I Am Mordred
Nancy Springer

Morality: C+
Writing: A-

In this short novel, Springer introduces us to young Mordred, future slayer of King Arthur. Mordred was raised in ignorance of his parentage by a fisherman after his father, upon Merlin’s advice, tried to kill him. Later, living with his mother again, he learns of the prophecy of his fate to kill his father the king. This book, told from Mordred’s perspective, follows his path from innocence and a desire to avoid his fate up to the point where he becomes the man who will eventually murder his father.

The book attempts to show why Mordred turned to evil; self-fulfilling prophecy certainly has something to do with it, but the book also portrays Mordred as a youth corrupted by his environment. As the product of an incestuous union, he is assumed from the beginning to be an evil person, and the shunning and fear which he constantly meets eventually encourage him to fulfill others’ expectations and turn to evil. In addition, he struggles with cowardice, which eats at his soul and causes him inner shame. Mordred’s downward spiral is not as moving or as clearly motivated as is Morgan le Fay’s in the companion novel to this one, but that book is a more mature product, as well as being longer and therefore having more time for exposition.

Morally, the book is acceptable for the most part. There are one or two scenes in which vaguely druidic, new-agey magic comes into play (and is apparently condoned by the author), but since Mordred himself is not a sorcerer these scenes are less frequent than in the companion volume. However, this novel falls more often than does the other into the trap of portraying evil as being inspired almost solely from without.

The writing is lyrical and beautiful, as are the descriptions, although the characterization (of the central character, and of the age of the authorial voice) is less masterful than in the companion novel. Like in the other book, Springer explores the concept of ‘fate’ and whether one’s fate can be avoided, and especially the literary motif of the self-fulfilling prophecy (found in Oedipus Rex, Macbeth, and many other classics), in a readable and engaging manner.

Posted by Sasha | July 20, 2003

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