"The once and future King" (book) any good?

I ordered it from amazon and got it this morning. Read a couple of pages and it seemed a little… succinct, which, for an old book is unusual. I am not put off by this (yet) but am wondering how ‘deep’ the book can go if it starts off like a cheap soap-opera (compared to other books I’ve read recently)
Any dopers read it?

I’ve read it and wasn’t particularly happy with it. I should qualify that by saying that it was required reading for me the summer before 9th grade (I think it was that year, maybe a year earlier or later), and I wasn’t too happy about having to to summer reading in general.
Maybe if I can find it at the library, I’ll take a shot at reading it again and see what I think of it now.

It’s been a while since I read it, but ISTR it being fun and cheery at the beginning but very bitter–annoyingly so–toward the end. It’s one of the books that didn’t make the cut when I did a book cull in preparation for moving to a new apartment.

I thought it was absolutely wonderful. The story of Arthur, Guineviere and Lancelot breaks my heart every time I read it. That “book” is especially meaningful to me. YMMV.

Good? No.

Fucking amazing? Yes.

TOAFK is one of my all time favorites. Like Hunter Hawk says, the ending is a downer, especially contrasted with the light and breezy nature of the first half of the book. But you are reading about Camelot, which is, after all, one of the greatest tragedies of Western storytelling. Don’t ever go near anything about King Arthur and the Round Table unless you’re prepared for everything to go tits-up by the end. And the contrast between the optimism of the begining is crucial to putting the failure of the Round Table into its proper perspective: a wonderful dream to kindle hope in the long dark times after the fall of Rome, an ideal to be always pursued, but never achieved. It is a theme repeated in TOAFK over and over, in a variety of scales. Keep an eye out for it: Sir Pellenor and the Questing Beast is one of the more transparent examples, but there are others.

Frankly, I hated it. I had no sympathy or interest in any of the characters. For example:

-Arthur was a dunce
-Merlin was doddering, not wise
-I never like Lancelot, so he’s pretty much a lost cause
-Guinivere is a bimbo
-all of Morgause’s sons are insane
-Morgause herself isn’t even a cool villian, just evil

I’ve heard some people complain about The Mists of Avalon by saying the women are bad and the men are worse. I would flip that for The Once and Future King.

I used to think I was gonna get a Ph.D. in Arthurian legend; by the end of highschool I’d read hundreds of Arthur stories, fictional, historical, and litcritical: *The Once and Future King * is just about the best of them all. I’ve read it 5 or 6 times, and it never fails.

I liked the first part, with some funny, odd adventures of Arthur as a kid. I thought the second half got a little too downbeat and tragic for my taste. It was well written, just very sad.

Loved it. One of my favourite books as a kid. I originally owned the Sword in the Stone and I was so excited when I discovered there were more books in the series.

Absolutely the best of all the Arthurian tales. It should be read before Malory or anything else.

The bit where Arthur sentences Guinevere to burning at the stake, because he HAS to, because he’s king and it’s the law and all, while all the time hoping against hope that Lancelot will rescue her,is about the most heartwrenching chapter of literature I can think of.

I read this one senior year of high school and thought it was excellent. I don’t remember the ending very clearly, maybe I should pick it up again.

Gosh, I didn’t realize so many people disliked this one. I’ve read it over several times, and it’s one of the few books I brought to Japan with me.

It does help to remember that The Once and Future King is really a four-part series. It’s usually printed as one volume, but they’re four different books. So don’t be surprised when there’s a shift in tone or focus. The Sword in the Stone is essentially YA fantasy (great YA fantasy), with a young boy having all kinds of fun magical adventures while still learning important moral lessons, but as others have mentioned things become darker and more serious.

Oh, in response to easy e’s comment, I think The Once and Future King is one of the few modern Arthurian re-tellings in which Guenever doesn’t come across as a bimbo, bitch, or bitchy bimbo! Even in The Mists of Avalon it seemed like she was the only unsympathetic woman in all of Britain.

Funny I should see a thread about this book. I have a weird relationship with TOAFK. I’ve been reading it for 6 months now and I’m only about a third of the way through it. I’ve also read about 8-10 other books since I started it.

I don’t know what the problem is. I certainly like the book. I just can’t plow through it for some reason. I have the same problem with Catch-22. I’ve been reading that for about 5 years now, and I absolutely love it, I recommend it to all my friends, but I’m only halfway through it.

In fact, Catch-22 is almost within arms reach of me right now, even though I’ve moved 3 times since I started reading it. I never stopped reading it; it’s just taking me an incredibly long time.

I love it, and have re-read it. My favorite Arthurian story (aside from Twain’s off-the-wall Connecticut Yankee), and I have an entire bookshelf of Arthurian stories.
By the way, the first book of The Once and Future King, “The Sword in the Stone”, is different from the children’s book of the same name that White wrote. White rewrote the book for inclusion in TOAFK, taking out sections (like Madame Mim) and adding a lot of commentary for adults. If you want the whole treatment, you should read the Young Adult Sword in the Stone, then do The Once and Future King, then read The Book of Merlyn, the fifth book of the series that wasn’t published until after White’s death. There’s some repetition, since he stuck some of the material in The Sword in the Stone, but it’s still worth it.
The Disney film “The Sword in the Stone”, the Broadway musical “Camelot”, and the 1960s film “Camelot” are all nominally based on White;'s books, but none of them have the feel of the book.

Ah, thank you! I didn’t read TOAFK until high school, but at the time I was sure I’d read at least part of “The Sword in the Stone” as a kid. I remembered Madame Mim pretty clearly (and that she differed in some ways from the character in the Disney movie), but when there was no mention of her in TOAFK I was most puzzled. It’s been one of those weird little mysteries lurking in the back of my mind ever since.

TOAFK is wonderful. The “downer” ending is part of the cycle. White starts with Wart as a boy, and we get the charming coming-of-age animal stories. Things get fierce and glorious while Arthur is an adolescent and young man, as is appropriate. When he is older, we get morals and politics. When he is old, we get inevitability and immortality.

And it’s all funny–light funny, mixed-up funny and dark funny.

I love the whole ball of wax.

I tried. I really tried. But I couldn’t get into it. It sounds like it gets better toward the end from what y’all are saying, but I couldn’t get past the relentless goofiness of the beginning. I got a bit past Arthur and Merlin turning into fish, and couldn’t push myself further. I was reading maybe a page a day and it was a chore. Then I switched to a different book and whipped through it, and several more since. Someday maybe I’ll try again, but for now, I just give up. And that’s the first time I’ve ever done that, even with some horrible, horrible books.

It’s a great book and I hated it.

Of course, I hate tragedies. I hate the Arthurian legend. Hate hate hate. If I like a character, why would I want to see them destroyed? If I hate a character why would I want to see them do anything?

So, if you’re not like me (and thankfully few people are), I’d say give it another whirl. It may not end up your favorite book (my husband said it didn’t thrill him), but it’s a good 'un.

I just read it this past winter, and couldn’t figure out why I hadn’t read it sooner. Absolutely excellent. It’s the first treatment of the King Arthur story I’ve read where Lancelot is a sympathetic character. The moral message was well-presented and in context, and Arthur’s attempt at navigating the moral quagmire was emminently admirable. I could really believe that Guinevere was genuinely in love with two men at once, and I could feel her pain at it. And I absolutely loved, loved, loved Merlin. The Book of Merlin is currently in my Amazon wish list, and will be mine the next time I order books.

I read it for school the first time, and loved it so much (rare for school reading) that I have read it several times since. To me, it is the essence of what the Arthurian legend should be: optimistic, filled with human greatness and human flaw, and ultimately tragic.

I’ve also read The Mists of Avalon, and the whole Crystal Cave / Hollow Hills / Last Enchantment saga, as well as some others. TOAFK has them all beat.