I was so overwhelmed by the strangeness and originality of this book’s fantasy conceits that, in spite of several clues, I got halfway through it before I realized that it is a retelling of the Arthurian legend. Color me embarrassed! It mentions a round table. It features a sword in a stone, which only the rightful king can pull loose. It has characters in it named Ector, Uther, Kay, Mark, and Morgan—obvious references to the Arthur mythos—as well as less-obvious but still recognizable aliases, such as Ambrose (Merlin), Murther (Mordred), and Draco (Pendragon). The legend of King Arthur—at least, its earlier parts—provides the overall shape of this story, and thereby makes it deeply and timelessly compelling. Yet at the same time, that outline is filled in with an amazing piece of world-building, whose vivid colors and unique textures transform it almost out of recognition.
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