Rated Reads

Finding Camlann

by Sean Pidgeon

Rated: Mild

A disclaimer: I may be more enthusiastic about this book than most readers because I love Arthurian legends and anything else steeped in old English and Welsh history. So when I say I really enjoyed this book, it wasn’t necessarily because it was an excellent story or perfectly executed; it was because the book transported me to the Welsh countryside and to the old stories that seem to seep from the land itself. Sean Pidgeon’s writing was top-notch on one level because his descriptions of the landscape and setting were so wonderfully detailed. I also learned some interesting history I hadn’t known before and got a chance to practice my Welsh pronunciation. But the details could get a bit much; the background information sometimes is a bit too academic and dry to wade through.

The story follows archaeologist Donald Gladstone and language expert Julia Llewellyn, who both work at Oxford. An amazing find of human remains at Stonehenge sparks talk of the site being the possible burial place of Arthur. Donald is interested in finding real proof of the existence of the legendary king, and though the discovery is tantalizing, it is unlikely to be that of Arthur. He embarks on a search for more information, meeting Julia along the way and trying to figure out if an old manuscript held in the Bodleian library could be connected and provide real proof. The only researcher who has done any work on the manuscript (and who found it in the family library of Julia’s husband’s home in Wales) became nearly obsessed with it, his work and conclusions largely ignored. But the time may have come to finally make those connections and learn more about Arthur.

Finding Camlann is supposed to be a love story, but that part just didn’t do much for me. It didn’t help that Julia was married, even though her marriage was mostly over. I couldn’t “cheer” for Donald and Julia to get together because of that. I was definitely more interested in the plot itself and how everything came together, and some of the details I thought were unnecessary actually became vital at the end, so it was a satisfying and interesting conclusion. Overall, I just was happy to spend some time in England and Wales as an armchair traveler. And isn’t that one of the great virtues of reading?

Rated: Mild, for some sexual content “off-screen” and a few brief references to violence. Any language use is mild and minimal.

— Reviewed by Cathy Carmode Lim

Cathy Carmode Lim has been reviewing books for newspapers for more than 20 years, two of which she was a book page editor. She founded Rated Reads in January 2008.

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  • Finding Camlann
  • by Sean Pidgeon
  • Rated: Mild
  • Genre: Fiction
  • Reviewer: