The second book of Lyonesse concludes this most unusual variant of the Arthurian legend, based on the folklore of the author’s native Isles of Scilly, off the southwest tip of Britain. It follows up on “The Well Between the Worlds”, which seemed such an engaging and original work of fantasy that I had read half of it before I realized that the resemblance between its characters’ names and figures associated with King Arthur was more than a coincidence. Now on board with the secret, I read the second half of the tale and met even more familiar characters under a different guise. Amazingly, knowing what I already know from having read several tellings of the deeds of King Arthur and his knights, I didn’t know enough to spoil the plot of this book. I guess you’d have to grow up in the Isles of Scilly to know what to expect. Maybe even then the creative touches added by the author of the “Little Darlings” series, and of many other novels for adults and children, would be enough to make the story seem new, richly inventive, and full of surprises.
And yet I would bet you’re hearing about this book for the first time now. Here some writers would say, “So goes the world,” and let it be. But I say it need not be so. Nathaniel Hawthorne is too important a figure in American literature to be allowed to remain only a figure, silhouetted against the dying light of a bygone age. His writing really is enjoyable, and some of it was designed for the enjoyment of kids. And even though kids’ tastes may change, there still remains a good deal of charm and appeal in Hawthorne’s retellings of the world’s most timeless tales.