The legend of King Arthur has had many re-imaginings, most recently by the BBC’s fondly remembered series, Merlin. Tom Huddleston courts a similar young adult audience but sets his series in the far future, not the mythical past.
In The Future King, rising sea levels have all but washed Britain away, leaving northern England an island. Those that survived the catastrophe hid underground, returning to the surface centuries later as feudal fiefdoms.
Teenager Aran Carifax is the son of a wealthy clan leader known as a Law. He dreams of being a warrior like his older brother, but as the younger son he’s expected only to manage the farms. A chance encounter with the mysterious figure Peregrine changes everything, as Aran discovers it’s his destiny to unite the divided Laws and repel the invasion from a Viking-like horde called The Marauders.
The Future King blends a coming-of-age story with swords-and-sorcery that clearly takes its lead from Harry Potter. Aran’s sidekicks Cas and Mohanna are just Ron Weasley with book smarts and a sword-wielding Hermione respectively. There is even a Quidditch-like sport called Longball. Aran, however, is a realistic portrait of maturing adolescence and the lessons he learns about violence not being the only answer are deftly delivered so they don’t sound hackneyed.
As with many adaptations, The Future King struggles because we all know how the story is going to end.
But when the author allows himself to deviate from the legend, he excels. For instance, his invented villains The Marauders and their floating cities are enthralling and he sets up multiple mysteries, including Peregrine’s strange origins, that keep the reader wanting more.