...then it's quite right.
An utterly unlikeable Arthur, as despicable as the rest of the equally (save one) scheming warlords, who hasn't managed, in the first third of the book, to distinguish himself from the others in any way.
He has, however, managed to beat and rape his (admittedly scheming) politically-wed Saxon wife, and have her like it. Oh, and also to freely call all the women around him save for Gwynhwyfar (Guinevere), bitch, slut, whore, so on and so forth.
But hey, since ALL the men do it, and all the women accept it without comment (or overmuch comment), I blame the author more than her poor written Arthur.
Apparently Hollick's idea of gritty realism is to render all women either madonnas or whores.
Ooh, this review sums up the book pretty perfectly. I was going to log in and write a scathing one, but it looks like I won't have to!
The bits I found the most relevant:
Without sufficient knowledge of the historical period, very little awareness of the warrior culture of which she would write, possessing unrefined writing skills, but with an apparently strong desire to explore the love story of Arthur and Gwenhwyfar (that's Guinevere to most of the rest of us), an inexperienced author bit off more than she was ready to chew.
Ms. Hollick clearly has limited understanding of combat and very few skills to help bring those scenes to life.
Most frustrating for the reader with some knowledge of the Arthurian tradition is the way in which this tradition has been utterly abandoned, then replaced with nothing of real value. The spiritual Arthur, the chivalric Arthur, the noble Arthur, the sleeping Arthur whose legend inspires hope for the British people are all gone. In their place is a greedy warlord who aspires to little more than women, power, booze, and, did I mention, women? We have no idea what Gwen sees in him, but she's a saint.
The only saving grace in this story is that this Arthur is probably closer to the historical figure (if he actually existed) than most of the fictions we enjoy today. But beyond supposition, there's little evidence that establishes this version over those it seeks to replace. There's nothing gained by supplanting an inspiring fictional character with one who may be closer to the texture of the warlords who lived in fifth and sixth century Britain without, at least, some evidence that the new version is reasonably accurate. And when one considers the number of anachronisms sprinkled through the text, one is hardly inspired to believe that this account of Arthur's history is particularly accurate.
Ended up returning this book in disgust without finishing it, when I reached the part where Ygraine 'realises' that Uther cheated on her !!because he loved her!! and then began to berate herself for not 'understanding'. -_-
The main problem with this book isn't that Hollick has made Arthur evil - because that is exactly what she's made him. But that she's made him a rather banal sort of evil, without even realising that she HAS made him evil (let alone banal).
That - and the world view of the AUTHOR's that comes through the writing is just plain disturbing to me.