I was very kindly sent *The Pendragon Legend by Antal Szerb (£12.99, paperback) which is published by Pushkin Press. Firstly, let's take a moment to appreciate the bloody gorgeous cover; it has a unique shape, being quite petite and boxy which makes it really nice to read. The Pendragon Legend was first published in the 1930s, so I would categorise it as a classic.
The book follows a Hungarian intellectual on an adventure that takes him to the Welsh mountains and ancient castles. The book has so many themes that I adore such as myths, legends and folk tales, secret societies, gothic settings of abandoned castles, mysterious lakes and rural villages, the occult and black magic and mystery as well as ghostly beings, prophets, welsh mythical figures and a range of intriguing characters.
The only point I am always cautious about with classics is the writing style as usually it can be so different to what I'm used to, as it's normally formal, complex and more convoluted than non-classics; however the writing style on the whole was easy to read and follow although in some areas it was a little confusing as there are a fair few characters.
The storyline is interesting and entertaining throughout, the mystery is enticing and I was left wondering how the storylines would conclude throughout the book. The characters were so vivid and believable, if a little annoying at times. This next point might be a little spoiler so skip to the next paragraph - my one problem with the characters was the main character, Janos Batley, as some of his beliefs and remarks really got under my skin such as his insinuated belief that intelligent woman are masculine and aren't typically beautiful or feminine; this is most prominent with the character Lene who he seems to admire but as he would admire an intelligent man and she was portrayed as generically masculine. Although this may have just been the view at the time.
There are so many elements that I loved such as a mystery, occult and alchemy elements which I enjoyed so much! Parts of the book reminded me of The Woman in Black by Susan Hill in terms of ghostly apparitions and spooky atmosphere. I also think it had elements of frankenstein, in terms of raising the dead and scientific experimentation. Additionally, I thought that Mrs Roscoe was quite similar the Countess Narona in The Haunted Hotel by Wilkie Collins.
Overall, I cannot recommend this book enough! If you think you don't like classics then just give them a go and you might be surprised. I adored the themes in this book particularly all of the mystery, occult, mythic and atmospheric/gothic elements. I definitely want to check out more books from Antal Szerb even though there were a few points about The Pendragon Legend that I wasn't a fan of. Overall rating: ★★★★☆, 4/5.
What have you been reading recently? Have you read The Pendragon Legend? Any recommendations similar to this book?