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The Bright Sword

A Novel of King Arthur

Author Lev Grossman On Tour
Paperback
$19.00 US
6.03"W x 9.18"H x 1.4"D   (15.3 x 23.3 x 3.6 cm) | 23 oz (646 g) | 20 per carton
On sale Jul 16, 2024 | 688 Pages | 9780593833568
| Grades 9-12
Sales rights: US, Canada, Open Mkt
Export Edition
“Grossman, who is best known for his The Magicians series, is at the top of his game with The Bright Sword.” —The New York Times Book Review

“A thrilling new take on Arthurian legend. . . . Marvelous.” —The Washington Post

“If you love King Arthur as much as I do, you’ll love Lev Grossman’s The Bright Sword, a fresh and engrossing take on the Matter of Britain featuring a colorful cast of Round Table knights who don’t often get as much story time as they deserve. The creator of The Magicians has woven another spell.” —George R. R. Martin, #1 New York Times bestselling author of A Game of Thrones

The #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Magicians trilogy returns with a triumphant reimagining of the King Arthur legend for the new millennium


A gifted young knight named Collum arrives at Camelot to compete for a spot on the Round Table, only to find that he’s too late. The king died two weeks ago at the Battle of Camlann, leaving no heir, and only a handful of the knights of the Round Table survive.

They aren’t the heroes of legend, like Lancelot or Gawain. They’re the oddballs of the Round Table, from the edges of the stories, like Sir Palomides, the Saracen Knight, and Sir Dagonet, Arthur’s fool, who was knighted as a joke. They’re joined by Nimue, who was Merlin’s apprentice until she turned on him and buried him under a hill. Together this ragtag fellowship will set out to rebuild Camelot in a world that has lost its balance.

But Arthur’s death has revealed Britain’s fault lines. God has abandoned it, and the fairies and monsters and old gods are returning, led by Arthur’s half-sister Morgan le Fay. Kingdoms are turning on each other, warlords lay siege to Camelot and rival factions are forming around the disgraced Lancelot and the fallen Queen Guinevere. It is up to Collum and his companions to reclaim Excalibur, solve the mysteries of this ruined world and make it whole again. But before they can restore Camelot they’ll have to learn the truth of why the lonely, brilliant King Arthur fell, and lay to rest the ghosts of his troubled family and of Britain’s dark past.

The first major Arthurian epic of the new millennium, The Bright Sword is steeped in tradition, full of duels and quests, battles and tournaments, magic swords and Fisher Kings. It also sheds a fresh light on Arthur’s Britain, a diverse, complex nation struggling to come to terms with its bloody history. The Bright Sword is a story about imperfect men and women, full of strength and pain, who are looking for a way to reforge a broken land in spite of being broken themselves.
One
Azure, Three Scepters, a Chevron Or

Collum punched the other knight in the face with the pommel of his sword gripped in his gauntleted fist, so hard the dark inlaid metal dimpled under his knuckles, but his opponent showed absolutely no sign of falling over or sur­rendering to him. He swore under his breath and followed it up with a kick to the ankle but missed and almost fell down, and the other knight spun gracefully and clouted him smartly in the head so his ears rang. He would’ve given a thousand pounds to be able to wipe the sweat out of his eyes, not that he had a thousand pounds. He had exactly three shillings and two silver pennies to his name.

The two men backed off and circled each other, big swords held up at stiff angles, shifting from guard to guard, heavy shards of bright sunlight glancing and glaring off the blades. They’d dropped their shields after the tilt to have both hands free. No mistakes now, Collum thought. Circles not lines, Marshal Aucassin whis­pered in his mind. Watch the body not the blade. He threw a diag­onal cut that glanced harmlessly off the other knight’s shoulder. The inside of his helmet was a furnace, sharp smells of hay and sweat and raw leather. He’d come here to test himself against the flower of British chivalry, the greatest knights in the world, and by God he was getting what he came for. He was getting the stuffing beaten out of him.

They stepped lightly, testing, offering, up on the balls of their feet. Every tiny movement made their armor squeak and clank and jingle in the quiet of the meadow; even the tips of their swords made tiny whips in the stifling air. Why—why had he thought this was a good idea? Why hadn’t he stayed back on Mull? Heatstroke prickled at the back of Collum’s neck. They weren’t fighting to the death, but if he lost he’d lose his horse, and his armor, which he hadn’t gone through all the trouble of stealing it from Lord Alasdair just so he could hand it over to some nameless knight who proba­bly had half a dozen spares waiting for him back at his cozy castle.

And without his horse and armor Collum was nobody and noth­ing. An orphan and a bastard, poor as a church mouse and very far from home. And he could never go back. He’d made damn sure of that, hadn’t he?

He didn’t even know who he was fighting; he’d stumbled on this man purely by chance, or possibly by God’s will—thanks a bunch, as always—sitting under a crooked ash in a meadow, head in his hands, as if the weight of the sunlight itself were too much for him. He’d looked up and shouted a challenge at Collum, and who did that anymore? It was like something out of the stories. Whoever this was, he was a knight of the old school.

His armor was old-fashioned, too, the breastplate black steel dam­ascened with a pattern of fine silver whorls and a rose at the center. A rich man’s armor. A nobleman’s. His helmet had a pointy snout like a beak, and like Collum he bore the vergescu, the plain white shield of an unfledged knight. Collum bore it because he was not technically—as he’d tried to explain—a knight at all, not yet, he hadn’t sworn the vows, but there were other reasons to bear the vergescu, like to hide your identity if you were in disgrace. Or Sir Lancelot bore it sometimes because otherwise no one would fight him.

This man was no Lancelot, but he was pretty damn good. Thor­oughly fledged. Collum was taller but the mystery knight was faster—he barely saw him move when bang! his wrist went numb and ping! a tiny fastening pin sprang off his gauntlet and disap­peared forever into the grass. He stepped neatly inside Collum’s reach and grabbed for his wrist with his off hand, and Collum skipped back, panting like a bellows, but he stumbled and the man jammed his blade in the gap where his gardbrace didn’t fit right, shaving off a sharp curl of bright steel.

He pressed his advantage, whipping a backhand strike at Col­lum’s head that just missed—

There it was. The knight let his follow-through pull him round just a little too far. He was tired, or he’d overcommitted, either way he couldn’t quite stop the stroke and it left him off-balance. Collum’s blood broke out in a martial chorus and with the last of his strength he barged ahead behind his gauntleted fist MANG! to the side of the knight’s helm, and twice more, MANG! MANG! Just like that he was through and into that other place, the one where he felt like a solid shining steel godling and nothing could stand against him, certainly not this soft, staggering wretch he saw before him! Collum regripped and delivered a clean, high, two-handed horizontal cut and the knight’s head snapped round and he sat down backward on the grass.

Sir Vergescu tried to raise his blade but only dropped it again, as though fairies had cursed it so it weighed a thousand pounds. Col­lum let himself bend over panting, hands on hips. Sweat stung his eyes and gathered and dripped under his chin. Had he won? Really won? The man just sat there. He’d won.

He dropped to one knee and pressed the top of his helm against the cross of his sword. Thanks be to almighty God in Heaven! Thank you God for giving me—your unworthy servant—this magnificent fucking victory! He’d fought a British knight in a British hayfield and he had won. He could keep his precious ar­mor, for now at least. In the darkness of his helmet un‑knightly tears prickled in his eyes. Somewhere inside him there was strength, the strength he’d always longed for but never quite believed in. Not really. Not truly.

Or was there? Was there not something about this victory that was just a little bit too easy? Collum pushed that unappealing idea away, sniffed, and hauled himself to his feet again.

“Well fought, sir,” he said. “Do you yield?” Collum thought in Gaelic, the language of the north, but for the occasion he used the courtliest, most correct, most Roman Latin he could muster.

The man didn’t answer. That beaky bird-helmet just gazed up at him, expressionless. It looked quizzical and a bit funny.

In fact, now that Collum had a second to take it in, the man’s ap­pearance was stranger than he’d realized. Armor hid his face but in other ways it spoke volumes. That pretty silver rose on his chest had been scratched and scribbled over; somebody had taken a nail or a sharp rock to it. On top of the knight’s helm, where a lady’s favor might have been, a knotted hank of dry grass was tied instead.

There were streaks of rust on his mail undercoat where the ar­mor plates overlapped and trapped the wet. Sir Vergescu’s cozy castle was far away, if he even had one. He must’ve been out on the road a long time. Maybe not so different from Collum after all.

He shook off his gauntlets and fumbled with his bare fingers at the buckles and catches at the back of his head and tore his helmet off and dropped it on the grass. The bright world blasted in on him from all sides, loud and acid-green. He rubbed his face vigorously with both hands. The hot summer air felt marvelously cool. The rush of victory was fading now, and the heat and hunger and thirst were coming back. His knees felt weak. He hadn’t eaten in two days.

He hoped the man wasn’t hurt. He’d actually been looking forward to having a chat with him. Breaking down the combat, talking some shop. Maybe he knew how things stood at Camelot. Maybe he even knew Sir Bleoberys of the Round Table.

“Well fought, sir,” Collum said. “Do you yield to me now?”

“Fuck your mother.”

The man’s voice was hoarse and weary. Somewhere a woodlark sang: loo-loo-loo-loo-loo tlooeet tlooeet tlooeet.

“Beg pardon?”

“Your mother.” His Latin was surprisingly refined. A lot better than Collum’s. “Fuck. Her.”

Maybe they weren’t going to be having that chat after all.

“That is ill said of you, sir.” Collum cleared his throat. “I ask again: Do you yield to me now?”

“Well, that all depends,” the man replied, “on whether or not you’ve fucked your mother yet.”

He was angry, obviously. It was embarrassing, losing to an un­fledged knightling. God knows he, Collum, wouldn’t have wanted to lose to himself. But it wasn’t his idea to fight, was it?

Maybe he was hurt after all. Maybe he was in pain. Collum put out his hand to help him up, and the mystery knight held out his own—but then quick as a lizard he grabbed Collum’s wrist in­stead, and with his other hand he whipped something thin and dark out of a sheath at his waist—a misericord, a long, thin knife made for slipping between armor plates—and thrust it up at Collum’s groin.

Purely on instinct Collum twisted his hips and took the blow smartly on his steel skirt. He caught the man’s knife hand and for a heartbeat they strained against each other, trembling. The knight kicked Collum’s ankles out and rolled on top of him with all his weight, and Collum lost the knife hand—God’s blood!—and pan­icked and scrabbled and caught it again just in time to keep his throat from getting laid open.

He threw his other arm around the man’s shoulders, heaved with his hips, and rolled them back over.

“God’s nails, stop!” His voice cracked hysterically. “Just yield!”

Collum fumbled for his own knife and forced it through the slit in the knight’s helm. The knight trembled like a rabbit in a snare and clawed at Collum’s face and thrust wildly with his pelvis. Then he coughed once and went still.
The sound of insects was loud, like dry seeds rattling in a dry pod. Silent pillars of golden country sunlight were slowly burning the green timothy grass into hay.

The knight lay flat on the ground as if he’d fallen there from a great height.
Jesus. Collum scrambled to his feet, breathing hard. Shitting Je­sus. Thou recreant knight. He’d never killed a man before. God have mercy on us both.

The man kicked once and then stopped moving forever. The only part of him that was exposed was that one fish-pale hand, the one he’d bared to go for his misericord. There were brown speck­les on the back of it, some ropy blue veins. Sir Misericord had not been in his first youth.

And now he was dead. And for what? Nothing. A game, played for no one, in an empty field.

And to think that they were barely a day’s ride from Camelot, the sun that bathed all of Britain in the golden light of chivalry.

“God have mercy,” Collum whispered. An hour ago he’d been no one, then he was a hero, and now he was a murderer. He stood there for a long time, he didn’t know how long. A cloud passed in front of the sun. The two horses, his and the dead knight’s, watched him with long-lashed disinterest.

Then Collum knelt and with a shudder drew his knife out of the man’s eye socket. He walked over to where the fallen knight’s shield lay face down on the matted grass and turned it over with his toe. You could still make out the arms under a hasty coat of white paint: Azure, Three Scepters, a Chevron Or.
Praise for The Bright Sword

A BEST SUMMER READ: The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Time, Vulture, Esquire, Boston Globe, Elle, Town & Country, Seattle Times, New York Post, Lit Hub, Cosmopolitan, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Paste, BiblioLifestyle, E! Online, AARP, BookBub, BookRiot


“Lev Grossman’s new novel, The Bright Sword, joins 1,400 years of storytelling and resoundingly earns its place among the best of Arthurian tales. . . . Grossman, who is best known for his The Magicians series, is at the top of his game with The Bright Sword, which is full of enviable ideas and execution. Few authors could accomplish what he has, grounding such an ambitious novel in so much tradition and history while still making it accessible and deeply affecting.”
—Kiersten White, The New York Times Book Review

“A thrilling new take on Arthurian legend. . . . Marvelous. . . . As Grossman’s splendid, offbeat quest reaches its conclusion, we see Arthur’s waves of Saxon invaders and their many predecessors refracted in a different light, one that helps illuminate our own tumultuous, battle-torn age in the way that only the best epics can.”
Elizabeth Hand, The Washington Post

“For anyone who’s ever craved a seat at the Round Table. Utterly enchanting.” 
—Rebecca Yarros, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Fourth Wing and Iron Flame

“If you love King Arthur as much as I do, you’ll love Lev Grossman’s The Bright Sword, a fresh and engrossing take on the Matter of Britain featuring a colorful cast of Round Table knights who don’t often get as much story time as they deserve. The creator of The Magicians has woven another spell.”
—George R. R. Martin, #1 New York Times bestselling author of A Game of Thrones

“A radiant reimagining of Arthurian legend. . . . The Bright Sword made me love fantasy again. . . . A must-read.”
—Emily Price, Paste

“If you’re looking for a humorous yet simultaneously heartfelt, funny story from the world of Camelot, The Bright Sword may be the pick for you.”
—Kendra Winchester, BookRiot

“A novel that is as much about the Matter of Britain as it is our own florid and layered imaginings of it. Breathlessly weaves themes of faith, duty, and selfhood with a classic sword-and-sorcery adventure—this is why we read fantasy.”
Ava Reid, #1 New York Times bestselling author of A Study in Drowning

“Here’s the big one, the tentpole, the book I’ve been waiting for nearly a decade: Lev Grossman’s Arthurian epic, clocking in at nearly 700 pages and absolutely worth lugging to the beach/the mountains/the park/wherever else you might be vacationing. I’m happy to report that this book is not only one of the best of the year, but it’s one of the best Arthurian novels ever. Stand it up against The Once and Future King or The Mists of Avalon and I’d be willing to bet that it will come away the victor—it’s that good.”
—Drew Broussard, Lit Hub’s “18 New Novels You Need to Read This Summer”

“[An] epic tale of survivors and magic.”
The Boston Globe

“Like the best of Grossman’s work, [The Bright Sword] is funny and sweeping . . . the medieval-romance structure allows Bright Sword even more space to capitalize on Grossman’s talent for digression, dawdling, and finding unexpected trapdoors inside stories.”
—Kathryn VanArendonk, Vulture's “22 Books We Can’t Wait to Read this Summer”

The Magicians author Lev Grossman took on what seemed the impossible: making the Arthurian legend feel fresh. Miraculously, he’s done just that with The Bright Sword, which answers what came after King Arthur’s fall. . . . Fans of classic fantasy and ancient magic will devour this one.”
—Elle’s “Best New Books to Read in Summer 2024”

“A magical, enthralling tale that you won't be able to put down.”
—Town & Country’s “39 Must-Read Books of Summer 2024”

“The fantasy epic of the summer features an unexpectedly brilliant twist on one of the most famous stories of all time. The Bright Sword is a rousing, imaginative continuation of the King Arthur myth. . . . Magic and murder abound in this rollicking adventure, a thrilling addition to Arthurian lore.”
Minneapolis Star Tribune

“This is storytelling at its purest: glorious, propulsive, and dramatic. Drawing on every aspect of the Arthurian mythos (and more besides), Grossman presents us with fairies, gi­ants, gods, angels, spellcasters, and elemental forces. The magical battles and the sword fights are all imbued with a cinematic quality while still maintaining a sense of the real, of metal parting flesh, of death and bone-crunching violence. . . . In opening the Arthurian legend to other forms of representation, Grossman recasts the narrative as a story about change.”
—Ian Mond, Locus

“Call it the millennial experience transposed onto Camelot; arriving in the big city full of hopes and dreams to find the economy is in freefall, all your heroes are dead or awful, and no one is coming to save you. Even with only one previous trilogy of adult fantasy under his belt, the premise is indelibly Lev Grossman.”
—Joshua Rivera, Polygon

“Once I picked this novel up, I could not stop reading. The Bright Sword is compulsively readable and expertly told. Lev Grossman transports the reader with such assurance and finesse. Just pick it up and lose yourself inside these pages. You won't want to leave until the tale is done.”
—Victor LaValle, national bestselling author of Lone Women

“A rollicking, magical ride through Arthurian legend! Grossman intimately understands the medieval source material and wields it with playful ease. A joyful new addition to the Arthurian canon—a delight.”
Alice Winn, author of In Memoriam

“A doorstopper of an Arthurian retelling from the author of The Magicians trilogy, The Bright Sword offers a fresh take on the story by considering what comes after King Arthur.” 
—Paste

“Satisfyingly epic but also fast-paced, this novel captures everything that’s grand and magnificent about the age of King Arthur while picking at its edges and delving into its darker depths. All fantasy and mythology fans will want to make time for this moving, entertaining epic. . . . This epic fantasy is sure to be a hit.”
—Booklist (STARRED review)

“A breathtaking tale that honors past iterations while producing something entirely unexpected. . . . Grossman does a remarkable job of pulling together these disparate strands while providing enough combat and magic to keep the pages turning. Epic fantasy fans will hang on every word.”
Publishers Weekly (STARRED review)

“Highly recommended for readers who can’t resist a story featuring brave knights, stalwart queens, and magic.”
—Library Journal (STARRED review)

“The story of King Arthur has been told and substantially altered many times over the centuries, and explored by a multitude of contemporary novelists, but the author of the Magicians trilogy makes room for himself here. . . . Very few writers have explored post-Arthurian Britain or focused quite so much on developing the stories of the minor characters in the saga. . . . A fresh take.”
Kirkus Reviews (STARRED review)

“Readers willing to savor the book over many nights will find each chapter a neatly arranged, minia­ture adventure of its own. Traditionally minimal side characters in the story of Arthur—like Sir Bedivere, Sir Palomides and even Dagonet the Fool—receive intricate, deep backstories that erase the mythological buildup around each figure, viewing them instead in a far more human and often more modern light. At once full of desperate hope and grievous loss, The Bright Sword is a moody reflection on Arthur’s tale.”
—Ralph Harris, BookPage

Praise for Lev Grossman's Magicians Trilogy

"The Magicians is to Harry Potter as a shot of Irish whiskey is to a glass of weak tea. Hogwarts was never like this." 
—George R. R. Martin

"The Magicians may just be the most subversive, gripping and enchanting fantasy novel I've read this century." 
—Cory Doctorow

"Lev Grossman has conjured a rare creature: a trilogy that simply gets better and better as it goes along."
—Erin Morgenstern

"The best fantasy trilogy of the decade."
—Charles Stross

"Sad, hilarious, beautiful, and essential to anyone who cares about modern fantasy."
—Joe Hill
© Beowulf Sheehan
Lev Grossman is the author of the #1 New York Times bestselling Magicians trilogy—The Magicians, The Magician King, and The Magician’s Land—which has been published in thirty countries and adapted as a TV show that ran for five seasons on SYFY. He is also a screenwriter and the author of two children’s books, The Golden Swift and The Silver Arrow, and his journalism has appeared in Time, Vanity Fair, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, among many other places. He lives with his wife and children in New York City. View titles by Lev Grossman
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About

“Grossman, who is best known for his The Magicians series, is at the top of his game with The Bright Sword.” —The New York Times Book Review

“A thrilling new take on Arthurian legend. . . . Marvelous.” —The Washington Post

“If you love King Arthur as much as I do, you’ll love Lev Grossman’s The Bright Sword, a fresh and engrossing take on the Matter of Britain featuring a colorful cast of Round Table knights who don’t often get as much story time as they deserve. The creator of The Magicians has woven another spell.” —George R. R. Martin, #1 New York Times bestselling author of A Game of Thrones

The #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Magicians trilogy returns with a triumphant reimagining of the King Arthur legend for the new millennium


A gifted young knight named Collum arrives at Camelot to compete for a spot on the Round Table, only to find that he’s too late. The king died two weeks ago at the Battle of Camlann, leaving no heir, and only a handful of the knights of the Round Table survive.

They aren’t the heroes of legend, like Lancelot or Gawain. They’re the oddballs of the Round Table, from the edges of the stories, like Sir Palomides, the Saracen Knight, and Sir Dagonet, Arthur’s fool, who was knighted as a joke. They’re joined by Nimue, who was Merlin’s apprentice until she turned on him and buried him under a hill. Together this ragtag fellowship will set out to rebuild Camelot in a world that has lost its balance.

But Arthur’s death has revealed Britain’s fault lines. God has abandoned it, and the fairies and monsters and old gods are returning, led by Arthur’s half-sister Morgan le Fay. Kingdoms are turning on each other, warlords lay siege to Camelot and rival factions are forming around the disgraced Lancelot and the fallen Queen Guinevere. It is up to Collum and his companions to reclaim Excalibur, solve the mysteries of this ruined world and make it whole again. But before they can restore Camelot they’ll have to learn the truth of why the lonely, brilliant King Arthur fell, and lay to rest the ghosts of his troubled family and of Britain’s dark past.

The first major Arthurian epic of the new millennium, The Bright Sword is steeped in tradition, full of duels and quests, battles and tournaments, magic swords and Fisher Kings. It also sheds a fresh light on Arthur’s Britain, a diverse, complex nation struggling to come to terms with its bloody history. The Bright Sword is a story about imperfect men and women, full of strength and pain, who are looking for a way to reforge a broken land in spite of being broken themselves.

Excerpt

One
Azure, Three Scepters, a Chevron Or

Collum punched the other knight in the face with the pommel of his sword gripped in his gauntleted fist, so hard the dark inlaid metal dimpled under his knuckles, but his opponent showed absolutely no sign of falling over or sur­rendering to him. He swore under his breath and followed it up with a kick to the ankle but missed and almost fell down, and the other knight spun gracefully and clouted him smartly in the head so his ears rang. He would’ve given a thousand pounds to be able to wipe the sweat out of his eyes, not that he had a thousand pounds. He had exactly three shillings and two silver pennies to his name.

The two men backed off and circled each other, big swords held up at stiff angles, shifting from guard to guard, heavy shards of bright sunlight glancing and glaring off the blades. They’d dropped their shields after the tilt to have both hands free. No mistakes now, Collum thought. Circles not lines, Marshal Aucassin whis­pered in his mind. Watch the body not the blade. He threw a diag­onal cut that glanced harmlessly off the other knight’s shoulder. The inside of his helmet was a furnace, sharp smells of hay and sweat and raw leather. He’d come here to test himself against the flower of British chivalry, the greatest knights in the world, and by God he was getting what he came for. He was getting the stuffing beaten out of him.

They stepped lightly, testing, offering, up on the balls of their feet. Every tiny movement made their armor squeak and clank and jingle in the quiet of the meadow; even the tips of their swords made tiny whips in the stifling air. Why—why had he thought this was a good idea? Why hadn’t he stayed back on Mull? Heatstroke prickled at the back of Collum’s neck. They weren’t fighting to the death, but if he lost he’d lose his horse, and his armor, which he hadn’t gone through all the trouble of stealing it from Lord Alasdair just so he could hand it over to some nameless knight who proba­bly had half a dozen spares waiting for him back at his cozy castle.

And without his horse and armor Collum was nobody and noth­ing. An orphan and a bastard, poor as a church mouse and very far from home. And he could never go back. He’d made damn sure of that, hadn’t he?

He didn’t even know who he was fighting; he’d stumbled on this man purely by chance, or possibly by God’s will—thanks a bunch, as always—sitting under a crooked ash in a meadow, head in his hands, as if the weight of the sunlight itself were too much for him. He’d looked up and shouted a challenge at Collum, and who did that anymore? It was like something out of the stories. Whoever this was, he was a knight of the old school.

His armor was old-fashioned, too, the breastplate black steel dam­ascened with a pattern of fine silver whorls and a rose at the center. A rich man’s armor. A nobleman’s. His helmet had a pointy snout like a beak, and like Collum he bore the vergescu, the plain white shield of an unfledged knight. Collum bore it because he was not technically—as he’d tried to explain—a knight at all, not yet, he hadn’t sworn the vows, but there were other reasons to bear the vergescu, like to hide your identity if you were in disgrace. Or Sir Lancelot bore it sometimes because otherwise no one would fight him.

This man was no Lancelot, but he was pretty damn good. Thor­oughly fledged. Collum was taller but the mystery knight was faster—he barely saw him move when bang! his wrist went numb and ping! a tiny fastening pin sprang off his gauntlet and disap­peared forever into the grass. He stepped neatly inside Collum’s reach and grabbed for his wrist with his off hand, and Collum skipped back, panting like a bellows, but he stumbled and the man jammed his blade in the gap where his gardbrace didn’t fit right, shaving off a sharp curl of bright steel.

He pressed his advantage, whipping a backhand strike at Col­lum’s head that just missed—

There it was. The knight let his follow-through pull him round just a little too far. He was tired, or he’d overcommitted, either way he couldn’t quite stop the stroke and it left him off-balance. Collum’s blood broke out in a martial chorus and with the last of his strength he barged ahead behind his gauntleted fist MANG! to the side of the knight’s helm, and twice more, MANG! MANG! Just like that he was through and into that other place, the one where he felt like a solid shining steel godling and nothing could stand against him, certainly not this soft, staggering wretch he saw before him! Collum regripped and delivered a clean, high, two-handed horizontal cut and the knight’s head snapped round and he sat down backward on the grass.

Sir Vergescu tried to raise his blade but only dropped it again, as though fairies had cursed it so it weighed a thousand pounds. Col­lum let himself bend over panting, hands on hips. Sweat stung his eyes and gathered and dripped under his chin. Had he won? Really won? The man just sat there. He’d won.

He dropped to one knee and pressed the top of his helm against the cross of his sword. Thanks be to almighty God in Heaven! Thank you God for giving me—your unworthy servant—this magnificent fucking victory! He’d fought a British knight in a British hayfield and he had won. He could keep his precious ar­mor, for now at least. In the darkness of his helmet un‑knightly tears prickled in his eyes. Somewhere inside him there was strength, the strength he’d always longed for but never quite believed in. Not really. Not truly.

Or was there? Was there not something about this victory that was just a little bit too easy? Collum pushed that unappealing idea away, sniffed, and hauled himself to his feet again.

“Well fought, sir,” he said. “Do you yield?” Collum thought in Gaelic, the language of the north, but for the occasion he used the courtliest, most correct, most Roman Latin he could muster.

The man didn’t answer. That beaky bird-helmet just gazed up at him, expressionless. It looked quizzical and a bit funny.

In fact, now that Collum had a second to take it in, the man’s ap­pearance was stranger than he’d realized. Armor hid his face but in other ways it spoke volumes. That pretty silver rose on his chest had been scratched and scribbled over; somebody had taken a nail or a sharp rock to it. On top of the knight’s helm, where a lady’s favor might have been, a knotted hank of dry grass was tied instead.

There were streaks of rust on his mail undercoat where the ar­mor plates overlapped and trapped the wet. Sir Vergescu’s cozy castle was far away, if he even had one. He must’ve been out on the road a long time. Maybe not so different from Collum after all.

He shook off his gauntlets and fumbled with his bare fingers at the buckles and catches at the back of his head and tore his helmet off and dropped it on the grass. The bright world blasted in on him from all sides, loud and acid-green. He rubbed his face vigorously with both hands. The hot summer air felt marvelously cool. The rush of victory was fading now, and the heat and hunger and thirst were coming back. His knees felt weak. He hadn’t eaten in two days.

He hoped the man wasn’t hurt. He’d actually been looking forward to having a chat with him. Breaking down the combat, talking some shop. Maybe he knew how things stood at Camelot. Maybe he even knew Sir Bleoberys of the Round Table.

“Well fought, sir,” Collum said. “Do you yield to me now?”

“Fuck your mother.”

The man’s voice was hoarse and weary. Somewhere a woodlark sang: loo-loo-loo-loo-loo tlooeet tlooeet tlooeet.

“Beg pardon?”

“Your mother.” His Latin was surprisingly refined. A lot better than Collum’s. “Fuck. Her.”

Maybe they weren’t going to be having that chat after all.

“That is ill said of you, sir.” Collum cleared his throat. “I ask again: Do you yield to me now?”

“Well, that all depends,” the man replied, “on whether or not you’ve fucked your mother yet.”

He was angry, obviously. It was embarrassing, losing to an un­fledged knightling. God knows he, Collum, wouldn’t have wanted to lose to himself. But it wasn’t his idea to fight, was it?

Maybe he was hurt after all. Maybe he was in pain. Collum put out his hand to help him up, and the mystery knight held out his own—but then quick as a lizard he grabbed Collum’s wrist in­stead, and with his other hand he whipped something thin and dark out of a sheath at his waist—a misericord, a long, thin knife made for slipping between armor plates—and thrust it up at Collum’s groin.

Purely on instinct Collum twisted his hips and took the blow smartly on his steel skirt. He caught the man’s knife hand and for a heartbeat they strained against each other, trembling. The knight kicked Collum’s ankles out and rolled on top of him with all his weight, and Collum lost the knife hand—God’s blood!—and pan­icked and scrabbled and caught it again just in time to keep his throat from getting laid open.

He threw his other arm around the man’s shoulders, heaved with his hips, and rolled them back over.

“God’s nails, stop!” His voice cracked hysterically. “Just yield!”

Collum fumbled for his own knife and forced it through the slit in the knight’s helm. The knight trembled like a rabbit in a snare and clawed at Collum’s face and thrust wildly with his pelvis. Then he coughed once and went still.
The sound of insects was loud, like dry seeds rattling in a dry pod. Silent pillars of golden country sunlight were slowly burning the green timothy grass into hay.

The knight lay flat on the ground as if he’d fallen there from a great height.
Jesus. Collum scrambled to his feet, breathing hard. Shitting Je­sus. Thou recreant knight. He’d never killed a man before. God have mercy on us both.

The man kicked once and then stopped moving forever. The only part of him that was exposed was that one fish-pale hand, the one he’d bared to go for his misericord. There were brown speck­les on the back of it, some ropy blue veins. Sir Misericord had not been in his first youth.

And now he was dead. And for what? Nothing. A game, played for no one, in an empty field.

And to think that they were barely a day’s ride from Camelot, the sun that bathed all of Britain in the golden light of chivalry.

“God have mercy,” Collum whispered. An hour ago he’d been no one, then he was a hero, and now he was a murderer. He stood there for a long time, he didn’t know how long. A cloud passed in front of the sun. The two horses, his and the dead knight’s, watched him with long-lashed disinterest.

Then Collum knelt and with a shudder drew his knife out of the man’s eye socket. He walked over to where the fallen knight’s shield lay face down on the matted grass and turned it over with his toe. You could still make out the arms under a hasty coat of white paint: Azure, Three Scepters, a Chevron Or.

Praise

Praise for The Bright Sword

A BEST SUMMER READ: The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Time, Vulture, Esquire, Boston Globe, Elle, Town & Country, Seattle Times, New York Post, Lit Hub, Cosmopolitan, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Paste, BiblioLifestyle, E! Online, AARP, BookBub, BookRiot


“Lev Grossman’s new novel, The Bright Sword, joins 1,400 years of storytelling and resoundingly earns its place among the best of Arthurian tales. . . . Grossman, who is best known for his The Magicians series, is at the top of his game with The Bright Sword, which is full of enviable ideas and execution. Few authors could accomplish what he has, grounding such an ambitious novel in so much tradition and history while still making it accessible and deeply affecting.”
—Kiersten White, The New York Times Book Review

“A thrilling new take on Arthurian legend. . . . Marvelous. . . . As Grossman’s splendid, offbeat quest reaches its conclusion, we see Arthur’s waves of Saxon invaders and their many predecessors refracted in a different light, one that helps illuminate our own tumultuous, battle-torn age in the way that only the best epics can.”
Elizabeth Hand, The Washington Post

“For anyone who’s ever craved a seat at the Round Table. Utterly enchanting.” 
—Rebecca Yarros, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Fourth Wing and Iron Flame

“If you love King Arthur as much as I do, you’ll love Lev Grossman’s The Bright Sword, a fresh and engrossing take on the Matter of Britain featuring a colorful cast of Round Table knights who don’t often get as much story time as they deserve. The creator of The Magicians has woven another spell.”
—George R. R. Martin, #1 New York Times bestselling author of A Game of Thrones

“A radiant reimagining of Arthurian legend. . . . The Bright Sword made me love fantasy again. . . . A must-read.”
—Emily Price, Paste

“If you’re looking for a humorous yet simultaneously heartfelt, funny story from the world of Camelot, The Bright Sword may be the pick for you.”
—Kendra Winchester, BookRiot

“A novel that is as much about the Matter of Britain as it is our own florid and layered imaginings of it. Breathlessly weaves themes of faith, duty, and selfhood with a classic sword-and-sorcery adventure—this is why we read fantasy.”
Ava Reid, #1 New York Times bestselling author of A Study in Drowning

“Here’s the big one, the tentpole, the book I’ve been waiting for nearly a decade: Lev Grossman’s Arthurian epic, clocking in at nearly 700 pages and absolutely worth lugging to the beach/the mountains/the park/wherever else you might be vacationing. I’m happy to report that this book is not only one of the best of the year, but it’s one of the best Arthurian novels ever. Stand it up against The Once and Future King or The Mists of Avalon and I’d be willing to bet that it will come away the victor—it’s that good.”
—Drew Broussard, Lit Hub’s “18 New Novels You Need to Read This Summer”

“[An] epic tale of survivors and magic.”
The Boston Globe

“Like the best of Grossman’s work, [The Bright Sword] is funny and sweeping . . . the medieval-romance structure allows Bright Sword even more space to capitalize on Grossman’s talent for digression, dawdling, and finding unexpected trapdoors inside stories.”
—Kathryn VanArendonk, Vulture's “22 Books We Can’t Wait to Read this Summer”

The Magicians author Lev Grossman took on what seemed the impossible: making the Arthurian legend feel fresh. Miraculously, he’s done just that with The Bright Sword, which answers what came after King Arthur’s fall. . . . Fans of classic fantasy and ancient magic will devour this one.”
—Elle’s “Best New Books to Read in Summer 2024”

“A magical, enthralling tale that you won't be able to put down.”
—Town & Country’s “39 Must-Read Books of Summer 2024”

“The fantasy epic of the summer features an unexpectedly brilliant twist on one of the most famous stories of all time. The Bright Sword is a rousing, imaginative continuation of the King Arthur myth. . . . Magic and murder abound in this rollicking adventure, a thrilling addition to Arthurian lore.”
Minneapolis Star Tribune

“This is storytelling at its purest: glorious, propulsive, and dramatic. Drawing on every aspect of the Arthurian mythos (and more besides), Grossman presents us with fairies, gi­ants, gods, angels, spellcasters, and elemental forces. The magical battles and the sword fights are all imbued with a cinematic quality while still maintaining a sense of the real, of metal parting flesh, of death and bone-crunching violence. . . . In opening the Arthurian legend to other forms of representation, Grossman recasts the narrative as a story about change.”
—Ian Mond, Locus

“Call it the millennial experience transposed onto Camelot; arriving in the big city full of hopes and dreams to find the economy is in freefall, all your heroes are dead or awful, and no one is coming to save you. Even with only one previous trilogy of adult fantasy under his belt, the premise is indelibly Lev Grossman.”
—Joshua Rivera, Polygon

“Once I picked this novel up, I could not stop reading. The Bright Sword is compulsively readable and expertly told. Lev Grossman transports the reader with such assurance and finesse. Just pick it up and lose yourself inside these pages. You won't want to leave until the tale is done.”
—Victor LaValle, national bestselling author of Lone Women

“A rollicking, magical ride through Arthurian legend! Grossman intimately understands the medieval source material and wields it with playful ease. A joyful new addition to the Arthurian canon—a delight.”
Alice Winn, author of In Memoriam

“A doorstopper of an Arthurian retelling from the author of The Magicians trilogy, The Bright Sword offers a fresh take on the story by considering what comes after King Arthur.” 
—Paste

“Satisfyingly epic but also fast-paced, this novel captures everything that’s grand and magnificent about the age of King Arthur while picking at its edges and delving into its darker depths. All fantasy and mythology fans will want to make time for this moving, entertaining epic. . . . This epic fantasy is sure to be a hit.”
—Booklist (STARRED review)

“A breathtaking tale that honors past iterations while producing something entirely unexpected. . . . Grossman does a remarkable job of pulling together these disparate strands while providing enough combat and magic to keep the pages turning. Epic fantasy fans will hang on every word.”
Publishers Weekly (STARRED review)

“Highly recommended for readers who can’t resist a story featuring brave knights, stalwart queens, and magic.”
—Library Journal (STARRED review)

“The story of King Arthur has been told and substantially altered many times over the centuries, and explored by a multitude of contemporary novelists, but the author of the Magicians trilogy makes room for himself here. . . . Very few writers have explored post-Arthurian Britain or focused quite so much on developing the stories of the minor characters in the saga. . . . A fresh take.”
Kirkus Reviews (STARRED review)

“Readers willing to savor the book over many nights will find each chapter a neatly arranged, minia­ture adventure of its own. Traditionally minimal side characters in the story of Arthur—like Sir Bedivere, Sir Palomides and even Dagonet the Fool—receive intricate, deep backstories that erase the mythological buildup around each figure, viewing them instead in a far more human and often more modern light. At once full of desperate hope and grievous loss, The Bright Sword is a moody reflection on Arthur’s tale.”
—Ralph Harris, BookPage

Praise for Lev Grossman's Magicians Trilogy

"The Magicians is to Harry Potter as a shot of Irish whiskey is to a glass of weak tea. Hogwarts was never like this." 
—George R. R. Martin

"The Magicians may just be the most subversive, gripping and enchanting fantasy novel I've read this century." 
—Cory Doctorow

"Lev Grossman has conjured a rare creature: a trilogy that simply gets better and better as it goes along."
—Erin Morgenstern

"The best fantasy trilogy of the decade."
—Charles Stross

"Sad, hilarious, beautiful, and essential to anyone who cares about modern fantasy."
—Joe Hill

Author

© Beowulf Sheehan
Lev Grossman is the author of the #1 New York Times bestselling Magicians trilogy—The Magicians, The Magician King, and The Magician’s Land—which has been published in thirty countries and adapted as a TV show that ran for five seasons on SYFY. He is also a screenwriter and the author of two children’s books, The Golden Swift and The Silver Arrow, and his journalism has appeared in Time, Vanity Fair, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, among many other places. He lives with his wife and children in New York City. View titles by Lev Grossman

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