Though Sir Lancelot enjoys more popularity, the greatest knight of the Round Table is arguably Sir Gawain of Orkney, nephew to King Arthur. In the Squire's Tales Gerald Morris sets out to remedy the shocking lack of good stories about Gawain. And he does so in a way that's both outrageously amusing and charmingly irreverent.
Morris enjoys retelling well-known stories with a wicked twist that makes everything less epic—but infinitely more funny—than you've been told. From the first fight in the first book that involves Sir Gawain defeating an armored knight with a stewpot, to the epic moment in the fifth book when Sir Kai grabs a spear in midair, reverses it, and throws it back (and then is just as surprised as everyone else), the stories are not lacking in the excitement of the traditional Arthurian legends.
And Morris is also to be commended for his handling of the more unpleasant aspects of Arthur's story—like the affair of Lancelot and Guinevere. He doesn't romanticize or gloss over it. Instead he very simply shows us the other side of the story—what it felt like from Arthur's point of view, and how much pain it caused. He also takes on the story of Tristan and Iseult, choosing to portray the two as lovelorn idiots who end up hurting everyone around them (including themselves). He and his characters blatantly decry the glorification of adultery that typifies courtly love stories.
By doing so he provides a subtle contrast between men like Sir Gawain and men like Sir Lancelot. Morris’ heroes may be at times dry and sarcastic, but they have a strong moral compass.They are, for the most part, honest, sensible men and women who are not quick to fight each other over petty and insignificant things like snubbed pride. They espouse the true meaning of chivalry—to protect those weaker, to honor those in authority, to be truly loyal and truly humble.
So prepare to put aside all your preconceived ideas about Arthurian legend. Nothing is safe or sacred in Gerald Morris' stories, with the possible exception of King Arthur himself. The result is an excellent and entertaining look at the stories of the Round Table, stripped of the abject romanticism (and highbrow language) of most serious retellings.
This set includes the first eight books:
Review by Lauren Shearer
Lauren Shearer writes words for fun and profit. She also makes films, but everyone knows you can't make a profit doing that. Her other hobby is consistently volunteering way too much of her time. You can read more of her reviews here
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