Stephen R. Lawhead, Author, Steve Lawhead, Author Avon Books $24 (464p) ISBN 978-0-380-97526-6
Arthurian Britain is invoked with robust verisimilitude in Lawhead's fifth novel in his Pendragon Cycle. The narrator here is Gwalchavad, a member of Arthur's elite guard whose soldierly frankness lends credibility even to fantastic events. Indeed, one of Lawhead's achievements is his integration, true to the medieval mind, of the mundane and the miraculous. Myrddin (Merlin) is engagingly drawn as both a curmudgeon and a sage. Arthur is interesting for his blend of youthful folly and courage. Interspersed with Gwalchavad's accounts are passages voiced by the enchantress Morgian, Myrddin's evil arch-foe, as she schemes to overthrow Arthur and steal the Holy Grail. The central theme is the shadow connection of great evil with great goodness: Arthur's naive haste to establish the prophesied ""Summer Kingdom"" and to enshrine the Grail leads to horrific trials. Gwalchavad and his ""swordbrothers"" confront powerful enchantments. Monsters, bogs, mind-numbing spells and zombie soldiers test Arthur, Myrddin and the other heroes. This is, of course, also a spiritual journey, and in the end salvation lies in prayer and the magical virtues of the Grail. Soulful, philosophical sections are well placed at suspenseful points in the action, and the novel's only real flaw is that its happy conclusion is reached not so much through a chain of events determined by character, strength or strategy as by the overarching moral assumption that good must triumph. 35,000 first printing. (July)
Reviewed on: 06/30/1997
Release date: 07/01/1997
Genre: Fiction
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