cover image Parzival: The Quest of the Grail Knight

Parzival: The Quest of the Grail Knight

Katherine Paterson. Dutton Books, $15.99 (144pp) ISBN 978-0-525-67579-2

Paterson (Bridge to Terabithia) performs a service for young readers and for Wolfram von Eschenbach's 13th-century German epic with this supple adaptation. Parzival, born of royal blood but raised as a peasant, leaves his humble home as a boy to seek adventure. His nobility is immediately recognized in Arthur's court, where, despite his lack of gallantry, he wins the Red Knight's armor in a duel. Still a green youth, he stumbles from one adventure to another, learning lessons about chivalry, compassion and God's grace. During a quest to find the keeper of the Holy Grail and break a curse plaguing the mysterious ""Wild Mountain,"" Parzival commits a nearly tragic error, but in his struggle to atone for his mistake, he sheds his childlike innocence and grows into a respected hero. The author judiciously trims all but the most essential branches from the legend, at the same time amplifying Wolfram's humor, irony and strong Christian message. Her economy of language propels the reader forward (e.g., when Parzival's mother explains God to him, ""Why, Dear Boy, God is he who is King of Heaven. He has made the world and in his love took human form to save it""). For readers enamored of Karen Cushman's Catherine, Called Birdy or medieval-type fantasies, this fast-paced, highly accessible romance could easily prove a gateway to the literature of the Middle Ages. Ages 10-up. (Mar.)