These modern antique versions of Arthur are so interesting in what they reveal about the time they were written. Both Mark Twain and Naomi Mitchinson appear to belong to a similar world of bright prospects, brash irreverent characters, and a kind of cynicism that must have come with the invention of mass advertising.
Every generation retells the tales of Camelot in a way that lets them grapple with the dramas and struggles of their own time. Mitchinson belongs to a brave new world of global governments and news organizations. Her journalists are no idealists. They understand that the victor writes the history books. They report the news, according to an agenda. They write what they write fully knowing that it will be taken apart and put back together in ways they didn't intend and that only that which is approved by the powers that be makes it to the public eye.
Mitchinson's “Siege Perilous” makes me wonder if she knew Aldous Huxley and George Orwell. She has a way of making her characters come up against moral dilemmas with a shrug that is reminiscent of other authors writing around World War II.
I do find the story a little hard to follow. I’m interested in who Lord Horny is, but don’t feel like I’ve got a good grasp on him. The same goes for the hermit. It’s hard to tell who is supposed to be the good guys in the story. Elaine is fairly unsympathetic, and Lancelot seems to have remained a hero in this telling, but I don’t know about Igraine, or Merlin, or a number of others involved in the production of Arthurian news. Maybe it's how Mitchinson tells the story. Maybe in her time journalists are inherently amoral, and that's a part of the point.
Despite the difficulty in following the writing style, I am enjoying this story much more than the Twain version. Her Guinevere is delightful and human and Queenly all at once. Lienors, with her crush on Lancelot and her working relationship with Dalyn is a wonderful character. I also enjoy how the magic mirrors work as telephones and how nixies help the news cross the English channel.
It is a delightful rendition.