The Camelot Spell
Laura Anne Gilman. HarperCollins Publishers, $10.99 (291pp) ISBN 978-0-06-077279-6
A rather charming fantasy is nearly buried under excessive bickering and a meandering narrative in Gilman's first entry in the paper-over-board Grail Quest series. Fourteen-year-old Gerard serves as the squire to Sir Rheynold, one of the Knights of the Round Table who is preparing to join King Arthur's quest for the Holy Grail. But just before the crew can depart, a spell descends on Camelot, leaving only the children awake. Gerard, servant boy Newt and a girl named Ailis set off to find the recently departed Merlin, whom they believe might hold the key to the spell. They soon meet an ominous woman who dispenses riddles (""The owl, lonely flier. Moonlight, water, what you desire"") and a team of bandits that relieves them of their provisions. When the trio finally finds Merlin, he tells them they must recover ""three talismans that will revoke what has been done."" From there a fairly standard quest unfolds, told with an adolescent perspective that will either delight or infuriate readers, depending on their tolerance for anachronistic, cutesy dialogue (""Are we dead?"" ""I don't feel dead."" ""How would you know?"" ""All right, I wouldn't. But I don't feel dead""). Ages 10-up.
Reviewed on: 01/30/2006