Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Mordred's curse by Ian McDowell

Mordred's Curse
Mordred's Curse starts with what I felt was like a slap in the face. It took me by surprise, both due to the language and the intensity of it. It goes like this:

“I don't care what Guinevere and Gawain say; this won't be Mordred's Life of Arthur, but Mordred's Life of Mordred. Fuck them; they can chronicle my sanctimonious progenitor's exploits if they've got the stomach for it.”

These first sentences are a great synopsis of the book, much better than the one found on the back cover. After the initial surprise was gone, the book proved to be both enjoyable and memorable.

First, I have to say I'm not a fan of the Arthurian Legend – I mean, I like it well enough, but I don't go out of my way to get books on the subject (in short, meh...). This happens mostly because I don't really care for Arthur. Or Guinevere. And even Merlin doesn't interest me that much. The one character I do like, mostly because of his complexity in terms of relationships (and also because no-one likes him), is Mordred. So this book was like an early Christmas: a book about Mordred, told by Mordred, just like his autobiography.

But despite this, I was actually amazed by how much I enjoyed this book.

Like I said before, Mordred's Curse tells the story of Mordred, even though this is not complete, and about his relationship with the other characters. Truth be told, most of the appeal of the book was how Mordred related to others (and others to him), and not so much about his deeds and adventures (although those are good too).

Most of these relationships are with members of his family: with Lot, his “father”, where there is no love, and much hate; with Morgawse, his mother, that is heavily influenced by her relationship with Arthur; with Gawain, the older brother; with Guinevere, in a role usually given to Lancelot (who is absent in this tale).

And of course with Arthur. This played a very important role in the story, and I really loved to see all the variations and shifts. A lot of Mordred's actions are a result of Arthur's attitude towards him – first as his uncle, then as his father.

But, concerning character development, it seems that Arthur and Merlin (who makes only a brief appearance) seem to have drawn the shortest straw. Their characterisation didn't convince me as much as the others characters did.

Going back to the language, Mordred's Curse is full of cursing (pun intended). As well as the swear words, there are a lot of innovative ways to insult someone. Add the fact that the descriptions are quite vivid, and Mordred does describe some gory and gross things, this book may not be everyone.

I really liked it, though, and will try to find a copy of the second book – Merlin's gift.



  1. Slap to the face? More like fist to the gut! I suppose it is Mordred we're talking about, but still...

  2. I own both book and found the second one first. Its opening lines are even more shocking than the first and have been engraved on my memory. That said I still think the duology is the my favorite Arthurian story. you;re absolutely right that Mordred as narrator makes the series.

  3. @Angela I have to acquire Merlin's Gift, but from what I saw in Mordred's Curse of Merlin, it doesn't surprise me that it is even more shocking.