Life for the young orphan Terence has been peaceful, until the day a strange green sprite leads him to Gawain, King Arthur’s nephew, who is on his way to Camelot hoping to be knighted. Terence joins him to serve as Gawain’s squire, and from that moment on, Terence’s life is filled with heart-stopping adventure as he helps damsels-in-distress, fights battles with devious men, and protects King Arthur from his many enemies.
Along the way, Terence is amazed at his skills and new-found magical abilities. Were these a gift from his unknown parents? As Gawain continues his quest for knighthood, Terence searches for answers to the riddles in his own past.
Thus begins the first of the Squire’s Tales–Arthurian legends wrangled into fun, witty stories that actually make some semblance of sense (have you read any of the originals? Morris is great about pointing out all the ridiculous things that no sane author would put in his books, except that he has to, since that’s how the stories go).
If you know any Arthurian tale, you can bet it makes it into one of the books: the Holy Grail, Tristan and Iseult, Gawain and the Green Knight, Lancelot and Guinevere, Parsifal, and a host of obscure stories of varying nationalities, be it English, French, or Welsh. Sometimes Terence is the main character, but often he steps aside to let others star in their own tales.
These are all young adult books; safe for a middle school reader, yet so well written that I, my brothers, my college roommate, and my sister-in-law have all read and enjoyed them as adults (some of us after reading and enjoying them as kids too).
Now for a brief review of the book Morris almost didn’t write, a.k.a. the Final Book, or book #10: It’s the story of King Arthur. Everyone knows how it has to end. And after all those stories full of wit and wisdom, ridiculous and poignant, uplifting and full of heart—he does, in fact, stay true to the story.
I cried and cried and cried.
I must say, though, that Morris truly does justice to the tale. He wraps up the stories of all the main characters of the previous books (and many not so main), and while it is not as light-hearted as the others, it is every bit as noble as his versions of Gawain and the Green Knight, Parsifal, the grail, and Lancelot’s discovery of true honor and worth. I do not think the story could have been written any better – it is true to both how the original tales end and to his own versions of the Arthurian legends. Most importantly, it instills hope in spite of it being “the sundown of a dream” (to quote the musical Camelot). Like so many of the best stories – The Lord of the Rings (Tolkien), The Graveyard Book (Gaiman), The Last Unicorn (Beagle) – it is beautifully bittersweet.
Many thanks, Gerald Morris, for a such a powerful retelling.
The Squire’s Tales by Gerald Morris:
1. The Squire’s Tale
2. The Squire, His Knight, and His Lady
3. The Savage Damsel and the Dwarf
4. Parsifal’s Page
5. The Ballad of Sir Dinadan
6. The Princess, the Crone, and the Dung-Cart Knight
7. The Lioness and Her Knight
8. The Quest of the Fair Unknown
9. The Squire’s Quest
10. The Legend of the King