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The Trials of Arthur by Arthur Pendragon & CJ Stone

Now this is an interesting one that I recently received for review. The Trials of Arthur was originally published back in 2003, but has now been extensively re-written and updated (eBook version is out now, the revised paperback version is due later in 2012). It is actually not strictly a novel, but I’ve moved the goalposts slightly in order to review it since it reads so well and is also rather fascinating to boot!

It tells the story of a latter day King Arthur and his band of supporters — bikers, Druids, environmental campaigners — from all walks of life. The reason that it is not a novel is that it features, and is co-written by, the great man himself (it really is him, it says so on his passport) so it is actually a true story — a slightly odd, but true, story! I was as cynical on first picking it up as you no doubt are as you read this, but I was soon drawn in and found it was striking a number of chords with me. But even if you read it and somehow don’t find yourself delighting at the wonderful eccentricity that we Brits excel at, you certainly won’t be able to argue that the story is anything other than unique.

Read on for a full review…

-- The Trials of Arthur by Arthur Pendragon & CJ Stone a Review by Des Greene --

Ever had that nagging feeling that something was not quite right in your life? That the daily grind was simply pointless, and worse still, that you had become an unwitting participant in a society that was hurtling out of control in the wrong direction? Maybe that sounds a bit melodramatic, or even just a bit naff, but with our recent experience of political ineptitude and the frighteningly powerful and corrupt financial world, I wouldn’t mind betting that more and more of us are experiencing such doubts. And, if you are anything like that, then you may find that you enjoyThe Trials of Arthur, which tells the story of a misfit, but a misfit with some sort of strange calling or destiny — a destiny that made him unable to ignore what was happening, that compelled him to fight back.

The book commences with a foreword consisting of a witness statement provided by Professor Ronald E Hutton as a character reference for Arthur in his Crown Court case of 1997. It is a good opening gambit, this academic vote of confidence, as the first chapter proper — which introduces Arthur and describes a rather mad and windswept night of Druid ceremonials on a Welsh mountain top — could leave the average reader wondering what on Earth they had let themselves in for. But the story steadily builds, adding key characters and providing background such as Arthur’s parentage and upbringing. In the main body of the book Arthur discovers his true identity, and his biker gang gradually transforms into The Warband and eventually The Loyal Arthurian Warband. I won’t spoil the story by detailing any of the happenings or the final outcome, but suffice to say, struggles ensue over access to heritage sites and over the destruction of woodlands for a number of road-building projects spanning a good number of years, before the tale finally reaches its climax.

The politics of it all is complex, and it is fascinating to see it documented from this side rather than the usual angle we are accustomed to seeing in the press and on TV. This story isn’t about a single amorphous entity of do-gooders, rather a patchwork quilt of all manner of beliefs and lifestyles. One particularly interesting chapter describes — with more than a touch of humour, I might add — the typical factions that are always found on the protest camps. It lists Druids, bikers, hippies, veggies, fascist vegans, boozers, lunch-outs and the plain old disenfranchised. All of them talking, joking, squabbling or mistrustful. Until the moment for action arrives and they are bound together by the single thing that unites them — the belief that this destruction or “progress” must be stopped.

One of the obvious dangers with a book of this type is that all of this could become “preachy” and that the reader might be inclined to simply switch off. But that, at least for me, was never the case. It reads very well, and simply lays out the story. Granted it is from one side, but it does acknowledge the oft quoted inconsistencies in the lives of protesters such as these, the stereotypes the press always trot out and that the general public (myself included, I freely admit) have duly adopted. The writers appear to be fully aware of all the usual digs, and presumably have heard them all a thousand times over, but at no point is it ever claimed that they have the answer to everything. All they are asking for is that we put the brakes on and consider that where we are heading, and the way we are heading there, is unsustainable. I may have had a partial leaning towards this manner of thinking prior to picking up this book, but I’ve still never read anything that puts forward this argument in such a compelling, entertaining and downright unusual way.

And so to the $64,000 question — who will enjoy reading this book? Well, I can say for certain that if you are a card carrying member of the Daily Mail reading, morally outraged minority, then you will undoubtedly hate it with a passion. This is a fact that will no doubt please the authors immensely; a direct hit, as it were. If you have any kind of innate love for the natural world then, whilst you may not agree with all of it, and you may find some if it a little on the odd side, you might just enjoy this book more than you expect. It may at least serve to dispel a few prejudices and stereotypes that have been sown in your mind and leave you with some respect, however grudging, for the type of people who put their bodies on the line to protect the land we live in.

Already read The Trials of Arthur? What did you think of it? Please post a comment below, Novel Suggestions is always keen to hear your opinions.

Novel Suggestions only provides fiction book reviews of books that we personally recommend. We don’t spend our valuable time writing reviews of books which we feel would be a waste of your valuable time!

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