It’s a rare storybook that blows you away with the beauty of its art. Rarer still are such books where the stories are captivating as well. Arthur of Albion, a new book of King Arthur stories, is one of those. It’s the sort of book you might buy for your kids—say, as a way of getting them interested in the Arthur stories—and then find yourself sitting on the couch reading it and staring at the art after your kids are in bed.
The stories in the book will be familiar to anyone who knows the Arthur legends: The story of the Questing Beast, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the quest for the Grail, etc. But each story is written in a simple, yet richly detailed, style, with the occasional old-style wording (e.g., "he knew not"), and you will find yourself drawn in by them even if you know the plot by heart. Some of the stories are written with morals, but none too heavy-handed, and all true to previous versions. The stories are separated by short two-page spreads on subjects related to the following story, providing quick glimpses into the characters and settings. The book is very faithful to the history of Arthurian legend, written as it is by John Matthews, a noted expert on the subject (he was even the historical advisor for the 2003 movie King Arthur).
And then there’s the art, as "illustrations" seems too poor a word for renderings like these. They are truly beautiful, richly detailed and full of color. The artist, Pavel Tatarnikov, has done such an amazing job that I can only imagine how drab the book would seem were the art removed. His art draws you into the world of Arthur, from the moment you see the king himself on the cover. Not every piece of art in the book will transfix you, but I would gladly hang the original of at least 3/4 of them on my wall. (Tatarnikov’s website is also well worth checking out, with a gallery of some absolutely gorgeous work he’s done for other books.)
Arthur of Albion is published by Barefoot Books, and is available only in hardcover. It is 96 pages long and comes with a poster of a map of Great Britain (painted by the artist) with locations relevant to the stories marked.
Full disclosure: My wife is an independent stallholder for Barefoot Books, and her website is linked to above; use the Special Offer Code SCSHTW for 20% off your entire order for GeekDad readers. The fact that I love this book has nothing whatsoever to do with that; I’d buy it in a second even if I’d never heard of the publisher.