Review Blog

Jun 05 2017

Yvain - The Knight of the Lion by M.T. Anderson

cover image

Ill. by Andrea Offermann. Candlewick Press, 2017 ISBN 9780763659394
(Age: 11+) Recommended. Themes: Chivalry, Knights, honour, medieval. This graphic novel version of Chretien de Troyes twelfth century epic poem vividly retells the Arthurian legend of Sir Yvain, who travels to the magic fountain in the forest of Brocceliande to avenge the honour of his cousin Sir Calogreante. The knights at the court of King Arthur love adventure especially if it involves bravery and chivalry and Yvain wants the glory all to himself. He succeeds in defeating the owner of the fountain, Sir Esclados, chasing him into his castle where Escaldos dies but Yvain's horse is killed and he finds himself on the wrong side of the portcullis. He is helped to escape detection by a servant, Lunette who remembers him treating her kindly at King Arthur's court and magically renders him temporarily invisible. While in hiding he falls in love with the bereaved Lady Laudine who Lunette contrives to persuade to make a political decision to marry Yvain on the understanding he will defend the magic fountain and her lands against all men. When King Arthur and his men arrive at the fountain Yvain defeats one of his knights in a joust and then reveals his identity and invites them to be entertained in the castle. Laudine grants Yvain leave to go on a year's adventuring with Arthur's court. When he fails to return after a year Laudine sends a message telling him never to return. Yvain goes a little mad at his failure, hating himself for his disloyal behaviour and he wanders aimlessly in the wilderness until he rescues a lion from a dragon regaining some self-esteem and finding a loyal companion in the lion. The rest of the story involves brave deeds, chivalry, magic and monsters as Yvain fights to regain his honour and his lady as an anonymous knight fighting for the good of others.
It is a ripping tale of the age of chivalry where men are warlike and women clever and politically astute. The images graphically convey the action and we are immersed in the medieval world. The rhythms of storytelling and poetry are conveyed in the pictures, some reminiscent of illuminated texts and the Bayeux tapestry. The edition I reviewed was let down by the cover, a swirl with a red blob which conveyed no clue to the story and its setting. The author and the illustrator notes at the end of the book are insightful and I got a lot more out of the book on a second reading. Recommended for middle school fans of King Arthur and a rewarding read for senior students from non English speaking backgrounds.
Sue Speck

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