Thursday, August 31, 2006

Review: "Fall of Knight" by Peter David

Arthur Penn, former president of the United States, plans to live the rest of his life peacefully sailing the world on his yacht with his wife Gwen in Peter David's latest, "Fall of Knight" (Ace, $24.95). The only problem is the former first lady was shot by a terrorist and medical experts from all over the world said she would never come out of a coma.

When a satellite photo of Arthur and Gwen apparently living happily ever after shows up on the news, people want answers. Perhaps telling the truth — that Arthur is, in fact, Arthur Pendragon, king of Camelot, and he healed his wife with the Holy Grail, which he won in a battle against Sumerian legend Gilgamesh with the aid of a Moorish Knight of the Round Table named Percival and a Noah-like sailor named Ziusura — was a bad idea.

Proving the claim by using the Grail to treat a fallen journalist covering the story turns out to be an even worse idea as, suddenly, Arthur finds himself besieged by people needing help and even as the focus of a new religion.

But the worst is yet to come when Merlin discovers that the Grail's companion piece, the Spear of Destiny, is also back in play, and the combination of the two could have disastrous results. Unfortunately, before he can warn Arthur, he's imprisoned by Nimue, the Lady of the Lake.

The third book in David's satirical modern-day Arthur trilogy provides as many chuckles as the first two, and just as much food for thought, as well. While telling a fun adventure story, he also skewers several aspects of modern life from politics to religion to frivolous lawsuits.

Those prone to being offended may want to give the book a pass. The story deals with two legendary items closely associated to Christ — the cup he drank from at the last supper and the spear that pierced his side on the cross — and some of the fictional revelations in the book are a bit irreverent. It is, after all, a comic fantasy. But at the end of the day, the story serves more as an affirmation of faith.

Even more interesting to me, a long-time devotee of the Arthurian legends, is the story that serves as the backdrop for "Fall of Knight." Without giving anything away, I'll just say that it's a tale of Merlin and the origin of Excalibur that rivals any other that I've read.

The trilogy, which also includes the books "Knight Life" and "One Knight Only," is a fun update on the Arthurian legends. I'd definitely recommend it for Arthur buffs with a sense of humor.

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