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Now, the spellbinding, final chapter of King Arthur's reign, where Mordred, sired by incest and reared in secrecy, ingratiates himself at court, and sets in motion the Fates and the end of Arthur....


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Now, the spellbinding, final chapter of King Arthur's reign, where Mordred, sired by incest and reared in secrecy, ingratiates himself at court, and sets in motion the Fates and the end of Arthur....

30 review for The Wicked Day

  1. 4 out of 5

    Candi

    "It was coming now, surely, the future he had dreaded, and yet longed for, with the strange, restless and sometimes violent feelings of rebellion he had had against the life to which he had been born, and to which he had believed himself sentenced till death, like all his parents’ kin." Well, once again Mary Stewart did not fail to captivate me – I adored this! In this fourth book of the Arthurian saga, Mordred takes center stage. Stewart takes the legend and dissects the whole into its many laye "It was coming now, surely, the future he had dreaded, and yet longed for, with the strange, restless and sometimes violent feelings of rebellion he had had against the life to which he had been born, and to which he had believed himself sentenced till death, like all his parents’ kin." Well, once again Mary Stewart did not fail to captivate me – I adored this! In this fourth book of the Arthurian saga, Mordred takes center stage. Stewart takes the legend and dissects the whole into its many layers. Characters become multifaceted individuals, not just prototypes. We find Mordred living in the seclusion of the Orkney Islands. Raised by peasant foster parents, he can’t help but feel the pull of another and better life than the one he lives, albeit a happy and peaceful one. We see him as a young boy with hopes and dreams like any other - not some intractable youngster that grows to become the willfully wicked adult Mordred of my own recollections. When Mordred unknowingly happens upon Gawain, son of Morgause and King Lot, the tides will turn and Mordred’s life will change forever. It is not just one man’s ambitions and one man’s misunderstandings that mold the future of a kingdom. Nor is it in the hands of the gods themselves. Stewart’s characters are so well drawn and each of them plays a role in the culmination of that wicked day. From the venomous Morgause, to the hotheaded Gawain, to the inveterate Arthur, to the aspiring Mordred, and to the old prophecies foretold by Merlin – all these linked together along with unrest in the far-reaching British lands will come together to decide the fate of the High Kingdom. While I missed dropping in on Merlin, I still thoroughly enjoyed the retelling of this legend. I would venture to say that this series is an all-time favorite and one which I know I will revisit again. Stewart weaves a story that is so full of life, rich with historical detail, and remarkably vibrant. 4.5 stars rounded up to 5. "Fate is made by men, not gods. Our own follies, not the gods, foredoom us. The gods are spirits; they work by men’s hands, and there are men who are brave enough to stand up and say: ‘I am a man; I will not.’"

  2. 4 out of 5

    Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂

    4.5★ This book is only part of a series in Goodreadsland. Lady Stewart quite clearly wrote this novel as a standalone - she just revisited a legendary world she loved. So a part of this story runs parallel to . And some characters are realised slightly differently, most notably Nimuë in this reinterpretation of a well known legend. But once you readjust your expectations, this is a cracking tale. Morgause remains evil - people don't have to wrong her to get bumped off and her intere 4.5★ This book is only part of a series in Goodreadsland. Lady Stewart quite clearly wrote this novel as a standalone - she just revisited a legendary world she loved. So a part of this story runs parallel to . And some characters are realised slightly differently, most notably Nimuë in this reinterpretation of a well known legend. But once you readjust your expectations, this is a cracking tale. Morgause remains evil - people don't have to wrong her to get bumped off and her interest in her sons is, at best, capricious. The damage Morgause does to her four sons by Lot is enormous and well shown by Stewart. When Mordred becomes part of Morgause's world his instincts help to keep him safe - for a time. Once Mordred is also part of his father's world his destiny is inevitable - although (view spoiler)[ Nimuë does try to avert it. (hide spoiler)] The Mordred from the BBC TV series Merlin by coincidence looked like the Mordred in my head; That expression of watchfulness - this is also Stewart's Mordred! But there are a few time lapse sequences that didn't work so well for me and in spite of my great enjoyment of this book, because of this the third part of the book didn't read so well. Minor flaws and this book only misses 5★ by the narrowest of margins

  3. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    4.5 stars “The wicked day of destiny,” as Malory calls it, is the day when Arthur’s final battle was fought at Camlann. In this battle, we are told, “Arthur and Medraut fell.” (from the author’s notes provided at the end of this book). This is what we know of Mordred, and the subsequent legend has painted him to be a cunning and selfish bastard, who rose against his father, Arthur, and in an attempt to seize his kingdom brought them both low. What if he were none of those things? What if he were c 4.5 stars “The wicked day of destiny,” as Malory calls it, is the day when Arthur’s final battle was fought at Camlann. In this battle, we are told, “Arthur and Medraut fell.” (from the author’s notes provided at the end of this book). This is what we know of Mordred, and the subsequent legend has painted him to be a cunning and selfish bastard, who rose against his father, Arthur, and in an attempt to seize his kingdom brought them both low. What if he were none of those things? What if he were caught in this destiny foretold by Merlin in the same way that Arthur is caught in it? What if he were a man with faults and strengths? This, indeed, is the logical truth of this story, and this is Mordred Mary Stewart gives us. In The Wicked Day, Stewart does for Mordred what she did for Merlin in the trilogy, she humanizes him. She is so skilled at opening up a legend and finding a man, at filling the gaps of the story in a way that make you nod your head and agree, “it might have been like this,” that she takes my breath away. I am always tempted to say that this novel does not achieve the heights of the trilogy, but that is because I am too enamoured of Merlin, whose character touches the very soul of me. An unfair comparison, because Mordred is not Merlin and his story cannot ever offer the same kind of richness, no matter whose hands you might put it into. What Stewart is able to do with this novel is every bit as amazing, for she turns a legend on its head without deviating from its particulars one iota. When Arthur fathers Mordred, Merlin tells him he has simply set the lengths of his life and the time of his death. But those are things that come to all men. Life and death are always planted in the same seed, we mortals just fail to look at it that way. When Mordred seeks to find Merlin and undo the curse he feels is upon him, this is what he finds: ”What he had seen as a cursed fate, foreseen with grief by Merlin and twisted into evil by Morgause, dwindled in this world of clear water and lighted mist into its proper form. It was not even a curse. It was a fact, something due to happen in the future, that had been seen by an eye doomed to foresee, whatever the pain of that Seeing. It would come, yes, but only as, soon or late, all deaths came. He, Mordred, was not the instrument of a blind and brutal fate, but of whatever, whoever, made the pattern to which the world moved. Live what life brings; die what death comes. He did not see the comfort even as cold.” The trick in life might be to live the life we are given as completely and as well as we can, and what others may say about us when we are gone may not matter as much as we think it does.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Lady Clementina ffinch-ffarowmore

    The Wicked Day explores the story of Mordred—prophesized to bring doom to Arthur. Mordred in this version is certainly an ambitious young man but not a ‘villain’ or evil as (Stewart herself notes) other accounts may have made him out to be, but instead perhaps a victim of circumstances. Mordred is sensible and level-headed—very different from his half-brothers, who are inclined to fly off the handle. The other Arthur book I read earlier this year was for younger readers, where although the chara The Wicked Day explores the story of Mordred—prophesized to bring doom to Arthur. Mordred in this version is certainly an ambitious young man but not a ‘villain’ or evil as (Stewart herself notes) other accounts may have made him out to be, but instead perhaps a victim of circumstances. Mordred is sensible and level-headed—very different from his half-brothers, who are inclined to fly off the handle. The other Arthur book I read earlier this year was for younger readers, where although the characters were presented as human with their fair share of flaws, they come across as far more heroic (closer to the brave knights of fairy tales). This, however, has them with all their shades—not just black and white—but all their insecurities, emotions, ambitions, treachery, and follies as much as the more positive shades of their characters coming through. Gwaine rather surprised me towards the end, when we see a side of him that one didn’t quite expect. This was a well written and very engaging read. This was my first Mary Stewart and I’m looking forward to reading more of her books.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Nicky

    Arrrghhh, this book! Okay, on the good side: Stewart knew the Arthurian material well and handled it with confidence, often bringing in small details in ways which were a delight to spot (but which didn’t particularly harm the narrative if you didn’t spot them). And it’s an interesting take on Mordred: a loyal son to Arthur, once he knows about it, taking up much the same sort of relationship as between Merlin and Ambrosius, or Arthur and Merlin. His emotions are for the most part really well do Arrrghhh, this book! Okay, on the good side: Stewart knew the Arthurian material well and handled it with confidence, often bringing in small details in ways which were a delight to spot (but which didn’t particularly harm the narrative if you didn’t spot them). And it’s an interesting take on Mordred: a loyal son to Arthur, once he knows about it, taking up much the same sort of relationship as between Merlin and Ambrosius, or Arthur and Merlin. His emotions are for the most part really well done: his ambition, his determination, how he fights against his fate and ultimately serves it. But. Arthur. In the last quarter or so of The Wicked Day, Stewart breaks her entire previous characterisation for Arthur. He becomes irrational, forgets who he can trust, takes advice from the wrong people — ignores the advice of people like Nimue, whose power comes from Merlin. He forgets what’s important — forgets important plans that he made — and just gives way to suspicion and slander. He endangers everything, and for what? For suspicions that just chapters before he knew were unfounded. The way I read it, Stewart broke her own story’s backbone by insisting that everyone (except the women) remain blameless. She didn’t want to blame Arthur or Mordred or Bedwyr, so she palmed some of it off on Gawain’s rash nature, some of it on Mordred’s latent ambition, and… some on Arthur being an idiot in ways he hasn’t been at any other point in the series. She couldn’t resist heaping calumny on the women: Morgause committed incest knowingly with her brother, and then wanted to commit incest again with the son born of that union. What the hell? The other books well-established Stewart’s near-inability to handle the women of the Arthurian mythos (more surprising given the relatively active and capable heroines of her mystery/romances), but this is just… desperate. It reeks of pushing everything off onto the female characters, but she had to do it because she decided that it “didn’t make sense” for Mordred and Arthur to do things they do in some branches of the mythos — in some kind of wrong-headed attempt to marry it all together, or to follow the example of others (cough, Malory) who didn’t manage to bring it all together. It just won’t go. And I can kind of get it. I did enjoy the little references I noticed, for example to other sons of Arthur. We want to admire the Arthurian heroes, and we want the best of all of them: the just and strong king, the heroic seneschal, etc, etc. (And I was badly served in this, since Gawain is an impetuous idiot given to murder in this version, and also my favourite knight in the general mythology.) But Stewart tried to get everyone out ‘alive’, or at least their reputations (few of them actually survive, which is kind of a relief given the contortions she went through in The Last Enchantment to keep Merlin alive), and that… doesn’t work. It’s so frustrating, partially because I get the impulse, and I liked the relationship between Arthur and Mordred here. The treatment of women aside, I quite enjoyed the first three quarters, or even four-fifths. But. But. Stewart broke her own story and characterisation because she couldn’t make a hard decision, as far as I can see, and the story is critically weakened by it. Originally posted here.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Obsidian

    Holy moly this was bad. I lost any sense of interest in this book about 1/3 of the way through. I think that Stewart did the best she could. She wanted to keep the legend of Arthur and his Round Table on point as much as possible. However, the characterizations in this whole book were off for me. Arthur pretty much is not that smart. Mordred is just misunderstood. And Guinevere is not bright at all, and is only wanted by every man it seems due to her beauty. I don't read any of Marion Zimmer Bra Holy moly this was bad. I lost any sense of interest in this book about 1/3 of the way through. I think that Stewart did the best she could. She wanted to keep the legend of Arthur and his Round Table on point as much as possible. However, the characterizations in this whole book were off for me. Arthur pretty much is not that smart. Mordred is just misunderstood. And Guinevere is not bright at all, and is only wanted by every man it seems due to her beauty. I don't read any of Marion Zimmer Bradley's books anymore, but I still like her look at the King Arthur legend much better than this series because she ties things up a lot better by looking at the growing conflict between the pagan religions and the growing spread of Christianity. She also managed to make every woman and man in the story three dimensional. The Wicked Day follows a lot of Mallory's story about the final days of Camelot. Unlike with previous books I just found myself bored since I have read the poems and other books about it. I was hoping for a different spin, but besides a few details that Stewart changes here and there, everything is the same. I think the thing that threw me a lot though is that this book was more detached than the other three. I think not having Merlin as a narrator in this one hurt the book. I didn't get a true sense of anyone this time through. As I already said, everyone felt very one dimensional to me. No one had a brain in their head either. Morgause and others who have been causing problems in the last two books are pretty much done away or put aside in a few sentences or two. I think the ending was supposed to have me feel pity for Mordred, but I didn't. We just have him laying with a fatal wound knowing that his father was being taken away to be healed. Considering that he was doing what he could to be crowned king and to take Guinevere as his wife I felt meh towards the guy. I think what gets me is that Mordred falls in "love" with Guinevere and Stewart makes it that he is doing everything he can to have her. I hate story-lines that have it that some poor man had his head turned by a woman and if not for that maybe Mordred could have been a good person.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    So, this was the last book of four and I must say thoroughly enjoyed them. An epic telling of the Arthur saga if ever there is one. I would give 5* to the series as a whole if this was possible, but as individual books tend more to lean to a very solid 4* for each. All books written with a wonderful descriptive style that keeps the reader enthralled from beginning to end. What I liked about this last book which rounds off the story was the slant given to Modred. In the first three books we learn So, this was the last book of four and I must say thoroughly enjoyed them. An epic telling of the Arthur saga if ever there is one. I would give 5* to the series as a whole if this was possible, but as individual books tend more to lean to a very solid 4* for each. All books written with a wonderful descriptive style that keeps the reader enthralled from beginning to end. What I liked about this last book which rounds off the story was the slant given to Modred. In the first three books we learn very little of Mordred apart from Merlin's prophecies and his mother's (Morgaus), treachery. Giving the reader the impression all the time that Mordred will be the typical evil hand of his mother as in most Arthur stories. However, here we learn another story and to be honest a much more believable one. This book is almost dedicated to Mordred's rise and fall which is also inextricably connected to his father's as well. Mordred I found to be quite likeable and at times even felt sorry for him. He is more a victim of circumstances and conspiracies happening around him and while trying to keep the peace on all sides falls foul of Arthur's vengeance due to a number of falsehoods that are reported to Arthur. Therefore, Mordred finds himself in a catch 22 situation. Be damned if you do, be damned if you don't. He is not totally innocent and without fault, but his ambitions leads him to make several several misjudgements, but possibly quite unintentional. Although he proves himself to be a just and able ruler in his own right and indeed had a big following. Then there is Arthur. Relatively old Arthur, set in his ways and not being able to relinquish his power. As a ruler he should really now step down for newer, fresher ideas from a younger man for a younger generation. Not really being in touch with the mood of his people and those he leads. Therefore two worlds collide which leads to the inevitable end of a father and son face-off which no one wins and both end up dead. The normal end to the Arthur saga. If you like Arthur stories then this series definitely belongs to the "a must read" category.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Wayne Barrett

    What a great culmination to the series. i love the way Mary Stewart portrays Mordred in this version. I don't want to give too much away but don't expect the bad guy--traitor of Arthur we have so come to accept. This is a re-read and I still consider it a fantastic series.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Sotiris Karaiskos

    Leaving back the story of Merlin, the author leads us to the story behind the ultimate and fatal battle that is the epitome of King Arthur's history. This story is followed through the look of Mordred, who has the role of the bad guy in the whole affair. The author, however, follows a different approach presenting him to have much more complex motivations. By watching him from childhood to the end, we see a man who wants to do the right thing, is sensitive to injustice, has logical thinking, and Leaving back the story of Merlin, the author leads us to the story behind the ultimate and fatal battle that is the epitome of King Arthur's history. This story is followed through the look of Mordred, who has the role of the bad guy in the whole affair. The author, however, follows a different approach presenting him to have much more complex motivations. By watching him from childhood to the end, we see a man who wants to do the right thing, is sensitive to injustice, has logical thinking, and can control his impulses, is willing to change these things that have been stagnant and is in spite of his aspirations a positive person that the gradual revelation of his origins does not make him change to the worst. Fate, however, is playing him a nasty game as enemies multiply and his allies are driven by their impulse, causing chaotic situations. The climax of course is his conflict with Arthur, but the author chooses to present it as a result of misunderstandings and unfortunate coincidences.  It is certainly quite interesting to introduce a different version of the final conflict, with the author putting us in a very nice way at Mordred's position, showing us how he perceives things, and so many questions arise on issues of justice and the inevitability of human fate, but in some places there is no such interest. The ultimate battle, for example, certainly is not written in a particularly fascinating way, while the constant search for coincedences to justify the course to it does not bring the best results. So, in a few words, what I'm saying is that it's definitely a pretty interesting book, but the problem is that it does not provide the necessary peak in the story in the way it should do it. Αφήνοντας πίσω την ιστορία του Μέρλιν η συγγραφέας μας οδηγεί στην ιστορία πίσω από την τελική και μοιραία μάχη που αποτελεί τον επίλογο όλης της ιστορίας του βασιλιά Αρθούρου. Αυτή την ιστορία την παρακολουθούμε μέσα από την ματιά του Μόρντρεντ, αυτού δηλαδή που έχει το ρόλο του κακού σε όλη την υπόθεση. Η συγγραφέας, όμως, ακολουθεί μία διαφορετική προσέγγιση παρουσιάζοντας να έχει πολύ πιο πολύπλοκα κίνητρα. Παρακολουθώντας τον από την παιδική ηλικία μέχρι το τέλος, βλέπουμε έναν άνθρωπο που επιθυμεί να κάνει το σωστό, είναι ευαίσθητος απέναντι στην αδικία, έχει λογική σκέψη και μπορεί να ελέγχει τις παρορμήσεις του, έχει διάθεση να αλλάξει αυτά τα πράγματα που έχουν μείνει στάσιμα και είναι γενικότερα παρά τις φιλοδοξίες του ένα θετικό άτομο που η σταδιακή αποκάλυψη της καταγωγής του δεν τον κάνει να αλλάξει προς το χειρότερο. Η μοίρα, όμως, του παίζει άσχημο παιχνίδι καθώς οι εχθροί πολλαπλασιάζονται και οι σύμμαχοί του παρασύρονται από την παρορμητικότητα τους προκαλώντας χαοτικές καταστάσεις. Το αποκορύφωμα που είναι φυσικά η σύγκρουση του με τον Αρθούρο που όμως η συγγραφέας επιλέγει να την παρουσιάσει ως αποτέλεσμα παρεξηγήσεων και ατυχών συμπτώσεων. Σίγουρα είναι αρκετά ενδιαφέρουσα η ιδέα της παρουσίασης μιας διαφορετικής εκδοχής της τελικής σύγκρουσης, με τη συγγραφέα να μας βάζει με πολύ ωραίο τρόπο στη θέση του Μόρντρεντ, δείχνοντάς μας πώς ο ίδιος αντιλαμβάνεται ότι συμβαίνει, με αποτέλεσμα να προκύπτουν και αρκετά ερωτήματα σε ζητήματα δικαιοσύνης και στο αναπόφευκτο της ανθρώπινης μοίρας, σε κάποια σημεία, όμως, δεν υπάρχει το ανάλογο ενδιαφέρον. Η τελική μάχη, για παράδειγμα, σίγουρα δεν παρουσιάζεται με ιδιαίτερα συναρπαστικό τρόπο ενώ η συνεχής αναζήτηση συμπτώσεων για να δικαιολογηθεί η πορεία προς αυτήν δεν φέρνει τα καλύτερα αποτελέσματα. Οπότε με λίγα λόγια αυτό που θέλω να πω είναι ότι σίγουρα πρόκειται για ένα αρκετά ενδιαφέρον βιβλίο αλλά το πρόβλημα είναι ότι δεν προσφέρει την απαραίτητη κορύφωση στην ιστορία με τον τρόπο που θα έπρεπε να το κάνει.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Mary-Jean Harris

    This was one of the best books ever! It was just enchanting, and yes, it was a "wicked day" at the end, but I expected that, and although the last chapter was rather dismal, I found that the beauty of the last paragraph of the epilogue made up for it. The characters were all well crafted and intriguing. Even the characters just introduced in this book, like Mordred and the Orkney boys, were so fun to follow. And building on Arthur and Morgause from previous books was great too, because you can re This was one of the best books ever! It was just enchanting, and yes, it was a "wicked day" at the end, but I expected that, and although the last chapter was rather dismal, I found that the beauty of the last paragraph of the epilogue made up for it. The characters were all well crafted and intriguing. Even the characters just introduced in this book, like Mordred and the Orkney boys, were so fun to follow. And building on Arthur and Morgause from previous books was great too, because you can really see how they've evolved (for better or worse) and yet they are still very much the same. I loved Mordred, and he was very believable, and despite his over-ambition, he never ceased being a good character, who means well, even if he is naturally inclined to do anything to rule and try to (subtly) get Guinevere for himself. But it wasn't in a bad way--he wasn't the villain that he is crafted as in other books. It really is ambition as opposed to malicious intent. It was beautiful this was introduced, because when he was young, living as a fisherman's boy when he didn't know he was really the high king's son, he would watch the far off Orkney castle and wish to be there, feeling as though he belonged there and had some nobler destiny. I found Arthur's actions not very believable near the end, but it kept the story true to the legends. In the author's note, Mary Stewart tells us about some of her sources and the stories from Thomas Mallory's Le Morte d'Arthur: King Arthur and the Legends of the Round Table. I didn't read Mallory's book(I tried, but the old English was unbearable!) but it was neat to see what aligned with Mary Stewart's story and what she expanded on. I liked Nimue's role in the story, even though it wasn't large, because you just saw here in flashes in certain scenes, glimpses of prophecy and magic sprinkled like fairy dust. I would have liked to see Merlin again, but as Nimue said, she "is" Merlin (has his memories etc.) But Merlin isn't dead yet (as we saw from the previous book) so what was he doing anyways? I found a lot of what the Orkney boys did was very frustrating (like, ahem, killing people, enemies and fellow knights alike), but it was almost inevitable, the way they were brought up. So this again is Morgause's fault really. I still liked the boys' characters, and I was so sad when Gareth died (this isn't a spoiler, since it happens in every Arthurian tale), even though I knew it was going to happen, because he was really the only one who came out good in the end. So all in all, this was an amazing story and I'm sad that I've finished the series! However, there is another related book called The Prince and the Pilgrim that Mary Stewart wrote, so I'll have to read that next.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Terence

    The Wicked Day is the final volume in Mary Stewart’s Arthurian saga, which began with The Crystal Cave. Unlike the first three books in the series, where Merlin is the first-person narrator, The Wicked Day is told in the third person but focuses on the life of Mordred, Arthur’s illegitimate son, born of his incestuous tryst with his half-sister Morgause. In Stewart’s vision of Arthur’s Britain, he and his son are hapless pawns in a tragic fate that neither desire. It would make for a great story The Wicked Day is the final volume in Mary Stewart’s Arthurian saga, which began with The Crystal Cave. Unlike the first three books in the series, where Merlin is the first-person narrator, The Wicked Day is told in the third person but focuses on the life of Mordred, Arthur’s illegitimate son, born of his incestuous tryst with his half-sister Morgause. In Stewart’s vision of Arthur’s Britain, he and his son are hapless pawns in a tragic fate that neither desire. It would make for a great story – two decent, well-meaning men who love and admire each other but who cannot overcome circumstance and find themselves mortal enemies. And in Stewart’s hands it’s a decent enough story but it lacks any passion. That – in retrospect – is the problem with the entire series. Only rarely did I feel any emotional connection to the characters. Even in this book, where you might expect a more direct connection to events, so much happens that is mere reportage. The first third, the best part, recounts Mordred’s life as a foster child, unknowing of his heritage, in a fisherman’s hut in the Orkneys. When he’s of age, Morgause plucks him from obscurity to raise him in her court, and we get a sense of how the later man developed. But then we get to the later sections and it’s "well, several years pass, and Mordred ...." And the ending feels rushed, as if the author crammed into the last 100 pages the equivalent of all the material she had lingered over in the first three books. I want pathos in my tragedies. I want to feel the agony of Arthur, Guinevere and Bedwyr’s love; the friendship between Arthur and his son; the despair when, despite all, Arthur’s dreams collapse in bloody ruin. I wanted the entire book (the entire series) to read like Merlin’s visions on Bryn Myrddin or Mordred’s as he lay dying at Camlann: Then the rain, and the creak of rowlocks, and the sound of women’s weeping fading into the lapping of the lake water and the hiss of the rain falling. His cheek was on a cushion of thyme. The rain had washed the blood away, and the thyme smelled sweetly of summer. The waves lapped. The oars creaked. The seabirds cried. A porpoise rolled, sleek in the sun. Away on the horizon he could see the golden edge of the kingdom where, since he was a small child, he had always longed to go. (pp. 404-5) But it wasn’t there. I still like the books enough to recommend them to readers interested in Arthurian mythology, if no one else. I’ve always liked the Mordred character and Stewart creates a plausibly good-but-flawed man in her version. And she writes luscious, vivid descriptions of place and people when she has a mind to.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Lori

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. The Wicked Day is a wonderful addition to Mary Stewart's Arthurian trilogy. The strength of this book is in Mary Stewart's depiction of Mordred as an intelligent young man who tries very hard to escape his fate. Told with the same interesting and exciting narration that I have come to expect from Stewart, this tale completely satisfied this Arthurian enthusiast. I have far too many passages marked to include in this review but if you will indulge me, you will see how skillfully Stewart paints wit The Wicked Day is a wonderful addition to Mary Stewart's Arthurian trilogy. The strength of this book is in Mary Stewart's depiction of Mordred as an intelligent young man who tries very hard to escape his fate. Told with the same interesting and exciting narration that I have come to expect from Stewart, this tale completely satisfied this Arthurian enthusiast. I have far too many passages marked to include in this review but if you will indulge me, you will see how skillfully Stewart paints with words: "He ran along the track, his heart still beating high. The sun came up, and long shadows streamed away ahead of him. The night's dew shivered and steamed on the fine grasses, on the rushes smoothed by the light wind, till the whole landscape thrilled and shimmered with light, a softer repetition of the endless, achingly bright shimmer of the sea. Overhead, the clouds wisped back, and the air filled with singing as the larks launched themselves from their nests in the heather. The air rippled with song as the land with light. Soon he reached the summit of the moor, and before him stretched the long, gentle slope towards the cliffs, and beyond them again the endless, shining sea." I love Stewart's versatility as an author! She places me in a picturesque setting then just as easily sends a shiver up my spine: "So, in mutual trust, they talked, while the night wore away, and the future seemed set as fair behind the clouded present as the dawn that slowly glided the sea's edge beyond the windows. If Morgause's ghost had drifted across the chamber in the hazy light and whispered to them of the doom foretold so many years ago, they would have laughed, and watched for the phantasm to blow away on their laughter. . . ." I highly recommend this fourth book in Mary Stewart's Arthurian Saga! After reading this offering I am convinced that Stewart loved Arthurian Legend but also had a profound love of British history!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Katy

    I like Stewart's retelling of Arthur & Mordred's story. We now the sad ending. I enjoy her inclusion of the Legends and her reasons for telling the story as she did. I like Stewart's retelling of Arthur & Mordred's story. We now the sad ending. I enjoy her inclusion of the Legends and her reasons for telling the story as she did.

  14. 5 out of 5

    M.L.

    I did enjoy this book, though not as much as its predecessors in the series. Stewart's writing is fabulously descriptive, and it is easy to get lost in the the world she builds. However, as with the other books, the women were not really characters, either being tools for the narrative or hyper-sexual 'witches'. There are, however, a few exploratory moments of understanding from Mordred, when he attempts to see things from Guinevere's POV. This book was an interesting twist on Arthur's fall, tho I did enjoy this book, though not as much as its predecessors in the series. Stewart's writing is fabulously descriptive, and it is easy to get lost in the the world she builds. However, as with the other books, the women were not really characters, either being tools for the narrative or hyper-sexual 'witches'. There are, however, a few exploratory moments of understanding from Mordred, when he attempts to see things from Guinevere's POV. This book was an interesting twist on Arthur's fall, though towards the end I did feel as if the author was shoehorning too many plot points from random POVs in order to attain the narrative of nobody being at fault. There was also a lot of 'head hopping', as well as omnipresent narration, with references to the previous three novels, which made it read as less of a stand-alone, and also interrupted what was meant to be Mordred's account of events.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jeanette

    This book #4 surpasses with intriguing conflicts and real eye to eye oppositions - far more than #2 or #3. It was much easier to read than the middle two books of the tale of Arthur, as it held far less of the magical and mystic semi-conscious states of Merlin's "eyes". This one was from a Mordred lens instead, the only one of the 4 books that comprise the Arthurian Saga that doesn't hold Merlin as the narrator. Evil people, power mongers galore, and the spirit of the beginning times of knighthoo This book #4 surpasses with intriguing conflicts and real eye to eye oppositions - far more than #2 or #3. It was much easier to read than the middle two books of the tale of Arthur, as it held far less of the magical and mystic semi-conscious states of Merlin's "eyes". This one was from a Mordred lens instead, the only one of the 4 books that comprise the Arthurian Saga that doesn't hold Merlin as the narrator. Evil people, power mongers galore, and the spirit of the beginning times of knighthood and mounted and armored small kingdoms dominating. Also within those Round Table times which bridged the older gods crossing with Christianity not dogma held. The story of Mordred's biological mother was to me fully exposed in every niche of conspiring abilities and paths most practiced here. Morgause's tale is mesmerizing, IMHO. Mordred placements in more than just a few happenstance occasions nearly an unattainable crux pivot to any possibility to peace or wholeness. Arthur seems all the more prime King. And the tales of his followers and adversaries rift with karma and sublime ironies. Excellent read, beautiful prose.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Linda Orvis

    Mary Stewart wrote the quintessential Merlin/Arthur legends. I've read all the Arthur books I could find, from Le Morte Darthur, John Steinbeck's try at it (The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights) to Lawhead. Nothing written can stack up to Stewart's obvious background of the history of the British Isles, and her love for the land. She breathes life into these legendary characters and makes them hers. To prove their excellence--you can still buy the four books of the series in bookstores.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Donihue

    This fourth book in the Arthurian Saga series followes the life and exploits of Mordred, Arthur's son. This book approaches its subject matter from a considered and unique perspective. All the other versions of the story that I've read or watched have portrayed the incestuously begotten Mordred as thoroughly villainous. He is often shown as mentally disturbed - sometimes even as physically misshapen - and the reasons for his treachery are shallow, if they are given at all. Ms Stewart, on the oth This fourth book in the Arthurian Saga series followes the life and exploits of Mordred, Arthur's son. This book approaches its subject matter from a considered and unique perspective. All the other versions of the story that I've read or watched have portrayed the incestuously begotten Mordred as thoroughly villainous. He is often shown as mentally disturbed - sometimes even as physically misshapen - and the reasons for his treachery are shallow, if they are given at all. Ms Stewart, on the other hand, takes a more mature and considered approach. She paints a picture of a young boy who is raised as an orphan by a kindly couple in a small fishing village. He is raised with integrity and compassion and, when he is finally thrust into court life by his mother, he is well suited to the challenge. Far from being Arthur's arch enemy, when he is told of the prophesy that he will be his father's downfall, he does his best to avoid the fate and even considers suicide as a way to thwart the will of the gods. This is, by far, the best version of the tale of Mordred that I've ever seen. Like all the other books in this series, Ms Stewart is fastidiously detailed in her account and, unlike any other version that I've read, she presents Mordred as a real person with real feelings and psychological turmoil. Even if all the other books in the series had been mediocre, which they weren't, reading them would have been worthwhile just to get the backstory before reading this masterpiece.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Bobbie

    I loved this retelling, from a very different view, of the King Arthur and Mordred story. I found this book almost more absorbing than Mary Stewart's original Merlin trilogy. I especially like how the author gave the details of the legend at the end of each book, as well as the few historical facts that are known or believed. I have always been fascinated by the King Arthur legend and found this book particularly compelling.

  19. 4 out of 5

    debbicat

    Wow! Just wow. Full review to follow!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Gill

    I did not read this as a historical treatise nor do I want to dwell on the academic veracity of the story. At the end of the book there is a section "The Legend" which summarises the relevant parts of Geoffrey of Monmouth's 12th century 'History of the Kings of Britain' & Malory's 'Le Morte d'Arthur' of the 15th century. The subsequent author's note and the table of known historical dates makes clear the viewpoint of the author from which this tail-note to her Merlin trilogy was written. I found I did not read this as a historical treatise nor do I want to dwell on the academic veracity of the story. At the end of the book there is a section "The Legend" which summarises the relevant parts of Geoffrey of Monmouth's 12th century 'History of the Kings of Britain' & Malory's 'Le Morte d'Arthur' of the 15th century. The subsequent author's note and the table of known historical dates makes clear the viewpoint of the author from which this tail-note to her Merlin trilogy was written. I found it strange how polarised the reviews of this book are - from the large number who love it and found it a fulfilling and moving story, to the large number who were bored by it and thoroughly disliked the central character painted by Mary Stewart. From my star rating you can see I fall squarely in the first camp. I read this book over a very few days, neglecting essential jobs, and reading in every spare moment I could muster. I have read at least one of the trilogy, perhaps all of them over the years, but none evoked such strong emotional responses nor lodged themselves so firmly in my memory as this one has. I feel Stewart has used the known historical background, and woven from it her own legend of a plausible Mordred with whom I can entirely empathise. Geoffrey of Monmouth's postscript to the life of Mordred in terms of Constantine's subsequent actions, for me reinforces the tragic nature of the whole, the way the foreseen doom would twist the intentions of good men. Nimüe's last words to Arthur, given with the authoritative ring of Merlin's voice, echo on for me, as a warning we would all do well to heed.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    The book that made me realize how much I liked Mordred, and how much it would suck to be him.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Daniel

    This novel stands alone, though the fourth in truth. With so many intricate characters sharing the pages with their own perspectives, the read is a speedy and knowledgable one. Much awareness of the occurring accounts, from separate sides in war even, the fortunate reader has. So begins early in the novel and is somewhat a cause to deter, though this could be due to its incredibly jarring dissimilar writing style as the previous trilogy? Mordred as a lad is approached by the Orkney Queen Morgause This novel stands alone, though the fourth in truth. With so many intricate characters sharing the pages with their own perspectives, the read is a speedy and knowledgable one. Much awareness of the occurring accounts, from separate sides in war even, the fortunate reader has. So begins early in the novel and is somewhat a cause to deter, though this could be due to its incredibly jarring dissimilar writing style as the previous trilogy? Mordred as a lad is approached by the Orkney Queen Morgause, known witch, and how she charms him to his love for her, we the reader are blessed with the knowledge of her sinisterness. No open ends, peace but mostly war, gruesome and inhuman acts of brutish instinct, deep personal flaws, bravery and nobility, and an ensemble of characters are intertwined (and fun because intertwined through the previous trilogy as well, some). Like before books, this story takes place over a long period, decades, and to know people and watch them grow up from youth to men is an experience. But watching these men become grown men from young men, no longer changing much physically, but changing much from circumstance of war or other ailments, is powerful. There is a hint of truth behind the methods of living these people had, and perhaps its royal living, but (sinisterness aside) allies and enemies alike either spoke or acted with such brute honesty so unlike our own. It may add cleverly the aura of the fantasy world, but it certainly appeals to me, and I yearn for the tongue to speak simply, truthfully, and precise as eloquently as in this novel.

  23. 5 out of 5

    SusanwithaGoodBook

    This is the culmination of the Arthur series (although Stewart wrote one more Arthur-themed book) and it's a terrific way to finish the tale. Whereas the first three books were told from Merlin's point of view, this one switches to that of Arthur's son Mordred. If you're at all familiar with Arthur you know that Mordred is decidedly a villain in the story as you know it. Stewart twists that tale on its head and gives you a completely different way to look at this complicated character. All of th This is the culmination of the Arthur series (although Stewart wrote one more Arthur-themed book) and it's a terrific way to finish the tale. Whereas the first three books were told from Merlin's point of view, this one switches to that of Arthur's son Mordred. If you're at all familiar with Arthur you know that Mordred is decidedly a villain in the story as you know it. Stewart twists that tale on its head and gives you a completely different way to look at this complicated character. All of the twists and turns you expect are there and MUCH more. The only reason I might take way half a star is that it did drag a bit in the middle. Still, it's well worth reading just for the absolutely unique way Stewart looks at the tale, and the story certainly isn't complete without this final chapter. I'm moving on to the last Arthurian book Stewart wrote, but I know that it takes place somewhere in the middle of the events of the other books. I'm really looking forward to seeing what she does with those tiny bits of lesser known legends.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Camille

    3.5/5 A random thing that I noticed: "Bedwyr, still with the gentleness that Mordred would never have suspected in him, said, half to himself: 'She has a lovely face. God give her rest.'" This reminded me of the ending of the poem "The Lady of Shalott" by Alfred Tennyson: "Lancelot mused a little space; He said, 'She has a lovely face; God in his mercy lend her grace, The Lady of Shalott.'" Not to mention, the lady in the book is named Elen while the lady from the poem is supposed to be, I think, named 3.5/5 A random thing that I noticed: "Bedwyr, still with the gentleness that Mordred would never have suspected in him, said, half to himself: 'She has a lovely face. God give her rest.'" This reminded me of the ending of the poem "The Lady of Shalott" by Alfred Tennyson: "Lancelot mused a little space; He said, 'She has a lovely face; God in his mercy lend her grace, The Lady of Shalott.'" Not to mention, the lady in the book is named Elen while the lady from the poem is supposed to be, I think, named Elaine. Coincidence? I think NOT!

  25. 4 out of 5

    Benjamin Thomas

    The Wicked Day is the fourth and final book in Mary Stewart's "Arthurian Saga". It's sort of interesting that the first three books are referred to as "The Merlin Trilogy" but when the fourth book is added it becomes "The Arthurian Saga". This time, Ms Stewart applies her considerable talents to the story of Mordred, telling the entire story from his birth, through his growing up, and to its inevitable conclusion. This has to be one of the most difficult things to do in fiction writing. Take a w The Wicked Day is the fourth and final book in Mary Stewart's "Arthurian Saga". It's sort of interesting that the first three books are referred to as "The Merlin Trilogy" but when the fourth book is added it becomes "The Arthurian Saga". This time, Ms Stewart applies her considerable talents to the story of Mordred, telling the entire story from his birth, through his growing up, and to its inevitable conclusion. This has to be one of the most difficult things to do in fiction writing. Take a well established character in one of the most well-known and oft-written epic stories in history, forever acknowledged as the villain of the piece, and craft a story with him as the protagonist. Marion Zimmer Bradley did something very similar in The Mists of Avalon but even then, the character of Morgan isn't, I believe, as universally hated as is Mordred. But I must say, Ms Stewart pulls it off in fine style. As the protagonist, Mordred's story is told from his point of view and is thus sympathetic towards that point of view. He comes across as a very sympathetic character; I kept pulling for him even as I knew what the ending had to be. In fact, Mordred is well liked, even loved by most of the other characters, and it isn't until near the end that his point of view starts to diverge from Arthur's. There is no "evil" nature to this man; what might be construed as ambition seems very naturally to have arisen from his mother, Morgause, Arthur's half sister and most definitely the real villain in Mary Stewart's saga. And even in the end, it is a mistake, a misunderstanding of what is really happening that leads to Mordred's and Arthur's final battle. I found it very interesting to read the appendix and the Author's note at the end of the book where the "real" legend is briefly retold from the actual text of both Geoffrey of Monmouth's History of the King's of England and Sir Thomas Mallory's Le Morte D'Arthur. Apparently, Mordred was not originally presented as a villainous person; that arose later as countless retellings diffused the original versions. I am very pleased to have read this set of four books. I had always heard that they were among the very best of the modern versions of the Arthurian/Merlin tales and am happy to add my agreement.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Tinika

    Mary Stewart has a magical touch when bringing the Arthurian legends to life. Her Crystal Cave is a classic and I read that and The Hollow Hills several times during the 1970s. It is my loss that I had not read The Wicked Day before now. (In my defence, it had not yet been published when I was infatuated with the others in the series.) The Wicked Day brings the tale of Arthur to a close. Ms Stewart has made her viewpoint that of Mordred, the illegitimate son of Arthur by his half-sister Morgause. Mary Stewart has a magical touch when bringing the Arthurian legends to life. Her Crystal Cave is a classic and I read that and The Hollow Hills several times during the 1970s. It is my loss that I had not read The Wicked Day before now. (In my defence, it had not yet been published when I was infatuated with the others in the series.) The Wicked Day brings the tale of Arthur to a close. Ms Stewart has made her viewpoint that of Mordred, the illegitimate son of Arthur by his half-sister Morgause. Prophesied to be “the bane of Arthur,” Mordred is raised in secret in the far Orkney Islands and presented to his father as a young man. He is the villain in many of the legends and the author sets out to redeem him here by offering up an alternative interpretation for his actions. In this version of the tale, the proud, ambitious young man is mistakenly believed to be a traitor when he is nothing of the sort. The tragic battle where King and protagonist meet their end, the wicked day, is all caused by a misunderstanding, nothing more. The problem with this book lies primarily with the source materials to which the author is trying to remain true; they are inconsistent. (Ms Stewart calls the problem “absurdities.”) The old magic is best served in the interactions between Mordred and his half-brothers, the sons of Morgause and King Lot. I was as rapt here as I was with the earlier books in the series. The Sir Gawain presented is not the chivalrous champion that the stories of The Green Knight and Dame Ragnelle might suggest but more in keeping with the wild, adventurous semi-barbarian from the back of beyond he would more likely have been. His brothers are even worse, hot-headed and spoiling for a fight yet accurately fit the legends. Even the evil, scheming Morgause character is true to the stories handed down. Against all of this, the simple misunderstanding between Arthur and Mordred seems stretched.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Cass

    Earlier I commented that Mordred's head, even painted as sympathetically as Stewart does, wasn't a comfortable place to stay for long. I think I know now what Lewis was talking about when he said that writing his Screwtape Letters gave his mind cramps; I think my heart's got a few new knots to be untangled thanks to this book. Don't get me wrong--the style is not bad (though not, I would venture, on the same level of beauty as the Merlin trilogy). And its not even that Mordred himself is particu Earlier I commented that Mordred's head, even painted as sympathetically as Stewart does, wasn't a comfortable place to stay for long. I think I know now what Lewis was talking about when he said that writing his Screwtape Letters gave his mind cramps; I think my heart's got a few new knots to be untangled thanks to this book. Don't get me wrong--the style is not bad (though not, I would venture, on the same level of beauty as the Merlin trilogy). And its not even that Mordred himself is particularly evil. This, I think, is the most interesting thing the author does with this character; she takes him out of his traditional role as despicable traiter and villain, and re-humanizes him without rewriting the story or turning the book into one of those "the-bad-guy-was-just-misunderstood" stories that seem to have been born along with post-modernism. King Arthur's "treacherous" son is very human and flawed, and by no means totally innocent--except of the one crime history will never forgive him for. From page one we are invited to witness how fate conspired against Mordred, from the moment of his conception, to make him his own father's bane and downfall, regardless of what he himself thinks of the idea. The similarities and allusions to Oedipus don't end there, either, and on the whole the book savors more of a tragedy than the typical Arthurian Romance; but while I have never been one to deny Tragedy its place, this one left me slightly sickened and furious at the world at large. Perhaps Stewart would be more flattered than otherwise at being able to elicit such a strong reaction. But regardless, this one probably won't be on my "re-read" list anytime soon.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Mo

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I was really looking forward to this book because I enjoyed the Merlin trilogy and Mordred is a character I generally like better than Merlin. As the rating shows, I was much disappointed. Stewart is really not good with female characters - Morgause is a caricature so ridiculous that her passages (which are numerous as she's a fairly major character) repeatedly threw me out of the narrative. She's like a villain from a B-movie: shallow, incompetent, stupid, why is this person Merlin's worst enem I was really looking forward to this book because I enjoyed the Merlin trilogy and Mordred is a character I generally like better than Merlin. As the rating shows, I was much disappointed. Stewart is really not good with female characters - Morgause is a caricature so ridiculous that her passages (which are numerous as she's a fairly major character) repeatedly threw me out of the narrative. She's like a villain from a B-movie: shallow, incompetent, stupid, why is this person Merlin's worst enemy again? Morgan is the same except less prominent; Mordred isn't villainous but equally devoid of personality. It is extremely unsatisfying that all the high drama of the legend, with the incest and the parricide and the kingdoms at stake, boiled down to pure misunderstanding and coincidence in this version. I guess the purpose was to not make Mordred look bad, but instead he and Arthur just look silly. Why don't you guys just NOT stab each other?! No one's making you! I was also annoyed at some of the continuity problems: Merlin prophesied in an earlier book that Morgause's four sons by Lot would become Arthur's most loyal companions (they did not) and also foresaw the quest for the Grail (which never appeared or was referred to again). Those are both pretty cool prophecies so I was bummed that they didn't come into the narrative. Finally, the third person POV is a bit shaky, transitioning less-than-smoothly from character to character. Distracting.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Meg

    The epic consolidation of Mary Stewart's Merlin Quartet -- it is, perhaps, ironic that this last edition to the series is not about Merlin at all, but rather Mordred, the bastard son of Arthur Pendragon and his half-sister Morgause. Yet despite this unusual switch of main character, The Wicked Day closes the Arthurian legend with grace and elegance and leaves the growing legend of Merlin delightfully unfinished, fated to haunt the mists of Bryn Myrddin as either man, myth, or both. As for the ta The epic consolidation of Mary Stewart's Merlin Quartet -- it is, perhaps, ironic that this last edition to the series is not about Merlin at all, but rather Mordred, the bastard son of Arthur Pendragon and his half-sister Morgause. Yet despite this unusual switch of main character, The Wicked Day closes the Arthurian legend with grace and elegance and leaves the growing legend of Merlin delightfully unfinished, fated to haunt the mists of Bryn Myrddin as either man, myth, or both. As for the tale of Mordred, Mary Stewart has taken the most notorious of villains and instead woven a tale of a very human young man struggling to find his place in a world that both raises him to greatness and dooms him from the start. The impassioned words of Nimue to Arthur best capture the essence of The Wicked Day: "We have lived under the edge of doom, and feel ourselves now facing the long-threatened fate. But hear this, Emrys: fate is made by men, not gods."

  30. 4 out of 5

    Joule

    I loved the first two books in this saga. In the third book, I felt like I lost a loved one at the end of the novel, and while it was sad, I made my goodbyes and was ready to move on from this character and this story. When I heard there was a fourth novel, I was excited (because everyone is always excited to revisit beloved characters) but also somewhat confused. The end of the 3rd book had a very clear ending, at least for Merlin, and for me, that was the only character I really cared about. I I loved the first two books in this saga. In the third book, I felt like I lost a loved one at the end of the novel, and while it was sad, I made my goodbyes and was ready to move on from this character and this story. When I heard there was a fourth novel, I was excited (because everyone is always excited to revisit beloved characters) but also somewhat confused. The end of the 3rd book had a very clear ending, at least for Merlin, and for me, that was the only character I really cared about. If you can look at the fourth books as a book that takes place in the same universe, but is not really connected to Merlin, more of a continuation of things he set in motion, than I suppose it is an enjoyable read. However, I did not like this final installment of this saga. I just felt that it was disconnected from the first three books.

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