Re: Mary Stewart's Merlin Trilogy
Oh, I'm definitely going to have to reread them -- 30+ years is too long.
However, one of the things I liked about the books (though I'd not yet read Mallory at the time), is that, while having a great deal more of Arthur here, it wasn't the Arthur I grew up with, whom I'd found very boring, much the same as I do Superman -- an overgrown boy scout without flaws. Here, as I later discovered in Mallory, Arthur has his weaknesses, his warts, and I love him all the better for it. He's a good man who nonetheless makes mistakes, fumbles the ball, and has his snits. He also deals with inner angst. He's human, and to me all the more heroic for that. Also I liked seeing things through Merlin's eyes more than what I'd experienced at that time.
The books are an odd blending of Mallory's approach, in which we do see Arthur that way a good bit of the earlier work, then he goes off dealing with the knights and Arthur becomes more of a background figure, or a thread tying the other stories together. I liked the fact that Stewart focused more on "the road less followed", as it were, yet stayed rather true to the earlier stories I had read, as well as ones I read later but were from much earlier sources.
Just a note on White's Once and Future King: It may be helpful to read both versions of the first two books, as he revised them heavily for their inclusion in the later version, even retitling the second. Though he made some improvements, there are some things he changed that I feel rather detracted from the richness and poignancy of the earlier novels, as well.