Friday, 14 August 2015
Book Review: The Forgotten Knight - A Chinese Warrior in King Arthur's Court by Christopher Vale
There aren't many Arthurian stories out now, most coming from the 90s, yet Christopher Vale has created a fascinating tale in "The Forgotten Knight." Since studying Arthurian legends, I feel a have a bit of an advantage over the average reader with this novel. To call "The Forgotten Knight" a new legend would be unfair. In truth, it would be a modern re-telling if anything. It follows little of the traditional characteristics of the legends, but uses many of the characters from various legend sources.
This novel, however, does feature the medieval period the same way popular media portrays it: dirty, unhygienic, and bloody. This fits in with what I would consider modern legends as earlier legends tend to romanticize the period. And this cannot be called historically accurate in regards to medieval Britain (Arthurian characters aside) although it's clear Vale did research early medieval China in order to incorporate the title character. I would have liked to see more references to the culture, and the differences between the Chinese and British culture and how the characters deal with it.
While it may not have been intentional, I noticed similarities with the famous novel and later movie "The Princess Bride" mostly later in the book. The Queen uses Buttercup's line "you mock my pain" and later a character is tortured while insisting their inevitable escape similar ti Wesley. Most readers may not make the connections, unless they're fans of medieval stories.
One part of the novel which reminded me of the flow of earlier legends is when Lancelot, Galahad, and Sheng try to rescue the Queen. Their interaction with the Lady of the Lake is similar to how it would read in earlier manuscripts, particularly with the repetition.
The only part that made me uneasy was near the beginning, when Merlin and Sheng make their journey from China to Britain...in only several months' time. In truth it would take close to a year, as Merlin was not able to use his magic to get them back quicker. Otherwise, I rather enjoyed this book. Lovers of the medieval period and Arthurian legends will find this book fascinating, and modern. Sheng's character is wonderfully sympathetic, and the ending is appreciated to be the only one possible.
Buy the book on Amazon