This essay on a modern treatment of Arthurian legend was originally published in Symbiosis: A Journal of Anglo-American Literary Relations, Volume 14.1 (April 2010) 81-102
From this Essay:
In the Scottish Borderlands, Arthur and his small band of warriors have been massacred. Their spirits are restless, angry, yet melancholic, disillusioned, ‘bloodied and battered’ (44), and consumed with memories of betrayal at the hands of their leaders—Arthur, the magician Merlin, and the sorceress Vivienne—in a fight-to-the-death battle. Fatally embroiled in social and political intrigue, the warriors’ spirits have been sung into wooden effigies. They languish beneath the Stone Crown, a circular wall at the interstice of medieval and contemporary time in Sleepers’ Spinney, until the bicycle-riding, adolescent protagonists Emlyn and Max[ine] breach the Stone Crown, searching for answers to family secrets.
The Stone Crown recreates Arthurian legend in a modern context for adolescents and adults, but it is also trauma fiction: its young protagonists set out to solve family mysteries, and unearth painful memories as they do. The novel works through father-son1 intergenerational trauma and the rifts that divide warrior culture from civil society. This is all done without injury to the pleasures of reading: it would be easy to miss the novel’s serious concerns beneath the detailed realism of Emlyn’s and Max[ine]’s adolescent world, its lyrical evocations of medieval time, and evocative descriptions of the Scottish Borderlands landscape.
Blending realism and fantasy, ‘magical beings’ and ‘supernatural forces’, which Grant has elsewhere identified as the markers of ‘indigenous fantasy’, The Stone Crown ‘flirt[s] with madness…doing things that other forms of fiction [and medical discourses] cannot’ [italics original] (181). The Stone Crown integrates the layers of traumatic experience—physical, mental, and moral—into a narrative that engages the imagination and emotions….
About the author
Affiliation: University of Adelaide