The story told by the trilogy is mainly that of Arthur, an adolescent in England as the 12th century gives way to the 13th century. Born in Hopton Castle ('Gortanore'), Arthur is sent to live with his uncle at Stokesay ('Caldicot'). The two families are close to another at Clun ('Holt') home of one of Arthur's childhood sweethearts. Local settlements such as Leintwardine, Clungunford, Clunton, Hopesay and Downton-on-the-Rock figure by name in the narrative along with Wenlock (Arthur fears that his skill in writing will lead to his having to be a monk when he yearns to join knightly society as a squire) and Ludlow, scene of fairs and metropolitan life. The third book follows Arthur's travel to Venice as squire to his crusader uncle and their return, after many adventures, to Shropshire.
The 'Arthur' tag has a double significance: through his encounter with Merlin, the young hero is given a 'seeing stone' of obsidian which, in special or fraught moments, magically reveals in fragments the legends of King Arthur and the knights of the Round Table. The parallels with the later young Arthur's life are sometimes clear, sometimes opaque, but, as meaning clarifies, there is usually some insight or comprehension made available. Classic 'rites of passage' moments (first love, jealous brother, brutal father, identity crisis, growing appreciation of the adult world) combine with a convincing interior life narrative seductively and powerfully written in short chapters and the Round Table strand is a bonus for young readers.
The trilogy has won international acclaim, been published in 21 languages and recognised in prestigious awards (Guardian Children's Fiction Award; Tir na n-Og Award; Smarties Prize Bronze Medal; Whitbread Children's Book of the Year shortlist).
Below are extracts from some of the enthusiastic reviews which followed the publication of each part; attached is the end-paper map(which varies slightly between volumes).
There are already the beginnings of an informal 'book-trail' developing, adding to the numbers of those frustrated at not being able to gain access to Hopton Castle. Plans are in hand with the Shropshire Children's Librarian to develop illustrative materials and relevant information to be made available through relevant outlets (schools and tourist offices within Shropshire and the web-site for wider dissemination). There is now talk of a film'
* THE SEEING STONE 2000 (p'back 2001) Pub.ORION
AT THE CROSSING-PLACES 2001 (p'back 2002) ORION
KING OF THE MIDDLE MARCH 2003 (p'back 2004) ORION
And, with one of Arthur's childhood friends as the heroine,