King of Ages is a compilation of short stories re-imagining King Arthur across time and space. It features the work of Paola Amaras, Patrick S. Baker, Josh Brown, Dale W. Glaser, Doug Goodman, Joanna Michal Hoyt, Philip Kuan, David W. Landrum, P. Andrew Miller, Mike Morgan, Alex Ness, C.A. Rowland and David Wiley. The stories begin at the end of time, and move through a series of times and locations, reimagining the once and future king and his court in a variety of different times and places from the ancient past through the modern times to the far future.
It’s a wonderful collection, and it really speaks volumes as to the endless creativity and potential for reinvention inherent in the Arthurian Legends. There’s really something for everyone. For me, personally, the standout story was P. Andrew Miller’s ‘If This Grail be Holy’ which reimagines Arthur in the oval office. I thought that Miller managed to capture something of the ambiguity of the painfully intense male-male friendships that so characterise and drive Malory’s fifteenth-century version of the legends, and to translate those meaningfully into a contemporary political scenario. Guinevere appears as a cold political wife a la Claire Underwood, and the story is told with sensitivity and delicacy.
So that was my personal favourite, but the collection really is a wonderful compendium of very different modes; Mike Morgan in ‘Unto his Final Breath’ gives us an apocalyptic Camelot bracing for the end of the world, David W. Landrum imagines a gender-flipped alternative legend, and Josh Brown’s Pirate King Arthur is tremendously good swashbuckly fun. There really is too much creativity and variety to include in one review.
If I were going to be greedy and ask for more (and I am afraid that I am greedy by nature), I would say I would have wanted to see the short story genre harnessed to explore less well-trodden strands of Arthurian legend. In the main, the stories all hugged quite close to the Malorian version of the legends, and this certainly makes sense for longer adaptations since it provides a full narrative sweep from beginning to end, but I hoped that the short story format harnessed to explore less well-trodden versions, such as the early Welsh ones that appear in the Mabinogion – Culwuch and Olwen, Geraint – or perhaps even some of the often unfairly ignored (and much less flattering to Arthur) Scottish Arthurian texts like Golagros and Gawain. Although the stories handled that Arthur-Guinevere-Lancelot triangle did so in various ways throughout, I would have liked to have seen something outside that, and for the short story format to be harnessed in order to go off-canon a little bit.
But ultimately this was a wonderful collection that I was more than happy to recommend. It’s a beautiful testament to the way that the Arthurian legends are still alive, still strong and still inspiring people all around the world. It fits so well together, and seeing the Arthurian legend shape-shift through time across the pages is a very entertaining experience. The collection is immense fun, and taken together really is more than the sum of its parts (all of which are good in their own right). And just as one might expect from the Arthurian legend’s endless potential for reproduction reinvention, it’s a collection that sparks the imagination.
I was asked to read this collection to provide a quote for the blurb, and was given a ebook review copy.