Reference type: Encyclopedia
Authority: Garland Publishing is one of the stronger reference publishing houses. Lacy is the Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of French at Pennsylvania State University. He maintains a page of Arthuriana at http://www.personal.psu.edu/faculty/n/j/njl2/arthur.html. His site is apparantly very well-researched and offers many other sources on Arthurian lore.
Audience relation: Arthurian legend is another of the staple stories from which science fiction and fantasy writers often draw. Some will write in Merlin or Arthur as supporting characters, others will predict the return of The Once and Future King, and still others will simply retell the tales from a different perspective. A concise reference to the peoples and places of the legend is necessary for these instances.
This book is a nice mix of legend and fact. It includes information about the legendary charachters as they have appeared in several incarnations and provides information about real world origins and tracings of the legends. The entries are anywhere from a few lines to a few pages, depending on the depth required. However, most of them offer the most basic information. There are sources listed at the end of most entries if more research is desired.
This is a fairly thorough look at the Arthurian legend without becoming too obsessed with any one facet. All of the major and most of the minor elements are addressed with enough information to fill the most basic information need. The entries do not assume foreknowledge of the subject matter, so this book is ideal for the initiate.
The book itself is a large tome of 615 pages. However, pages 579-615 are the 1990-1995 supplement. The book's entries are alphabetical with minimal cross-referencing. An index is included at the back for easy lookup of names and phrases that may not warrent an entry unto themselves. The book also includes a catagorized list of entries at the front as well as a list of contributors. Some illustrations are included.
While this book may not be the most in-depth review of the Arthurian legend, it is certainly one of the most broad views. This is perfect for scholars who may not know just where to begin research. It is also good for busy people, such as science fiction authors, who may only want and need the quick answer but also desire a degree of authority. Overall, it is, as they say, "The most bang for your buck."