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    KINGDOM OF THE GRAIL by Judith Tarr

    ROC, September 2000

    Charles of the Franks is off to battle the Saracens in Spain again along with his famous paladins--Roland, Oliver, Turpin. This time, darker forces guide the hands. Charlemagne, Roland, and the others are tools in the greatest game of all time--the battle for the Holy Grail. Once, this cup caught the blood of the Savior. Years later, the search for it tore apart the last light in Britain under Arthur and Merlin. Now it sings to Roland, decendent of captive Merlin, and Merlin's ancient and evil master Ganelon.

    KINGDOM OF THE GRAIL retells the epic of Roland, with demons among the attacking hosts. Roland is not killed, however, but spirited away by Sarissa, the woman he loves. Yet even the blood of Merlin and the ancient protectors of the Grail stand little chance against the power of evil. Parsifal, the King of the Kingdom of the Grail is old, feeble, and unable to take up the power of the Grail. For Roland to stand a chance, he must harken back to the pre-Christian rites he fears and abhors.

    Judith Tarr (see all reviews of novels by this author) has created a wonderful retelling of the story of Roland, weaving Arthurian romance into the legend of the flower of Charlemagne's court. The Grail itself is a powerful symbol and Tarr uses that symbolism to the full. The blood of a King created power in pagan days, the blood of a God power beyond imagination. The romance between Roland and Sarissa adds humanity to this epic tale. Likewise, the antics of the puca, Tarik, keep KINGDOM OF THE GRAIL from becoming overly serious and caught up in its pagan mysteries.

    The Arthurian legends have always represented an blend of Christian and Pagan. Tarr respects and builds on that tradition while creating a story that resonates much more closely with modern style and sensibility. Fans of fantasy, of Arthur, and of early Medieval Europe will find KINGDOM OF THE GRAIL an exciting discovery.

    Four Stars

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