Finding Camlann by Sean Pidgeon is, according to the author note, “the product of sixteen years of research, writing, and rewriting, and a lifelong preoccupation with the story of the ‘real’ Arthur.” I’m not particularly entranced by the story of Arthur and Camelot, but I loved the book’s cover (a raven playing with a red ribbon and a heavy gold ring) and a comparison on the jacket to A.S. Byatt’s Possession. (I read an advance reader copy, so I’m not sure the cover will be the final cover.)
Finding Camlann did indeed remind me of Possession, a book I loved. However, Possession was about two scholars researching the lives of two dead poets, a topic which interests me more than Arthur. Still, I did enjoy Finding Camlann.
The book is set in and around Oxford and the Bodleian Library (another plus for me) and Wales. One of the two main characters works on the Oxford English Dictionary; that fact alone would have made me give this book a try. The romance between two of the characters is subtle and never takes center stage. The focus is on scholarly research.
Since I am not an Arthur scholar, I have no idea how much of the information in this book is true, how much is speculation, and how much was completely made up. However, I believed everything that was laid out (although I did get lost in the details). I found the plot about the Arthur research very believable. There is a bit of a twist at the end that seemed far-fetched, but not so much as to impact my enjoyment of the book. I do not know how Welsh sounds, so I did find myself stumbling over the many Welsh names, words, and phrases.
If you are a fan of Arthur and Camelot, literary detective fiction, fiction set in Wales, or A.S. Byatt’s Possession, I recommend Finding Camlann. The book is due out in January 2013.