Vivian Vande Velde Main Page
The Book of Mordred
Ages: 12 & up
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Book Description: In the tradition of Arthurian legend, Mordred has been characterized as a buffoon, a false knight, and a bloodthirsty traitor. The Book of Mordred reveals a mysterious man through the eyes of three women who love him.
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Review
Awards/honors
Where do you GET those ideas?
Excerpt
More Stuff

Review

* "Sir Mordred of Camelot is seen through the eyes of three different women in this superbly written tale. Vande Velde's finely crafted diction never falters..." --  Kirkus (starred review)

"Fans of traditional Arthurian legend as well as readers unfamiliar with the classic tales should relish this compelling re-imagining of the Arthurian world." --  VOYA

Awards/honors

  • Junior Library Guild selection

Where do you GET those ideas?

I read T.H. White's The Once and Future King in eighth grade. Before that, I had already known I wanted to be a writer, but this book was the one that showed WHAT I wanted to write. White pulled me into the story of King Arthur with characterizations that are brilliant--so that when two characters were set against each other, I couldn't even hope for one, because I loved both.

Except for Mordred. Mordred was a typical villain, the kind of guy who says, "I'm so evil and I love being evil." And that's the way he gets portrayed in other books about Camelot, too, and in the movies.

I figured it was time to tell his side of the story.

Excerpt

So I said to Sir Malory, "Thomas, you've written of the adventures of Sir Galahad and La Cote Male Taile. You've devoted one whole book each to Sirs Launcelot, Tristan, and Gareth. What of Sir Mordred?"

"Mordred?" he said. "Mordred set knight against knight and brought about the destruction of King Arthur's Round Table."

"True," said I. "But before all that, he rescued his fair amount of damsels and had several 'good' adventures, if you will. Even if we didn't have the documentation for it, we'd know that he must have had a reputation as a fair and honest knight, or the others would never have chosen him above Arthur."

Then Sir Malory's eyes grew hard. In the years we had spent compiling the stories of Camelot, he had grown to love Arthur, as of course had I, so that now he said, "Le Morte D'Arthur is my book, written in my way."

"But surely," I said, "you don't expect that by ignoring Sir Mordred's more noble endeavors you can make people forget they ever occurred?"

Sir Thomas raised his eyebrows at me. "Oh, no?" he said.


--from a letter by Brother Lucien, a scribe and a friar of the Holy Order of St. Benedict, to his sister, Claire. Spring, 1471



More Stuff

About that dedication:
  • This book is dedicated to all writers who have been tempted to give up.

The Book of Mordred is the second novel I ever wrote, in the early 1980's. It was rejected (and rightly so) by all the editors to whom I sent it. Several of the editors said there were too many King Arthur books around, so I decided the timing was wrong, and I put my manuscript away. A few years later, I took another look at my story and decided there was a lot more wrong with it than the timing. I reworked the story, and sent it out again. Once more, it was rejected. Repeat this pattern of putting the story away, freshening it up, submitting it, and receiving rejections--and repeat and repeat.

I've received more rejections in my life for one particular title. (My first book, A Hidden Magic holds that honor with 32 rejections--but they were very quick rejections, and I didn't rework the story at all.)  But The Book of Mordred is the book that took the longest to find its final form and its acceptance: 20 years.

My thanks to editor Hannah Rodgers for taking me through those last changes.  And to editor Kate O'Sullivan for seeing me through to the end.

The gorgeous cover is by Justin Gerard.  See more of his artwork at his website.