John Matthews has given us a new addition to Arthurian literature, The Sword of Ice and Fire, the first novel in a promised series. It is a delightful read, told in a fairytale, mythic voice, suitable for children and adults alike.
John Matthews is one of the world’s experts in all things Arthurian. He says he’s been studying the tradition half his life, but I think he’s being modest. In his Author’s Note, he says the impetus for this story was to restore a part of the tale lost to us—Arthur’s childhood. He also weaves in characters and creatures from other tales, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and The Mabinogion, to name two.
Matthews creates a magical, mystical atmosphere with the child Arthur living in an ethereal castle guarded by the Nine, known as priestesses of Avalon, but here more ancient, powerful, and mysterious. They have that detached curiosity the immortal ones show toward mere humans, yet realize they guard a treasure in Arthur, the son of the Dragon, the future king.
Arthur grows, protected by Hector and Elaine, fighting with his almost sibling Cai, later taught by the Green Knight and Merlin. Matthews brings in an assortment of magical creatures to both aid and oppose Arthur as he gradually learns of his ancestry, the prophecies about him, and his fate to bring back the Four Hallows of Britain—the sword, the cauldron, the spear, and the chessboard.
I kept remembering when our fifth-grade teacher read The Odyssey aloud to us. We had story time for half an hour each day. She’d pick someone to summarize what we’d read last time, then let us relax and listen as she wove the tale of the great warrior trying to get home. I imagined myself reading Matthews’ novel to children of that age, then picking other foundational myths for the great cultures of the world to read to them, steeping them in the spiritual lessons behind all these tales. This should be a vital part of each child’s education around the world, helping them dream and develop a mythic imagination.
I recommend this book highly. You will be entertained, educated, and uplifted.