera, just heard of it.  My only encounter with Parsifal thus far was briefly when Gawain wrestled with him in the Other World.  However, I’m glad Gerald Morris saw fit to bring Parsifal to the front of the stage.

This story is not told by Parsifal himself, but rather by Piers, his page.  Piers was raised to believe knights should follow a strict code of courtesy and that questions were impertinent.  It is this latter belief that gets both of them into trouble and in the end Piers’ views of knighthood are drastically altered.  Since this fourth book in The Squire’s Tales is told from the point of view of Piers, we do not get to see Parsifal’s thoughts, which is a real shame.  I personally would have liked to learn more about Parsifal’s motivations and his life in the Other World, but Piers is a decent enough narrator.

Once again the story is not so much about Terence and Gawain, although they appear in it and definitely challenge Piers’ views of the relationship between squire and knight.  While Parsifal’s Page is not my absolute favourite book in The Squire’s Tales, it’s certainly a good book and a fitting retelling of yet another popular Arthurian legend.  Sometimes authors lose their steam by the third or fourth book in a series, but this is certainly not the case for Gerald Morris.  He has attacked the legend with all the enthusiasm you would expect and delivers a heartwarming tale of friendship and love.

I give this book 4/5 stars.

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The Savage Damsel and the Dwarf by Gerald Morris

(Cover picture courtesy of Rainbow Resource Center.)

“A lady,” the dwarf repeated.  “I’ve just been disarmed and taken prisoner by a lady.”  He shook his head slowly.  “I really am pathetic.”

Lady Lynet’s life has become unbearable: Her castle is besieged by an evil knight who beheads her would-be rescuers.  Her only chance for freedom is to ask King Arthur for help.  But to do so, first she must get to Camelot.  So one night she slips away and meets a dwarf named Roger.  He doesn’t appear to be the most likely companion, but Lady Lynet soon learns that people can be more than they seem, including herself.

For those of you hoping Book 3 of The Squire’s Tales would contain more about the adventures of Terence and Sir Gawain, you’ll be sadly disappointed.  Both Terence and Gawain do appear at various points throughout the novel, but the main focus is on Lady Lynet.  This was disappointing for me at first, but then Lady Lynet became such a strong character I had no choice but to connect with her.

Although I know the basic story of Beaumains I really did not see the twist coming at the end.  Wow.  And it actually made sense, but was surprising at the same time!  Gerald Morris also added much more depth to the original legend, most importantly in the case of Roger the dwarf and Lynet.  Lynet isn’t just a nagging woman who constantly torments poor Beaumains and Roger the dwarf isn’t just comic relief.

The plot went a little more quickly this time, but that’s probably because we were introduced to the conflict right off the bat: evil knight keeping beautiful damsel captive and killing all knights who try to rescue her until she agrees to marry him.  This time the beautiful damsel is not-so-nice and it is her sister, Lynet, who decides to do something to stop the bloodbath.  The Savage Damsel and the Dwarf isn’t so much plot driven as character driven.  You would think that would make it slow and boring, but the characters are so vivid and the world-building Gerald Morris did was incredible so it worked in this case.

I give this book 5/5 stars.

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The Squire, His Knight, and His Lady by Gerald Morris

(Cover picture courtesy of Booktopia.)

“Either leave this island, or prepare now to do battle.”

“Then I must do battle,” Gawain said.

Squire Terence and Sir Gawain are on another quest, but this time their journey is overshadowed by their ultimate destination—a contest between Sir Gawain and the Green Knight that could easily lead to Gawain’s death.

As they weave their way between the world of men and the Other World, both Gawain and Terence discover much about themselves.  Terence learns more about his past and what the future holds for him, and Gawain is forced to confront the true nature of courage and honor.

Next to the legend of Tristan and Isolde, the tale of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight has always been one of my favourite Arthurian legends.  So you could say I’m a bit biased in this review because this is exactly the legend Gerald Morris retells in The Squire, His Knight, and His Lady.  And what a fitting tribute to such a great legend!

It’s been five years since the first book, which places Terence from age 18-20 and Gawain in his mid twenties.  And unlike a lot of young adult books that are focusing on adults, the adults don’t act like children/young adults.  They act their age!  The Squire’s Tale mainly focused on Gawain instead of Terence (even though it was in his POV), but Book 2 most definitely focuses on Terence.  In the first book Gawain was clearly the hero, but in this book Terence really gets his chance to shine.  Rescuing Gawain, traveling to the Other World and falling in love…Terence really experiences some great character growth.

Gerald Morris mentions in his Author’s Note that he has drawn heavily on Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur, especially in King Arthur’s battle against the Roman Emperor.  All of the Arthurian legends I’ve read take place long after the fall of the Roman Empire, but I also don’t see why they can’t take place during the fall, when Rome was losing its grip on its empire.  Gerald Morris was brave when he did that and it worked out very well.  It also gives the perfect introduction to that central character in every Arthurian legend: Lancelot.

If you’re a hardcore fan of Lancelot or Guinevere, I would advise you not to read this series.  Gerald Morris does not exactly paint the two ‘lovers’ in the most flattering light.  But at least he justifies it with his writing and King Arthur is given depth when he realizes that his wife does not love him and never will.  One of the most touching passages in the entire novel is this one, when Arthur is speaking with Gawain about Guinevere:

“Am I a fool to love her, Gawain?”

“If so, it is a divine foolishness,” Gawain said. (Pg 33)

Ah, the pangs of unrequited love!

I give this book 5/5 stars.

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The Squire’s Tale by Gerald Morris

(Cover picture courtesy of Tower.)

“What is your name?”  Morgause whispered fiercely, almost desperately.  “You are no ordinary magician.”

“I am a squire,” Terence said.

But he is no ordinary squire, either.  Abandoned as a baby at the door of Trevisant the Hermit, young Terence never expects he will be more than the hermit’s servant.  Until one day when a stranger shows up—Gawain, a young man destined to become of the most famous knights of King Arthur’s Round Table.  As Gawain’s squire, Terence journeys with him to Camelot and what begins as an adventure soon turns into nothing less than a quest to uncover the secrets of his past.

I have loved the legend of King Arthur ever since my English teacher introduced it to me in grade 5.  Everyone has heard different versions of the same story, but that’s the beauty of the Arthurian legends: they grow and change with time, as they were meant to.  In The Squire’s Tale Gerald Morris takes an interesting approach, as he states in his author’s note.  He is “trying to restore the reputation of this most honored of all knights on earth.”  It’s not Lancelot, but Gawain, The Maiden’s Knight.

It is not Gawain, but Terence, his squire who tells his story.  Terence himself is a great character: the son of unknown parents with the ability to see faeries.  He doesn’t seem all that remarkable in the beginning, but Terence goes through a wonderful character arc as he embarks with Gawain upon his quests.  To me it is Gawain who steals the show because Gerald Morris’ version of him is similar to that of Rosemary Sutcliff’s (an author I have always admired).  However, Terence is the one that readers will most likely sympathize with because this book is aimed at younger teens and tweens and he is very much the voice of adolescent uncertainty.

The plot of The Squire’s Tale moves along quite a bit faster than I’m used to in books incorporating the Arthurian legends, but it suits Gerald Morris’ writing style.  There are really no places where the plot sags, not even in the beginning when we are introduced to Terence.  The characters are quirky and memorable and there’s plenty of humour to offset some of the serious elements.  Overall, a fitting retelling of the Arthurian legends, except for the ending.  Gerald Morris kind of stuck Morgause in there at the last minute and I felt that the ending scene was rushed, but it does at least make sense.  This is one series I will be continuing.

I give this book 4/5 stars.

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