Published by Heinemann in 1978 at £4.10. A Companion Book Club edition appeared in 1979. It was included in the combined paperback edition published by Penguin in 1980 as The Crimson Chalice. Happily there is a new edition of the three books in the series from Bello, the "modern classics" imprint of Pan Macmillan.
This is the third part of a trilogy of novels re-telling the story of Arthur, here called Arturo. His wife Daria is poisoned by Venutius on the orders of Count Ambrosius before she can give birth to an heir. He meets and marries Gwennifer, who in spite of loving him sleeps with others of the Company in an effort to get pregnant, but is forgiven by Arturo. Otherwise the book is full of military preparations, alliance forming and a succession of battles culminating in the Battle of Badon Hill. Finally Arturo is wounded and taken by Merlin to a marsh lake on the River Cam where he throws his sword in the water and drifts out on a boat to die.
The style grows ever more pompously archaic and bardic. Some readers may like this, but not me. In mitigation Canning was working on these books in the aftermath of the death of his wife, Diana, and probably felt this to be a kind of homage.
The book is dedicated "With love—'To the one who wept when the dream ended' " I do not know if this is a reference to Diana, or to some other person with whom he had discussed the book.
UK first edition
|Index of characters,
locations and themes in
The Crimson Chalice trilogy