I'm a King Arthur junkie and always have been. When we watched "Camelot" in seventh-grade English, I was the only one that didn't groan the whole way through. I love retellings of the story, but if "The Death of King Arthur" is anything to go on, the originals must not be my thing. Aside from some nice moments and good buildups at the beginning, this book was one badly translated, battle-heavy headache.
My least favorite thing about the book, though, is that it isn't even about Arthur - it's about Lancelot. And that would be fine if Lancelot wasn't so annoyingly perfect. Sure, he had a fling with the queen, but he also is the handsomest man, the most virtuous knight, and the best fighter in Logres, and none of the characters, even his enemies, will let us forget it. I stopped counting the times where a character said, "If only Lancelot were here! He'd know just what to do!" Good grief. Arthur was even made an indecisive wimp in order to make Lancelot better by comparison; his "swoons" were another thing I stopped counting in disgust. Girls fainting are bad enough; we don't need guys falling prey to it too.
There were also too many names and descriptions of battles for my taste. Did we really have to hear how valiant everyone was in battle, how many knights they killed and in what way they killed them? I could hardly keep track of who was whose son or cousin or half-brother, and mixing in similar details for the enemy knights just made it worse. Maybe I was just confused because of the awkward language - the translation wasn't clear in many places, and I had to read some sentences two and three times before I got what they were trying to say.
As whiny as I sounded above, I'm giving this book two stars rather than one, and here's why: "Death" did a pretty good job of outlining exactly why the Round Table split. There was the requisite case of mistaken identity that appears in almost every Arthur story, but who would have thought that Guinevere was tried for treason because of a fruit? There are also some sweet moments early on, like the sad fiasco of Lancelot and the pretty maid whose favor he wore. But unfortunately, those weren't enough to save this book. Since the story is accurate, without too much magic or superfluous romance, purists might like it. I just didn't.