Cover of Sword of the Rightful King by Jane Yolen

Sword of the Rightful King

I worked on this book for years. Beginning with a short story called, The Sword and the Stone, published in my collection MERLIN’S BOOKE, I noodled away at it (that’s a technical term!) a little bit each year. Finally I sent five chapters to my editor and he told me I’d started it in the wrong place, with Merlin. How right he was. This time I began it with the teenaged Gawain and his mother-from-hell. The book began to flow. After sixteen years of trying, I thought that I’d finally got it, the Arthurian novel I had always wanted to write. My husband stopped me after the first full draft, pointing out that Arthur‚ set up as a primo action hero‚ in fact had no action. So back again I went and added two big action scenes where Arthur is in danger, one of which shows that the pen really is mightier than, etc. The jacket illustration took my breath away. As did the first review, from F&SF magazine, which was a total rave.


  • ALA Best Books 2004
  • ALA Best Books for Young Adults 2004
  • ALA Top 10 Fantasy Books for Youth, 2004
  • ABA Pick of the Lists
  • Best Children’s Books of the Year, 2004, Bank Street College of Education
  • Booklist Book Review Stars, Apr. 15, 2003
  • Capitol Choices, 2004, The Capitol Choices Committee
  • The Children’s Literature Choice List, 2004, Cooperative Children’s Book Center
  • Publishers Weekly Book Review Stars, April 14, 2003
  • School Library Journal Book Review Stars, July 2003
  • Booklist Editors’ Choice 2003.
  • Parent’s Guide Children’s Media Award winner
  • Society of School Librarians International Book Awards Honor Book
  • Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children’s Book Award, Vermont nominee 2004-2005
  • South Carolina Children’s Book Award Nominee 2006
  • CCBC (Cooperative Children’s Book Center Choices, 2004
  • Teens’ Top Ten List, 2003 nominee
  • Nominated for Keystone (Pennsylvania) childrens book award 2004

What reviewers have said:

  • “Yolen’s prose is, as always, graceful and lean but never flat. … there are surprises along the way, none of which I will ruin here; enough certainly to make the return to Arthurian pastures a very happy surprise. “–Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine
  • “Yolen constructs a fascinating history … and breathes fresh life into well established characters; their encounters crackle with the vitality of overheard conversations. … The dynamic between Merlinnus and Arthur is especially well realized. … Yolen has explored Arthurian legend before, but her latest foray is a standout in this enormous canon.” –starred review, Publishers Weekly
  • “Yolen at her best, weaving timeless legends into a captivating and highly original novel.”—San Francisco Chronicle
  • “Yolen takes elements of Arthurian legend and makes them her own in this involving novel. … In Yolen’s hands, many characters who have been colorful cardboard figures in other books come to life as sympathetic human beings. … Combining old and new, adventure and idealism, this will leave many readers hoping for a sequel that is just as well written and intriguingly crafted.” — starred review, Booklist
  • “A prolific fantasy writer retells a familiar hero tale with an entirely new twist. … Yolen has clearly immersed herself in Arthurian legends and Celtic lore, but her scholarship rests lightly on this page-turning tale of magic and adventure, betrayal, loyalty, and love. Through smooth, accessible prose, she draws her characters with broad strokes. … An entertaining addition to fantasy collections.” — starred review, School Library Journal
  • “Yolen works her reliable magic on the old tale of the sword in the stone, not by re-telling it but by borrowing its themes and characters and shaping it into a whole new story, shot through with equal parts humor, intrigue and poetry.” — The Washington Post
  • “It is, as the book’s ending tells readers, “an old story but a good one,” and Yolen does it honor. Hard to imagine it being any better written” — 5Q (highest rating) VOYA
  • “Yolen is a gifted writer of fantasy and has returned to this legend of Arthur and Merlin time and time again. She makes the action flow, blending the magic with reality.” — KLIATT
  • “Yolen’s Sword of the Rightful King succeeds with its foundation of careful research, its authentic characters and a plot “twist” that is solidly supported in the novel, and it earns a rightful place on any recommended reading shelf.” — Rambles
  • “Diabolical plotting rules this literary feat of magnificence. The reader is swept up from the very first, and unable to break free until the tale reaches its climactic and unlooked for end. Jane Yolen is a writer of great skill and imagination, and she has brought to light this new and enchanting take on the tale of the “Sword in the Stone” for us to experience. I highly recommend that you read this one, it will take you away to that land of imaginings, and also have your mind working overtime trying to figure out who is whom.” — Linear Reflections
  • “Yolen is playing to her strengths here, and from these old materials she works a creditable new story.” — Horn Book
  • “It was an old story but a good one” ends Yolen’s text, and in her hands, this old tale of King Arthur is fresh and alive. . .Yolen’s words and phrases evoke this ancient time yet will appeal to today’s reader. Put this at the top of your read-aloud list. “–Children’s Literature
  • “Set within the comfortable framework of Arthurian legend, this readable version of a familiar story offers more than just an exciting plot. An exceptional cast of characters-especially Arthur, Merlinnus, Kay, and Gawaine-come through the pages as realistic individuals with credible strengths and weaknesses, rather than as superhuman heroes.” –Cooperative Children’s Book Center Choices
  • “Taking license with tradition, Yolen provides a seething combination of political expedience and magical machinations. The sharply drawn players jockey for position amidst the Machiavellian magic of witch and wizard, and, at the end of this episode, the possibility of happily ever after remains: “It was an old story but a good one.” Overlapping chapters drive the precipitous narrative, and the revelation of the sword as a contrived anointer of kings, along with the underlying recognition of power as a driving force in moral choices, contribute to making this a slightly cynical but still poignant piece of Arthuriana. Review Code: R — Recommended.”–Bulletin for the Center of Children’s Books