Arthurian Retellings Reading List

Initially created for Wyrd and Wonder 2023, I decided to pull together an Arthurian retellings list. I have always been low key interested in Arthurian legend. Like many things in life, we all have many interests but not enough time in which to truly delve deep into them. So I satisfy my interest with reading Arthurian retellings. And there are some great ones out there to read.

Since there are many works on Arthurian legend, this list is not comprehensive. Instead, this Arthurian retellings list contains books I have read. It also has some which I have not yet read, but would like to in the long term. My intention is to create a working list. That is, I plan to update it as I read my way through more Arthurian tales. I am always open to recommendations, so if you have any that fall under this topic, please let me know in the comment section.

Young Adult

Once & Future duology

once & future by a.r. capetta and cory mccarthysword in the stars by a.r. capetta and cory mccarthyAuthor: A.R. Capetta and Cory McCarthy
Series: Once & Future
Age Category: Young Adult
Publisher: Jimmy Patterson
Publish Date: 2019; 2020

Status: Unread.

King Arthur as you’ve never seen her! This bold, sizzling YA novel reimagines the Once and Future King as a teenage girl determined to save the universe from an evil curse.

My name is Ari Helix. I have a magic sword, a cranky wizard, and a revolution to start. I’ve been chased my whole life. As a fugitive refugee in the territory controlled by the tyrannical Mercer corporation, I’ve always had to hide who I am. Until I found Excalibur. Now I’m done hiding.

When Ari crash-lands on Old Earth and pulls a magic sword from its ancient resting place, she is revealed to be the newest reincarnation of King Arthur. Then she meets Merlin, who has aged backward over the centuries into a teenager, and together they must break the curse that keeps Arthur coming back. Their quest? Defeat the cruel, oppressive government and bring peace and equality to all humankind. No pressure.

In this epic sequel to Once & Future, Ari and her Rainbow knights must pull off a Holy Grail heist thousands of years in the past — without destroying their own destinies.

Ari Helix may have won her battle against the tyrannical Mercer corporation, but the larger war has just begun. Ari and her cursed wizard Merlin must travel back in time to the unenlightened Middle Ages and steal the King Arthur’s Grail — the very definition of impossible. It’s imperative that the time travelers not skew the timeline and alter the course of history. Coming face to face with the original Arthurian legend could produce a ripple effect that changes everything. Somehow Merlin forgot that the past can be even more dangerous than the future . . .

Gwen & Art Are Not in Love

Gwen & Art Are Not In Love by Lex CroucherAuthor: Lex Croucher
Series: None
Age Category: Young Adult
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Publish Date: November 28, 2023
Print Length: 416

Status: Unread.

Heartstopper meets A Knight’s Tale in this queer medieval rom com YA debut about love, friendship, and being brave enough to change the course of history.

It’s been hundreds of years since King Arthur’s reign. His descendant, Arthur, a future Lord and general gadabout, has been betrothed to Gwendoline, the quick-witted, short-tempered princess of England, since birth. The only thing they can agree on is that they despise each other.

They’re forced to spend the summer together at Camelot in the run up to their nuptials, and within 24 hours, Gwen has discovered Arthur kissing a boy and Arthur has gone digging for Gwen’s childhood diary and found confessions about her crush on the kingdom’s only lady knight, Bridget Leclair.

Realizing they might make better allies than enemies, they make a reluctant pact to cover for each other, and as things heat up at the annual royal tournament, Gwen is swept off her feet by her knight and Arthur takes an interest in Gwen’s royal brother. Lex Croucher’s Gwen and Art Are Not in Love is chock full of sword-fighting, found family, and romantic shenanigans destined to make readers fall in love.

The Legendborn Cycle duology

Legendborn by Tracy DeonnBloodmarked by Tracy DeonnAuthor: Tracy Deonn
Series: Legendborn
Age Category: Young Adult
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books; Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publish Date: 2020; 2022

Status: Unread.

Filled with mystery and an intriguingly rich magic system, Tracy Deonn’s YA contemporary fantasy Legendborn offers the dark allure of City of Bones with a modern-day twist on a classic legend and a lot of Southern Black Girl Magic.

After her mother dies in an accident, sixteen-year-old Bree Matthews wants nothing to do with her family memories or childhood home. A residential program for bright high schoolers at UNC-Chapel Hill seems like the perfect escape–until Bree witnesses a magical attack her very first night on campus.

A flying demon feeding on human energies.

A secret society of so called “Legendborn” students that hunt the creatures down.

And a mysterious teenage mage who calls himself a “Merlin” and who attempts–and fails–to wipe Bree’s memory of everything she saw.

The mage’s failure unlocks Bree’s own unique magic and a buried memory with a hidden connection: the night her mother died, another Merlin was at the hospital. Now that Bree knows there’s more to her mother’s death than what’s on the police report, she’ll do whatever it takes to find out the truth, even if that means infiltrating the Legendborn as one of their initiates.

She recruits Nick, a self-exiled Legendborn with his own grudge against the group, and their reluctant partnership pulls them deeper into the society’s secrets–and closer to each other. But when the Legendborn reveal themselves as the descendants of King Arthur’s knights and explain that a magical war is coming, Bree has to decide how far she’ll go for the truth and whether she should use her magic to take the society down–or join the fight.

The shadows have risen, and the line is law.

All Bree wanted was to uncover the truth behind her mother’s death. So she infiltrated the Legendborn Order, a secret society descended from King Arthur’s knights—only to discover her own ancestral power. Now, Bree has become someone new:

A Medium. A Bloodcrafter. A Scion.

But the ancient war between demons and the Order is rising to a deadly peak. And Nick, the Legendborn boy Bree fell in love with, has been kidnapped.

Bree wants to fight, but the Regents who rule the Order won’t let her. To them, she is an unknown girl with unheard-of power, and as the living anchor for the spell that preserves the Legendborn cycle, she must be protected.

When the Regents reveal they will do whatever it takes to hide the war, Bree and her friends must go on the run to rescue Nick themselves. But enemies are everywhere, Bree’s powers are unpredictable and dangerous, and she can’t escape her growing attraction to Selwyn, the mage sworn to protect Nick until death.

If Bree has any hope of saving herself and the people she loves, she must learn to control her powers from the ancestors who wielded them first—without losing herself in the process.

Camelot Rising

The Guinevere Deception by Kiersten WhiteThe Camelot Betrayal by Kiersten WhiteThe Excalibur Curse by Kiersten WhiteAuthor: Kiersten White
Series: Camelot Rising
Age Category: Young Adult
Publisher: Ember; Delacorte Press
Publish Date: 2020; 2021

Status: Unread.

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Kiersten White comes a new fantasy series reimagining the Arthurian legend, set in the magical world of Camelot . . . . There was nothing in the world as magical and terrifying as a girl.

Princess Guinevere has come to Camelot to wed a stranger: the charismatic King Arthur. With magic clawing at the kingdom’s borders, the great wizard Merlin conjured a solution–send in Guinevere to be Arthur’s wife . . . and his protector from those who want to see the young king’s idyllic city fail. The catch? Guinevere’s real name–and her true identity–is a secret. She is a changeling, a girl who has given up everything to protect Camelot.

To keep Arthur safe, Guinevere must navigate a court in which the old–including Arthur’s own family–demand things continue as they have been, and the new–those drawn by the dream of Camelot–fight for a better way to live. And always, in the green hearts of forests and the black depths of lakes, magic lies in wait to reclaim the land.

Deadly jousts, duplicitous knights, and forbidden romances are nothing compared to the greatest threat of all: the girl with the long black hair, riding on horseback through the dark woods toward Arthur. Because when your whole existence is a lie, how can you trust even yourself?

The second book in the fantasy trilogy from #1 New York Times bestselling author Kiersten White, exploring the nature of self, the inevitable cost of progress, and, of course, magic and romance and betrayal so epic Queen Guinevere remains the most famous queen who never lived.

EVERYTHING IS AS IT SHOULD BE IN CAMELOT: King Arthur is expanding his kingdom’s influence with Queen Guinevere at his side. Yet every night, dreams of darkness and unknowable power plague her.

Guinevere might have accepted her role, but she still cannot find a place for herself in all of it. The closer she gets to the people around her–Brangien, pining for her lost love Isolde; Lancelot, fighting to prove her worth as Queen’s knight; and Arthur, everything to everyone and thus never quite enough for Guinevere–the more she realizes how empty she is. The more she tries to claim herself as queen, the more she wonders if Mordred was right: she doesn’t belong. She never will.

When a rescue goes awry and results in the death of something precious, a devastated Guinevere returns to Camelot to find the greatest threat yet has arrived. Not in the form of the Dark Queen or an invading army, but in the form of the real Guinevere’s younger sister. Is her deception at an end? And who is she really deceiving–Camelot, or herself?

The gripping conclusion to the acclaimed Arthurian fantasy trilogy from #1 New York Times bestselling author Kiersten White finds Guinevere questioning everything—friends and enemies, good and evil, and, most of all, herself.

While journeying north toward the Dark Queen, Guinevere falls into the hands of her enemies. Behind her are Lancelot, trapped on the other side of the magical barrier they created to protect Camelot, and Arthur, who has been led away from his kingdom, chasing after false promises. But the greatest danger isn’t what lies ahead of Guinevere—it’s what’s been buried inside her. 

Vowing to unravel the truth of her past with or without Merlin’s help, Guinevere joins forces with the sorceress Morgana and her son, Mordred—and faces the confusing, forbidden feelings she still harbors for him. When Guinevere makes an agonizing discovery about who she is and how she came to be, she finds herself with an impossible choice: fix a terrible crime, or help prevent war.

Guinevere is determined to set things right, whatever the cost. To defeat a rising evil. To remake a kingdom. To undo the mistakes of the past…even if it means destroying herself.

Guinevere has been a changeling, a witch, a queen—but what does it mean to be just a girl?

Emry Merlin duology

The Other Merlin by Robyn SchneiderThe Future King by Robyn SchneiderAuthor: Robyn Schneider
Series: Emry Merlin
Age Category: Young Adult
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Publish Date: 2021; 2023

Status: Unread.

Channeling the modern humor of The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, bestselling author Robyn Schneider creates a Camelot that becomes the ultimate teen rom-com hotspot in this ultra-fresh take on the Arthurian legend.

Welcome to the great kingdom of Camelot! Prince Arthur’s a depressed botanist who would rather marry a library than a princess, Lancelot’s been demoted to castle guard after a terrible lie, and Emry Merlin has arrived at the castle disguised as her twin brother since girls can’t practice magic.
 
Life at court is full of scandals, lies, and backstabbing courtiers, so what’s a casually bisexual teen wizard masquerading as a boy to do? Other than fall for the handsome prince, stir up trouble with the foppish Lord Gawain, and offend the prissy Princess Guinevere.
 
When the truth comes out with disastrous consequences, Emry has to decide whether she’ll risk everything for the boy she loves, or give up her potential to become the greatest wizard Camelot has ever known.

Welcome back to the great kingdom of Camelot! Scandal, betrayal, and courtly crushes abound in this highly anticipated sequel to The Other Merlin, one of Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of the Year!

Emry Merlin should be living her best life as a wizard’s apprentice. Now that she no longer has to pretend to be her brother to study magic, she and Prince Arthur are closer than ever. Except King Uther has warned her to stay away from his son, and Emry’s magic is growing more unpredictable by the day.

Meanwhile, Arthur’s prophesied future as the One True King is closing in. And as his wedding to Princess Guinevere draws nearer, he discovers she’s hiding a shocking secret. When Emry learns that the only hope to fix her increasingly dangerous magic is an eccentric Parisian alchemist, Arthur has his own reasons for accompanying her to French court, and for befriending an infamous crowd of young nobles.

But it’s going to take a lot more than a depressed gargoyle, some obscenely tight trousers, and a deadly sports match to keep our young heroes from their destiny. Can these reluctant royals and wayward wizards set aside their drama and save their kingdom, or is Camelot doomed?

Adult

The Mists of Avalon

The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer BradleyAuthor: Marion Zimmer Bradley
Series: Avalon #1
Age Category: Young Adult
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publish Date: May 1, 1984
Print Length: 876

Status: Unread.

The magical saga of the women behind King Arthur’s throne.

“A monumental reimagining of the Arthurian legends . . . reading it is a deeply moving and at times uncanny experience. . . . An impressive achievement.”—The New York Times Book Review


In Marion Zimmer Bradley’s masterpiece, we see the tumult and adventures of Camelot’s court through the eyes of the women who bolstered the king’s rise and schemed for his fall. From their childhoods through the ultimate fulfillment of their destinies, we follow these women and the diverse cast of characters that surrounds them as the great Arthurian epic unfolds stunningly before us. As Morgaine and Gwenhwyfar struggle for control over the fate of Arthur’s kingdom, as the Knights of the Round Table take on their infamous quest, as Merlin and Viviane wield their magics for the future of Old Britain, the Isle of Avalon slips further into the impenetrable mists of memory, until the fissure between old and new worlds’ and old and new religions’ claims its most famous victim.

Spear

Author: Nicola Griffith
Series: None
Age Category: Adult
Publisher: Tordotcom
Publish Date: April 19, 2022
Print Length: 192

Status: Read and reviewed.

She left all she knew to find who she could be . . .

She grows up in the wild wood, in a cave with her mother, but visions of a faraway lake drift to her on the spring breeze, scented with promise. And when she hears a traveler speak of Artos, king of Caer Leon, she decides her future lies at his court. So, brimming with magic and eager to test her strength, she breaks her covenant with her mother and sets out on her bony gelding for Caer Leon.

With her stolen hunting spear and mended armour, she is an unlikely hero, not a chosen one, but one who forges her own bright path. Aflame with determination, she begins a journey of magic and mystery, love, lust and fights to death. On her adventures, she will steal the hearts of beautiful women, fight warriors and sorcerers, and make a place to call home.

The legendary author of Hild returns with an unforgettable hero and a queer Arthurian masterpiece for the modern era. Nicola Griffith’s Spear is a spellbinding vision of the Camelot we’ve longed for, a Camelot that belongs to us all.

Idylls of the Queen: A Tale of Queen Guenevere

Idylls of the Queen by Phyllis Ann KarrAuthor: Phyllis Ann Karr
Series: None
Age Category: Adult
Publisher: Wildside Press
Publish Date: August 27, 2013
Print Length: 238

Status: Unread.

The arrangements for the dinner party were overseen by Queen Quenevere herself. She selected the apples with her own hands. And before the evening ended, a young knight lay dead…and Arthur’s beloved, unfaithful queen stood branded as a murderess and condemned to death!

Phyllis Ann Karr has taken Celtic legend and given it a fresh new twist in this magical murder-mystery of knights and sorcery, romantic entanglements and courtly intrigues. This is a tale that explores the passions and motivations of the men and women who stride through the pages of Mallory’s romance: Sir Kay, the sharp-tongued seneschal; Nimue, the elusive Lady of the Lake; Morgan le Fay, Merlin’s complex nemesis; the tormented sons of Lot and Morgawse; and Mordred, Arthur’s own bitter, terrified son!

Morgan Is My Name

Morgan Is My Name by Sophie KeetchAuthor: Sophie Keetch
Series: Unnamed trilogy
Age Category: Adult
Publisher: Random House Canada
Publish Date: June 13, 2023
Print Length: 368

Status: Unread.

A powerful feminist retelling of the early life of Morgan le Fay, the famed villainess of Arthurian legend, this dazzling debut is the story of a woman both mortal and magical, formidable and misunderstood, told in her own words.

Young Morgan of Cornwall lives a happy life in Tintagel Castle until King Uther Pendragon, with the help of the sorcerer Merlin, murders her father and tricks her mother into marriage. Furious, brilliant, and vengeful, Morgan defies her brutal stepfather, taking up a secret education, discovering a lifelong affinity with the healing arts, and falling in love with a man far beneath her station. However, defiance comes at a cost. Used as a bargaining chip in her stepfather’s war games, Morgan finds herself banished to a world of isolated castles and gossiping courts, amidst the machinations of kings, sorcerers, and men.

But some desires are not easily forgotten, and the search for her independence is a quest Morgan cannot give up. As the era of King Arthur approaches, she must use all her wit, knowledge, and courage to fight against those who wish to deny her intelligence, crush her spirit, and control her body. But, in seeking her freedom, Morgan risks losing everything-her reputation, her loved ones, and her life.

Perilous Times

Perilous Times by Thomas D. LeeAuthor: Thomas D. Lee
Series: None
Age Category: Adult
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publish Date: May 23, 2023
Print Length: 496

Status: Read and reviewed.

An immortal Knight of the Round Table faces his greatest challenge yet–saving the politically polarized, rapidly warming world from itself–in this slyly funny contemporary take on Arthurian legend.

Legends don’t always live up to reality.

Being reborn as an immortal defender of the realm gets awfully tiring over the years–or at least that’s what Sir Kay’s thinking as he claws his way up from beneath the earth yet again.

Kay once rode alongside his brother, King Arthur, as a Knight of the Round Table. Since then, he has fought at Hastings and at Waterloo and in both World Wars. But now he finds himself in a strange new world where oceans have risen, the army’s been privatized, and half of Britain’s been sold to foreign powers. The dragon that’s running amok–that he can handle. The rest? He’s not so sure.

Mariam’s spent her life fighting what’s wrong with her country. But she’s just one ordinary person, up against a hopelessly broken system. So when she meets Kay, she dares to hope that the world has finally found the savior it needs.

Yet as the two travel through this bizarre and dangerous land, they discover that a magical plot of apocalyptic proportions is underway. And Kay’s too busy hunting dragons–and exchanging blows with his old enemy Lancelot–to figure out what to do about it.

In perilous times like these, the realm doesn’t just need a knight. It needs a true leader.

Luckily, Excalibur lies within reach.

But who will be fit to wield it?

With a cast that includes Merlin, Morgan le Fay, the Lady of the Lake, and King Arthur himself–all reimagined in joyous, wickedly subversive fashion–Perilous Times is an Arthurian retelling that looks forward as much as it looks back . . . and a rollicking, deadpan-funny, surprisingly touching fantasy adventure.

The Cleaving

The Cleaving by Juliet McKennaAuthor: Juliet E. McKenna
Series: None
Age Category: Adult
Publisher: Angry Robot
Publish Date: April 11, 2023
Print Length: 384

Status: Read and reviewed.

Four women, four destinies – the future of King Arthur’s court…

A fresh, feminist retelling of the Arthurian legends

The Cleaving is an Arthurian retelling that follows the tangled stories of four women: Nimue, Ygraine, Morgana, and Guinevere, as they fight to control their own destinies amid the wars and rivalries that will determine the destiny of Britain.

The legendary epics of King Arthur and Camelot don’t tell the whole story. Chroniclers say Arthur’s mother Ygraine married the man that killed her husband. They say that Arthur’s half-sister Morgana turned to dark magic to defy him and Merlin. They say that the enchantress Nimue challenged Merlin and used her magic to outwit him. And that Arthur’s marriage to Guinevere ended in adultery, rebellion and bloodshed. So why did these women chose such dangerous paths?

As warfare and rivalries constantly challenge the king, Arthur and Merlin believe these women are destined to serve Camelot by doing as they are told. But men forget that women talk. Ygraine, Nimue, Morgana and Guinevere become friends and allies while the decisions that shape their lives are taken out of their hands. This is their untold story. Now these women have a voice.

The Dragon Ring

Author: Fil Reid
Series: Guinevere Book 1
Age Category: Adult
Publisher: Dragonblade Publishing, USA
Publish Date: January 11, 2022
Print Length: 312

Status: Read and reviewed.

The present day – 24-year-old librarian Gwen goes to scatter her father’s ashes on Glastonbury Tor and is kidnapped back in time to become King Arthur’s Dark Age queen – Guinevere.

Gwen, a twenty-four-year-old librarian, lives with her boyfriend, Nathan, in a small house, with all the accoutrements of modern living any girl could ask for. When her father dies, and with her ne’er-do-well twin brother on the other side of the world, it’s left to Gwen to fulfill her father’s wishes and scatter his ashes on the top of Glastonbury Tor in Somerset, England. Stepping into the ruined church tower, a gold ring catches her eye – a ring embossed with a dragon emblem. When Gwen picks it up, she’s snatched into the dangerous world of the Dark Ages, where she discovers she’s expected to fulfill a prophecy, by marrying Prince Arthur and helping him become the king of legend.

Arthur, Prince of Dumnonia, and son of the ailing King Uthyr Pendragon, has ruled the hilltop fortress of Din Cadan for his father since he was a boy of sixteen. But he has an older brother who looks set to inherit both the kingdom and the High Kingship. Tall, handsome, ruthless, he’s less than convinced that any prophecy can decide his future, and he doesn’t think he needs a wife. But news comes that his father is at last dying in far-off Viroconium. Taking Gwen with him, further and further from the Tor where she had hoped to return to her own world, he sets off to outwit his brother.

Half Sick of Shadows

Author: Laura Sebastian
Series: None
Age Category: Adult
Publisher: Ace
Publish Date: July 6, 2021
Print Length: 443

Status: Read and reviewed.

The Lady of Shalott reclaims her story in this bold feminist reimagining of the Arthurian myth from the New York Times bestselling author of Ash Princess.

Everyone knows the legend. Of Arthur, destined to be a king. Of the beautiful Guinevere, who will betray him with his most loyal knight, Lancelot. Of the bitter sorceress, Morgana, who will turn against them all. But Elaine alone carries the burden of knowing what is to come–for Elaine of Shalott is cursed to see the future.

On the mystical isle of Avalon, Elaine runs free and learns of the ancient prophecies surrounding her and her friends–countless possibilities, almost all of them tragic.

When their future comes to claim them, Elaine, Guinevere, Lancelot, and Morgana accompany Arthur to take his throne in stifling Camelot, where magic is outlawed, the rules of society chain them, and enemies are everywhere. Yet the most dangerous threats may come from within their own circle.

As visions are fulfilled and an inevitable fate closes in, Elaine must decide how far she will go to change destiny–and what she is willing to sacrifice along the way.

The Arthurian Saga series

the crystal cave by mary stewartthe hollow hills by mary stewartthe last enchantment by mary stewartthe wicked day by mary stewartthe prince and the pilgrim by mary stewart

Author: Mary Stewart
Series: The Arthurian Saga
Age Category: Adult
Publish Date: 1970 and later

Status: Unread.

Fifth century Britain is a country of chaos and division after the Roman withdrawal. This is the world of young Merlin, the illegitimate child of a South Wales princess who will not reveal to her son his father’s true identity. Yet Merlin is an extraordinary child, aware at the earliest age that he possesses a great natural gift – the Sight. Against a background of invasion and imprisonment, wars and conquest, Merlin emerges into manhood, and accepts his dramatic role in the New Beginning – the coming of King Arthur.

Scholarly Works

This section contains books that one might consider “scholarly.” That is, they analyze how writers portray characters or the legend over time.

The Once and Future Queen: Guinevere in Arthurian Legend

The Once and Future Queen by Nicole EvelinaAuthor: Nicole Evelina
Series: None
Age Category: Adult
Publisher: Lawson Gartner Publishing
Publish Date: November 21, 2017
Print Length: 278

Status: Unread.

Guinevere’s journey from literary sinner to feminist icon took over one thousand years…and it’s not over yet.

Literature tells us painfully little about Guinevere, mostly focusing on her sin and betrayal of Arthur and Camelot. As a result, she is often seen as a one-dimensional character. But there is more to her story. By examining popular works of more than 20 authors over the last one thousand years, The Once and Future Queen shows how Guinevere reflects attitudes toward women during the time in which her story was written, changing to suit the expectations of her audience. Beginning in Celtic times and continuing through the present day, this book synthesizes academic criticism and popular opinion into a highly readable, approachable work that fills a gap in Arthurian material available to the general public.

Nicole Evelina has spent more than 15 years studying Arthurian legend. She is also a feminist known for her fictional portrayals of strong historical and legendary women, including Guinevere. Now, she combines these two passions to examine the effect of changing times and attitudes on the character of Guinevere in a must-read book for Arthurian enthusiasts of every knowledge level.

Magic in Merlin’s Realm: A History of Occult Politics in Britain

Magic in Merlin's Realm by Francis YoungAuthor: Francis Young
Series: None
Age Category: Adult
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Publish Date: May 12, 2022
Print Length: 406

Status: Unread.

Belief in magic was, until relatively recent times, widespread in Britain; yet the impact of such belief on determinative political events has frequently been overlooked. In his wide-ranging new book, Francis Young explores the role of occult traditions in the history of the island of Great Britain: Merlin’s realm. He argues that while the great magus and artificer invented by Geoffrey of Monmouth was a powerful model for a succession of actual royal magical advisers (including Roger Bacon and John Dee), monarchs nevertheless often lived in fear of hostile sorcery while at other times they even attempted magic themselves. Successive governments were simultaneously fascinated by astrology and alchemy, yet also deeply wary of the possibility of treasonous spellcraft. Whether deployed in warfare, rebellion or propaganda, occult traditions were of central importance to British history and, as the author reveals, these dark arts of magic and politics remain entangled to this day.

The Classics

This section contains works that one might generally consider “classic” Arthurian legend and retellings through the mid-20th century.

Idylls of the King

Idylls of the King by Alfred, Lord TennysonAuthor: Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Series: None
Age Category: Adult
Publisher: Penguin Classics
Publish Date: 1859-1885 (first published)
Print Length: 384

Status: Unread.

Tennyson had a life-long interest in the legend of King Arthur and after the huge success of his poem ‘Morte d’Arthur’ he built on the theme with this series of twelve poems, written in two periods of intense creativity over nearly twenty years. Idylls of the King traces the story of Arthur’s rule, from his first encounter with Guinevere and the quest for the Holy Grail to the adultery of his Queen with Launcelot and the King’s death in a final battle that spells the ruin of his kingdom. Told with lyrical and dreamlike eloquence, Tennyson’s depiction of the Round Table reflects a longing for a past age of valour and chivalry. And in his depiction of King Arthur he created a hero imbued with the values of the Victorian age – one who embodies the highest ideals of manhood and kingship.

Le Morte d’Arthur

Wikipedia has a great page about the history and editions of this 15th century classic. In summary, LE MORTE D’ARTHUR is Sir Thomas Malory’s reworking of many older materials to tell a complete tale about Arthur from his conception to death.

Volume 1

Le Morte d'Arthur Volume 1 by Sir Thomas MaloryAuthor: Sir Thomas Malory
Series: Le Morte d’Arthur, Volume 1
Age Category: Adult
Publisher: Penguin Classics (ed. 1970)
Publish Date: 1485 (first published)
Print Length: 528

Status: Unread.

Sir Thomas Malory’s richly evocative and enthralling version of the Arthurian legend

Recounting Arthur’s birth, his ascendancy to the throne after claiming Excalibur, his ill-fated marriage to Guenever, the treachery of Morgan le Fay and the exploits of the Knights of the Round Table, it magically weaves together adventure, battle, love and enchantment. Le Morte D’Arthur looks back to an idealized Medieval world and is full of wistful, elegiac regret for a vanished age of chivalry. Edited and published by William Caxton in 1485, Malory’s prose romance drew on French and English verse sources to give an epic unity to the Arthur myth, and remains the most magnificent re-telling of the story in English.

Volume 2

Le Morte d'Arthur Volume 2 by Sir Thomas MaloryAuthor: Sir Thomas Malory
Series: Le Morte d’Arthur, Volume 2
Age Category: Adult
Publisher: Penguin Group (ed. 1970)
Publish Date: 1485 (first published)
Print Length: 592

Status: Unread.

Volume two of Le Morte D’Arthur, Sir Thomas Malory’s powerful and elegaic version of the Arthurian legend, recounts the adventures of Sir Tristram de Liones and the treachery of Sir Mordred, and follows Sir Launcelot’s quest for The Holy Grail, his fatally divided loyalties, and his great, forbidden love for the beautiful Queen Guenever. Culminating in an account of Arthur’s final battle against the scheming, deceitful Mordred, this is the definitive re-telling of the Arthurian myth, weaving a story of adultery, treachery and ultimately—in its tragic finale—death. Edited and published by William Caxton in 1485, Malory’s moving prose romance looks back to an idealised Medieval age of chivalry, drawing on French and English verse sources to create an epic masterpiece of passion, enchantment, war and betrayal.

The Once and Future King

The Once and Future King by T.H. WhiteAuthor: T.H. White
Series: None
Age Category: Adult
Publisher: Ace
Publish Date: January 1, 1958 (first published)
Print Length: 656

Status: Unread.

THE ONCE AND FUTURE KING is a rework of four previously-published books by White: THE SWORD IN THE STONE (1938), THE WITCH IN THE WOOD (1939), THE ILL-MADE KNIGHT (1940), and THE CANDLE IN THE WIND (1958). A final part called THE BOOK OF MERLYN was published separately in 1977, about a decade after White’s death. White based these works loosely on the 1485 work LE MORTE D’ARTHUR by Sir Thomas Malory.

T. H. White’s masterful retelling of the saga of King Arthur is a fantasy classic as legendary as Excalibur and Camelot, and a poignant story of adventure, romance, and magic that has enchanted readers for generations.
 
Once upon a time, a young boy called “Wart” was tutored by a magician named Merlyn in preparation for a future he couldn’t possibly imagine. A future in which he would ally himself with the greatest knights, love a legendary queen and unite a country dedicated to chivalrous values. A future that would see him crowned and known for all time as Arthur, King of the Britons.
 
During Arthur’s reign, the kingdom of Camelot was founded to cast enlightenment on the Dark Ages, while the knights of the Round Table embarked on many a noble quest. But Merlyn foresaw the treachery that awaited his liege: the forbidden love between Queen Guenever and Lancelot, the wicked plots of Arthur’s half-sister Morgause and the hatred she fostered in Mordred that would bring an end to the king’s dreams for Britain—and to the king himself.

I know there are plenty more retellings and classic works of Arthurian legend. Consider this a relatively short list. However, if there’s a retelling you love that I missed, particularly a more recent one, please let me know in the comment section below. I’m always looking for newer reimaginings of such an old myth both to read and add to this Arthurian retellings list.

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I don’t think I’ve read any recent Arturian releases, but The Crystal Cave, The Hollow Hills and The Mists of Avalon are all books I read as a teen and loved. This is such a great list!

CELESTE THIS IS SUCH A COOL LIST. Great job, friend!!!

I love this list!!! The Legendborn duology is on my TBR and I heartily recommend the Mary Stewart books even though they are quite old now.

This is a great list and something I needed, as I’m always on the lookout for Arthurian retellings! Thanks for putting it together!

This is such an awesome list!! I loved the books by White, Mallory, Griffith, & Stewart. So many of the others are on my TBR. I look forward to seeing this list grow and will definitely check back on it every now and then to add more Arthurian books to my TBR. 🙂 Also, The Dark Is Rising series by Susan Cooper is grounded in Arthurian legend, but I’m not sure if it meets your criteria to make it on this list since it is not a direct retelling per se.

It’s interesting how many Arthurian retellings exist, but many people know neither of them nor of the older variants of the “first legend.”

If I’m remembering correctly, then you might have to search for English Literature Anthologies, university-level. I suggest looking into Old and Middle English renditions of the tale. Good luck.

I have a review in the works for Merlin’s Booke by Jane Yolen. I really enjoyed it

Love this list, especially the scholarly ones because I love nonfiction about myths! This is Arthurian-adjacent but I really enjoyed the Merlin saga from T.A. Baron when I was younger

[…] mythology, or celebrate a subgenre. If I had planned better, I would have saved my recently-created list of Arthurian retellings for today. But alas. (Please check it out if you missed it!) Instead, my focus is to celebrate […]

If you have the time, Peter David’s Modern Arthur series is worth the time (as I recall): Knight Life, One Knight Only, and Fall of Knight. And, yes, the titles do give an indication of some of the humor involved

If they’re not the most retold stories in English, I can’t imagine what would be. Probably impossible to track them all down (but keep trying!)

[…] post for The Manifestor Prophecy, I could’ve just referenced this and maybe saved the post. Arthurian Retellings Reading List—I’m tempted to turn this into my 2024 TBR How to Read More I feel like I should be […]

I love this post, especially how you’ve split it by genre as well! I just bought Perilous Times because of the way you’ve talked about it… some of these I knew about already but I’ve definitely added some new ones to my list thanks to this.

[…] Celeste @ A Literary Escape compiled an amazing list of Arthurian retellings […]

My husband has been trying to get me to read The Once and Future King for so long haaha I need to read it. Saving this post for future reference because wow! There are so many books on here!

If you’re interested in adding books for slightly younger readers, The Metropolitans is my favorite modern Arthurian retelling (and I’ve invested a possibly unhealthy amount of time in reading Arthurian material). Edwin Arlington Robinson’s book-length poem “Merlin” also offers an interesting perspective, particularly in its treatment of often-overlooked Dagonet. Secret Camelot is a great compendium of slightly obscure legends.

[…] Arthurian Retellings Reading List: 122 views […]