The Anvil Stone
This third book in the Mascen’s Treasure series tells the tale of the quest for the sword, Excalibur, the fourth piece of five ceremonial symbols used by the high kings of Britain. Marcus ap Iorwerth and his wife, Claerwen, are initially drawn into Britain’s north by an effigy with a dagger run through it, and a warning that suggests two princes and Octa the Saxon’s warbands will threaten Uther Pendragon’s reign. Uther, meanwhile, is begetting Arthur on Igraine, while Myrddin the Enchanter is sometimes here, sometimes there. By the time it becomes apparent that the sword might be a target as well, there is an assassin stalking Marcus and Claerwen, leading to perilous adventures across the lawless lands of post-Roman Britain.
I came to this novel without having read the first two instalments in the series, but this was no handicap. The self-contained story fleshes out the time period and provides a good picture of how chaotic life must have been then. I liked the characters and thought they were believable. However, I did feel that the same story could have been told in fewer words; while there was plenty of action within each scene, I felt some scenes were superfluous – for example, two characters are exiled, and their musings while in exile could have been made evident with fewer scenes and a well-placed time lapse. And sometimes the author’s phrasing – use of complex words in places, omission of words in others – required me to re-read sentences. Nonetheless, this is a well-plotted addition to the Arthurian canon.