Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Once and Future King

I picked this book up recently from the bookstore because of a strange familiarity I felt toward the title. I still can't place why it rolls off my tongue like some common phrase I hear or use all the time. Even so I didn't have high expectations for the book, and after reading the first few chapters it felt kind of silly (it's a retelling of the King Arthur stories, the first section being the basis of the Disney movie The Sword and the Stone. So it's tone reminds me more of a Prachet book or a Monty Python movie or Princess Bride, as opposed to Lord of the Rings which is more akin to the sort of fantasy I normally read). But something happened a hundred pages in where I noticed I really loved the writing, especially the scenes that deal with Wart turning into animals. The author does a great job of getting into the minds of the animals and relating how they experience the world in what feels like a very meaningful and accurate way. But I probably wouldn't write this post at all if not for some of the beautiful descriptive prose. I really just wanted to share this description of a flock of geese fly through a cloud (Wart being on of them during a magical transformation courtesy of Merlyn):
"Sometimes, when they came down from the cirrus levels to catch a better wind, they would find themselves among the flocks of cumulus--huge towers of modelled vapour, looking as white as Monday's washing and as solid as meringues. Perhaps one of the these piled-up blossoms of the sky, these snow-white droppings of a gigantic Pegasus, would lie before them several miles away. They would set their course toward it, seeing it grow bigger silently and imperceptibly, a motionless growth--and then, when they were about to bang their noses with a shock against its seeming solid mass, the sun would dim. Wraiths of mist suddenly moving like serpents of the air would coil about them for a second. Grey damp would be around them, and the sun, a copper penny, would fade away. The wings next to their own wings would shade into vacancy, until each bird was a lonely sound in cold annihilation, a presence after uncreation. And there they would hang in chartless nothing, seemingly without speed or left or right or top or bottom, until as suddenly as ever the copper penny glowed and the serpents writhed. Then, in a moment of time, they would be in the jewelled world once more--a sea under them like turquoise and all the gorgeous palaces of heaven new created, with the dew of Eden not yet dry."
It might not be the best stuff ever written but if far exceeds anything I expected to find in this, or really any, fantasy book.