Camelot 13: Celebrating the Spirit of Arthur and His Knights
edited by John L. French and Patrick Thomas
The anthology starts with “The Night’s Tale” by Michael A. Black and Dave Case, which is an untold adventure of Lancelot and the Knights of the Round Table. Basically, Lancelot is wounded in a battle and rides off to die, but is saved by some commoners in a nearby land. They protect him at some risk to themselves, as they have a cruel Duke who taxes them beyond their ability to pay, and takes their young men and women to his court for his own purposes. When Lancelot is healed, the tax collectors come early, and he kills them all, earning the attention of The Black Destroyer, the duke’s enforcer knight. It ends with a battle of eleven against one, with inadequate weapons on Lancelot’s part, and there is a romance and unexpected deliverance. Well worth reading.
“Knight of the Green” John G. Hartness was about kids who can tap into the power of the Knights of the Round Table, and their teacher who is really Merlin. Petulant Gwen, who can channel the power of Sir Gwain and is tired of being teased by classmates who don’t approve of her no longer being Gareth, misses her fellow classmates who are also knight-protectors and were unable to go on the field trip. She learns a lesson in chivalry.
I enjoyed “The Bionic Mermaid vs. the Lady of the Lake” by Hildy Silverman. What a fresh take! The Lady of the Lake was a mermaid, still living, and the Bionic Mermaid is a mer who had been given a bionic tail against her will and now works to maintain the treaty between the surface dwellers and the mer people. The tale involves Excalibur and intrigue.
“Heart of Frozen Tears” by Diane Raetz is one of the most moving stories I have ever read. Imagine being a religious type of person and being infected by vampirism during World War II and knowing you were doomed for all eternity. The solution involves a knightly sword.
Sadly, I did not like “The Titanic’s House of Morgan” by Russ Colchamiro. The poor contractor found something that bound him up in ancient magic, and I felt for the guy. He was used and abused by a privileged person who treated him like a fly to be swatted.
Austin Camacho’s “Sir Gawain and the Errant Son” is a reasonable echo of the tales of the knights of Camelot and their quests, harkening back to the style of those tales. All it needed were woodcut illustrations and it could have been part of a volume of traditional Arthurian tales.
At first I found “Knight Moves” by Quintin Peterson to be very on-the-nose and overdone. What law enforcement leader would call the perps “villains,” and suspects “scumbags of interest”… even if his name was Arthur King? It all felt clichéd and contrived. But it had a very special plot. Worth reading.
I found “Unsheathed” by Patrick Thomas surprising. Other tales have suggested the Knights of the Round Table were perhaps immortal, but this one had the twist of the real downfall of Camelot being the fault of one of those knights – a traitor. The traitorous knight stole the sheath of Excalibur that made the king unable to be killed in combat, or by sickness or old age. In this story the surviving knights discover the modern persona of the traitor-knight, and deliver summary justice. (Having one of the knights who is now in a wheelchair drive over his ashes a few times was a nice touch.)
“The Osprey and the Falcon” by D.C. Brod puts both Nimue and Merlin in a modern setting. It’s a bit of detective work, a bit of magic, and very interesting.
“The Reluctantly Lady” by Susanne Wolf and John L. French is a homage to the old ideas of old chivalry and courtly romance. But this tale is wound up in magical deception. What does honor suggest be done, and how does one follow ones heart?
The anthology was really stretching it to include “Power in Unity” by David Lee Summers, even if the story of kidnapping, intrigue and revenge did have a lot of parallel quotes from the legend of King Arthur. It’s a nice whodunit, though.
I was excited to see a story by Edward J. McFadden III in this anthology, and with “The Valley of No Return” McFadden delivered. It’s a cautionary tale of a con man trying to rob a woman by pretending to take her on a quest – but the quest becomes real. I loved it.
Closing with “King Arthur in a Yankee Court” by Robert E. Waters was fitting, as it was all about the final battle between Mordred and Arthur. In this version of the tale, Arthur gets more than a glimpse of the future he creates–much more–and dies content.