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The Doom of Camelot
edited by James Lowder
Green Knight Publishing, 312 pages

Marc Fishman
The Doom of Camelot
James Lowder
Anthologist James Lowder has helmed two previous short fiction collections -- Realms of Valor and Realms of Infamy -- and edited dozens of novels as a former series editor for TSR. He is currently the executive director of Green Knight Publishing's fiction line and a freelance author with a half-dozen fantasy and dark fantasy novels to his credit, including Prince of Lies and The Ring of Winter, as well as short fiction, essays, and book reviews for such diverse publications as Amazing Stories and The New England Journal of History.

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Green Knight Publishing
The Pendragon fiction line presents the best of modern Arthurian literature, from reprints of long-unavailable classics of the early 20th century to new works by today's most exciting and inventive fantasists. The titles in the series are selected for their value to both the casual reader and the devoted scholar of the rich, varied story cycle known as the Matter of Britain.

Green Knight Publishing

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Georges T. Dodds

The Doom of Camelot gathers 14 short tales and a pair of poems on the matter of what led to the collapse of Camelot and King Arthur's fellowship of Knights of the Round Table. Some tales come from novices to Arthurian fiction (Susan Fry's "The Battle, Lost"), others from long time anthologists and collectors of Arthurian lore (Mike Ashley's "The Corruption of Perfection") and even some from professors of mediaeval literature (Verlyn Flieger's "Avilion: A Romance of Voices"). Certainly a prior knowledge of original Arthurian sources such as Chrétien de Troyes and Sir Thomas Malory, amongst others, enriches these stories greatly, but for the most part if you know of the basic Lancelot-Guinevere-Arthur triangle and a couple of main characters like Perceval and Mordred, the stories can be read without much difficulty.

A modern collection which targets a specific question in Arthurian lore is interesting in that, unlike most of the original source material, the particular question is at the forefront, not buried amongst a number of side-tracks and peripheral events and characters which only an Arthurian scholar can really sift through to reach the kernel of the matter. Some 20 years ago, I read a dozen or so of the major Arthurian source texts, but eventually I got somewhat bored of the seeming lack of focus (at least from a layman's point of view) of the narrative style of these texts. The many events/forces leading to the demise of Camelot proposed in this book actually allowed me to see many of the larger themes of my previous readings and how they all fit together into a cohesive story.

Some stories come in the form of recollections of the major participants. In "A Hermit's Tale" by Catherine Wells, an aging knight turned hermit recounts the rise and fall of a historical (rather than romance) Arthur; in "The Realm of the Dead and the Dreaming" by Phyllis Ann Karr, a post-mortem debriefing occurs between the "shades" of the principal participants; while in "Avilion: A Romance of Voices" by Verlyn Flieger, everybody involved gets to voice their opinions and outline their manipulation of the whole situation. Other stories (Cherith Baldry's "In the Forest Perilous") present presages of Arthur's doom, while another ("The Shadow of a Sword" by Ed Greenwood) shows a later king, Constantine, searching the past for the secret of Arthur's glory.

Similar to the theme of Clemence Housman's excellent novel The Life of Sir Aglovale de Galis (recently reprinted by Green Knight Press) where the fall of Camelot is squarely placed on the seamy and sinful undercurrents masked by a facade of apparent lily-white righteousness that follows a charismatic leader, several stories such as Mike Ashley's "The Corruption of Perfection" present this same hypothesis. Along these lines, Phyllis Ann Karr's poem "The Last Idle of the King" suggests that while all might have been fine when Arthur brought together his knights and fought off the Saxons, once peace was established and an impossible quest for the Grail had left the knights disappointed and glum (this latter idea also crops up in Douglas W. Clark's "The Knight Who Wasn't There"), idle and bored -- infighting, plots and treason were not far behind.

However, not everything in The Doom of Camelot is all gloom and doom... Phyllis Ann Karr's "The Last Idle of the King" is certainly a humorous piece. Even more humorous, is the suggestion in Douglas W. Clark's "The Knight Who Wasn't There" that Mordred, created to cheer up a glum complement of knights at a post Grail-quest feast of the Pentecost, was simply a fictitious scape-goat whose existence was so emotionally and politically convenient that he blossomed into an undebunkable demon.

A nice cover by Marc Fishman in the pre-Raphaelite style and short but informative author blurbs at the end of the book make even the book's trimmings pleasing. Certainly for fans of Arthurian lore, The Doom of Camelot is a worthwhile read, and while it might not be suited for the entirely unversed reader, the writing is solid and sufficiently varied as to appeal to many readers.

Contents (alphabetically)

Mike Ashley, "The Corruption of Perfection"
Cherith Baldry, "In the Forest Perilous"
Douglas W. Clark, "The Knight Who Wasn't There"
Elaine Cunningham, "Hidden Blades"
India Edghill, "Grail Wisdom"
Verlyn Flieger, "Avilion: A Romance of Voices"
Susan Fry, "The Battle, Last"
C.A. Gardner, "Three Queens Weeping"
Ed Greenwood, "The Shadow of a Sword"
Phyllis Ann Karr, "The Realm of the Dead and the Dreaming," and "The Last Idle of the King" (poem)
Meredith L. Patterson, "How Sharper Than a Serpent's Tooth"
Darrell Schweitzer, "Saxon Midnight"
Marcie Lynn Tentchoff, "Surrendering the Blade" (poem) [winner of an Aurora Award for Best Short-Form Work in English]
Elizabeth Wyrick Thompson, "The Last Road"
Catherine Wells, "A Hermit's Tale"

Copyright © 2001 Georges T. Dodds

Georges Dodds is a research scientist in vegetable crop physiology, who for close to 25 years has read and collected close to 2000 titles of predominantly pre-1950 science-fiction and fantasy, both in English and French. He writes columns on early imaginative literature for WARP, the newsletter/fanzine of the Montreal Science Fiction and Fantasy Association and maintains a site reflecting his tastes in imaginative literature.

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