This week’s theme from The Broke and the Bookish is top ten underrated authors/books from [X] genre. I’m going to go with what I know and the really specialised topic of Arthurian fiction. You may choose to view this as an offshoot of fantasy…
- The Table of Less Valued Knights, by Marie Phillips. I actually read this recently, and it’s pretty new, but still, I think it deserves some attention. It’s a bit Gerald Morris-ish in tone, I think, but more mature.
- Idylls of the Queen, by Phyllis Ann Karr. I loved this. It gives pride of place to a more minor character (Sir Kay), and gave me a whole ton of evidence for my dissertation topic. It’s a fun read, and I think it adapts Malory really, really well.
- The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights, by John Steinbeck. I should repost some of my reviews of this here sometime. He’s one of the very, very few writers that can make me sympathetic to Arthur, Lancelot and Guinevere, all at once. Possibly the only one who really made me feel that love triangle. He never completed his work on this, and it shows in the early parts, but some of the writing is amazing and breathtaking.
- The Killing Way, by Tony Hays. A solid murder mystery using an Arthurian setting, trying to be authentically historical rather than fantastical in this case. If you liked Bernard Cornwell’s Arthurian trilogy, this is definitely worth a go. Plus, I’ve had some good conversations with Tony Hays, and he’s sent me some signed copies of his books — I really, really need to get round to catching up with reading them.
- Camelot’s Honour, by Sarah Zettel. There’s actually a whole quartet of these, and it does make more sense to read them together, but I loved this book for going to the Welsh roots of the tales to pick out some less used elements. The books are very much romances, in both the medieval and the modern sense. They also have strong female protagonists.
- Under in the Mere, by Catherynne M. Valente. Another one which pulls a lot from Welsh sources, particularly in the portrayal of Kay/Cei. It’s very distinctively Valente’s work, and if you know what I mean by that, you’ll know whether you’re going to like it in advance, I suspect.
- Exiled from Camelot, by Cherith Baldry. Okay, I had some problems with this one where it came to the portrayal of women, and it’s definitely not culturally accurate to just about any pre-modern stage of Arthurian literature, but it’s fun, and if you read for characters and relationships, it’s all about the strong bonds there. Kay is a key figure, again.
- Hawk of May, by Gillian Bradshaw. I’ve enjoyed most of Bradshaw’s work, so I guess this recommendation is no surprise. It’s Gawain-centric, with pretty human characters all round — very few complete villains, and fewer complete heroes.
- Child of the Northern Spring, by Persia Woolley. Sort of in the Mists of Avalon tradition as regards portraying women’s lives and Celtic culture, but much less awful and more readable. Guinevere is central.
- The King’s Peace, by Jo Walton. Sort of alternate Arthuriana, focusing on a female warrior in Arthur’s band. Looking for the correspondences is interesting, though it can get in the way of the story.
So! Link me yours, especially if they’re on fantasy or SF. I’m waiting!