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As the younger son in a medieval household, 13-year-old Arthur of Caldicot cannot inherit the estate so he spends his time practising swordplay, defending himself from the antagonism of his older brother Serle and waiting anxiously for the day his father will make him a squire. Then the mysterious Merlin gives him a polished obsidian stone, and in its ‘wolf-skull, moonbruise’ depths he sees the story of another Arthur – a boy like and yet unlike himself, a boy who, long ago, pulled a sword from a stone. For both, secrecy and violence are a part of their heritage, and as they reach the cusp of manhood they must unravel the complexities of the adult world to discover their own destinies.
The Seeing Stone is a landmark of children’s fiction, interweaving a spellbinding retelling of the Arthurian myths with the parallel story of an ordinary boy who is destined for greatness. The bustle and clamour of life in a medieval manor is wonderfully evoked in Crossley-Holland’s vivid prose. Arthur’s world contains many pleasures, from the pageantry and games of Twelfth Night to the delicious black pudding made from the manor’s pig. Yet even sleepy Caldicot is not immune to the pressures of the world: the King’s messengers arrive with an unwelcome tightening of the forest laws, many a villager goes hungry, and the Pope’s call for a crusade to free the Holy Land could mean a change to everything Arthur knows.
The Seeing Stone has won wide acclaim and numerous awards, including the Guardian Children’s Fiction Award in 2001. This superb new Folio Society edition, with illustrations by John Lawrence, has an appeal that both children and adults will find hard to resist.
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