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I Am Mordred: A Tale from Camelot    by Nancy Springer order for
I Am Mordred
by Nancy Springer
Order:  USA  Can
Puffin, 2002 (1998)
Hardcover, Paperback

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

I am usually not a big fan of Camelot re-tellings, measuring all of them against Mary Stewart's remarkable Merlin trilogy. However, I Am Mordred takes an entirely new slant on the myth. It takes the point of view of Arthur's son, whose fate, to end a golden age, was foretold even before his birth. The author asks what it would be like for a normal boy to grow up with such bad press. She postulates a child who does not hate his father (even though given good cause) but rather admires him.

The author dedicates her story 'to oddlings everywhere'. Indeed her Mordred is out of place in this brutal world of knights and swordplay, though he does develop skills in the latter when needed. Springer opens the tale as Arthur, on the advice of Merlin, commits an act of evil, sending forty babes to sea in a flimsy coracle, to their deaths. But, of course, one does not die. Mordred is rescued and raised by a fisherman and his wife. He is happy until a lady in green rides out of the Forest Perilous and reveals his identity.

Nyneve takes him to live with his cold and distant mother Morgause, her husband Lothe of Lothian, and his half-brothers Gawain and Garet, but she does not leave him there alone. She gives him a small white brachet pup. Gull, still linked to Nyneve, becomes Mordred's closest companion and his solace. He learns to dread his well-known fate, and to fear the machinations of his aunt Morgan le Fay (who also gets a more sympathetic portrayal than usual here). On his fifteenth birthday Mordred finally travels to magical Camelot and meets the man whom he yearns to call his father.

Truly an oddling in this world of 'knights blundering about ... in foul temper', Mordred tries to flee and then to fight against his destiny. He undertakes a quest to save both his father and himself, with a most surprising resolution, in which love tests the limits of fate. Read I Am Mordred for a new and truly intriguing take on Camelot.

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