by Juliana Garnett, historical (2001)
Jove, $6.99, ISBN 0-515-13053-2
The Knight is an interesting medieval romance - it is set in an abbey. Yes, there are monks around, and people here actually pray and do something rather than just heal sick people or clean castle floors or nod stupidly to everything our hero and heroine say. It centers around the search for the Holy Grail.
Sir Stephen Fitzhugh (snicker) is a burned-out, disillusioned knight. You know the sort. Grouchy, doesn't believe in anything anymore, et cetera. He is charged by the Earl of Essex to go to Glastonbury Abbey to retrieve the Holy Grail rumored to be hidden there. Stephen couldn't come at a worse time though. Glastonbury Abbey is facing one of the worst crises imaginable: politics. Every deacon, father, whatever, is trying to outdo each other or siphon off funds from some other province for his own betterment. The Prior of Glastonbury Abbey, as a result, decides to play it safe and hands the papers detailing the clues to the Grail to Aislinn, a widow living at the abbey.
Abbey is actually a smart bunny who can read and all, and she manages to get some impression that the papers she discovers "hidden" amidst her other books and papers and all lead to something Big. Stephen knows this woman is the key, and sneakily enlists her to his cause without telling her his mission.
Interesting themes? Religion and Stephen's redemption via healthy dollops of sex and prayers. Who says religion isn't fun, huh? The atmosphere is so steeped and evocative that I can practically hear the chant of prayers in my mind as I turn the pages. Aislinn is a level-headed heroine, practical and sensible. All the more fun to see her lose her head to amour. Grouchy, disagreeable Stephen is also a delightful character, and his eventual taking on the knight in shining armor role is wonderful to follow.
But the pacing of this story is so s - l - o - w. Most of the times our two intrepid medieval Scarecrow and Mrs King are taking their time peering into dusty holes and asking questions to people who just can't seem to say anything directly. The only way a story can get away with so many poking around in musty tombs and caverns, if you ask me, is either by having vampires screaming out of the darkness or by having lots of poking around activities on top of the poking around. If you know what I mean.
Hence, the start of The Knight is beautifully atmospheric, the end is utterly satisfying, but the middle makes a lovely pillow for sleep and daydreams. Still, one of the better books to come my way.
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