(Anova Books for the National Trust 2011)

Translated into Russian and Japanese


Reader reviews on

"a great book to get yourself acquainted with Arthurian legend...all around great to read." 
"a really great general overview of the Arthurian legends.  My absolute favorite part is the Notes on the Stories section at the end in which Kerven goes into more detail about the stories and characters, and offers a comprehensive breakdown of the original sources and alternate versions"

Meet King Arthur, Queen Guinevere, wizard Merlin and the Knights of the Round Table, and enter their richly embroidered world of courtly love, chivalrous adventure, bawdy humour and enchantment. 

Although there are many Arthurian books in circulation, this one is probably unique in being a collection of literary retellings based only on the original medieval manuscripts, many dating from the 12th Century or even earlier. It contains the five most important subsidiary stories in the Arthurian cycle, contained within the 'frame' story of the rise and fall of King Arthur.

My versions reflect the storylines, characterisation and tone of the earliest texts as faithfully as possible - often quite different from more modern adaptations. The extensive notes on each story bring the central characters vividly to life, and tell almost everything one might want to know about Arthurian legend.


  • The Coming of King Arthur
  • The Enchantment of Merlin
  • How Culhwch won Olwen
  • Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
  • Tristram and Isolde
  • Elaine who Loved Sir Lancelot
  • The End of the Golden Age

      Christmastide had come and gone; now the feast of New Year’s Eve heralded the promise of fresh adventures. King Arthur was in high spirits. He strode around his hall, exchanging jokes and tidings with his favourite knights and melting all the ladies’ hearts with his smile. Then he took his seat, thumped his great fist upon the Round Table and shouted for everyone’s attention.
      ‘Noble knights! Fairest of ladies,’ he declared, ‘it is time for us all to make our annual vows and resolutions. Here’s my own to set the ball rolling: I swear I shall never again eat at a feast unless my day has been spiced by some new marvel!’
      A ripple of dismay spread around the table. For it was already laden with dishes of soup, meat and many other steaming delicacies; but of course, no one could taste these if the King himself had not begun his meal. However, no sooner had he made this pronouncement than a loud rapping was heard at the door – which then burst open seemingly of its own accord. A blast of icy wind rushed into the hall. Hooves clattered upon the flagstones and an extraordinary man entered, still mounted upon his horse.
      He was lofty as a giant, yet debonair and perfectly proportioned, with broad shoulders and slim, elegant hips. His tunic, trousers, fur-lined cloak and belt buckle were all a vivid shade of green. He wore his finely-combed hair way below his shoulders: that was green too – as was his great, bushy beard. Green and gold threads were plaited into the horse’s mane; its saddle-cloth and bridle ornaments were likewise green. The stranger wore neither boots nor armour, and carried a bunch of festive holly in one hand; but in his other hand, he clutched a monstrous axe, its blade and handle weirdly engraved with green designs.
      He made no greeting. He did not bow to the ladies or even to the King. Instead he gazed impudently around, staring at each knight in turn. Suddenly he roared:
      ‘All right! Which one of you’s in charge here? Come on, show yourself, man! Or are you too much of a mouse to dare speak with me?’
      The whole court was frozen in wonder and indignation. The ladies whispered behind their hands that this uncouth yet colourful visitor must surely have come from the realms of faery. The knights watched their king, anticipating that he would draw his sword without ado and slay the stranger for his insults. But Arthur was not in the least perturbed. He took all the time he needed to study the Green Knight and ponder his answer. Finally he said,
      ‘I am Arthur, lord not just of this hall and its lands, but also of the entire realm of Britain. You have come here at a perfect moment, sir, so I offer you a hearty welcome. Feel free to dismount and uncloak yourself. Join our feast. Warm yourself by the fire. And tell us your business.’
      Whah-hoh!’ responded the Green Knight, ‘so you’re the famous King Arthur, are you? Don’t worry, your majesty, I won’t spend any more time here than I need to. I’ve only popped in because I thought it would be fun for you all to end the festive season with a jolly game.'
      - from Sir Gawain and the Green Knight