- The Squire’s Tale – 1998 – 5*
- The Squire, His Knight, and His Lady – 1999 – 4*
- The Savage Damsel and the Dwarf – 2000 – 4.5*
- Parsifal’s Page – 2001 – 4*
- The Ballad of Sir Dinadan – 2003 – 3.5*
- The Princess, the Crone, and the Dung-Cart Knight – 2004 – 4*
- The Lioness and Her Knight – 2005 – 4*
- The Quest of the Fair Unknown – 2006 – 3.5*
- The Squire’s Quest – 2009 – 4*
- The Legend of the King – 2010 – 4*
I first stumbled across these books somewhere circa 2000 when I was wandering around the library. Where I live, we’re about 40 miles away from Columbus, the state capital. So we have our own local library and whatnot, which is perfectly nice, but if you want to visit a LIBRARY you go to downtown Columbus and revel – it’s huge and magical. Anyway, now we have interlibrary-loan connected between my local library and Columbus, so I rarely have to actually go there – I can still access the entire catalog and have it delivered to my own tiny branch a mere five miles from my house, which is pretty amazing. But back in the day my whole family used to go to Columbus and spend literally an entire day at the library (and were sad when we had to leave… I legit could probably spend days and days and days there before getting remotely bored) just wandering around, reading, making lists of books to read later, and finding various comfy corners to hide away with a new book. And all that to say – The Squire’s Tale was one of the books I found on one of those trips.
The series focuses on various knights of King Arthur’s Round Table, and Morris consistently provides afterwords where he talks about where he found the inspiration for that particular book (frequently Le Morte d’Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory, but sometimes other sources). Morris obviously uses a great deal of poetical license in his interpretation of various characters, but I love the way that he consistently makes the overwhelming majority of them likable. I remember reading Mary Stewart’s Arthurian saga a few years ago, and I couldn’t get over how basically all of her characters were not very pleasant people – the books were overwhelmingly depressing and I barely slogged through them. Morris presents a perhaps less realistic but far more enjoyable portrayal of King Arthur and his knights.
The first book introduces us to the two characters who become the main focus of the series, although many of the books branch off to other individuals – Gawain and Terence. Gawain is a famous character of whom many stories have been told historically, while Terence is entirely of Morris’s creation. The first book focuses on Gawain becoming a knight and questing, while Terence comes along as his squire. But when the pair of them cross from our world into the world of faerie, it becomes a lot less clear as to who is the higher ranking of the two. The friendship that grows between these two characters is one of my favorite things about the entire series. They are both characters that I love so much, and Morris does a fantastic job of letting us watch them grow and mature as individuals and friends.
Throughout the series, Arthur is portrayed as a wise and just king carrying a great burden. Other knights are both good, mediocre, and evil. There are faeries and witches and everything in between. Justice, strength paired with kindness, generosity, and chivalry and concepts that are woven throughout.
I love the way that Morris presents strong and weak characters – I don’t mind when an air-headed woman appears on the pages because there are plenty of intelligent women to balance her out… and plenty of air-headed men as well! Morris somehow manages to make even the silliest of characters somehow sympathetic in their own way. There are definitely gentle lessons throughout the books, but they never come through as polemic or preachy.
My favorites of the series are the ones with more humor/sass. The first book is my very favorite out of the series, and even if you don’t feel like tackling ten books, you should at least read that one. It’s a quick, fun read. The other books vary, but the series on the whole is a solid 4* if not 4.5.
The Ballad of Sir Dinadan is probably my least favorite, which is a shame because I really like Sir Dinadan himself, and a lot of what happens in the book is very good. But a large chunk of the plot revolves around Dinadan’s brother, Sir Tristram, who falls in love with another man’s wife. The whole point of the story is how very, very ridiculous the concept of “courtly love” (i.e. it’s only romantic to love someone you can’t have), but it’s really a rather downer of a tale. Then, out of all the stories to repeat, we get another version of it in The Squire’s Quest, which greatly reduced my enjoyment of that book as well.
But on the whole, the books are funny yet thoughtful, and so enjoyable. I whipped through them a couple at a time, trying to pace myself.
I had only read The Legend of the King once before – I reread the series every time a new book was published, but hadn’t read the series again after the publication of The Legend. I only had vague memories of the ending being satisfying, but sad – and that’s exactly what it was. While the ending wasn’t a bad one, it also wasn’t a happy one – mainly because the ending of the Arthurian legend isn’t really very happy.
Still, it was a solid conclusion, and overall I can’t recommend these books highly enough.