Merlin, by all the gods that’s it! I shall become president of the Soviet Union of America.
-Arthur Pendragon, who needs a little more study time
The story of King Arthur and the Round Table is pretty much ingrained into the public consciousness. Certainly it’s a story with many of the classic fantasy elements-a king trying to forge a kingdom where (to borrow a phrase) might is used for right, but a wife’s love for the king’s best friend signals the end of his dream. Okay, well, that was my interpretation, in a nutshell. Various scholars have various opinions, and I’m not here to debate them.
What I am here for is to review a rather interesting book. Knight Life isn’t exactly what one would call unusual; many authors today have mined the Arthur legend, set in just about every conceivable time frame. What make this book unique is the strategy taken. But I’m skipping ahead. Let me take it from the beginning.
The book opens up with Morgan Le Fay, in the modern day. Time has, shall we say, not been kind to her. Her one joy in life has been to occasionally look in upon the imprisoned wizard, Merlin (through the magic of her television set). In despair, she is all ready to take her own life…except she notices that the prison is empty. Suddenly, Morgan has a reason to live! (Not exactly a noble reason, but what can you expect?)
Shortly after, a fellow arrives in New York City, wearing a full suit of armor…yes, it’s the King…and while he doesn’t have the same level of culture shock one might expect, he is still somewhat bewildered by it all. But with the aid of Merlin, he decides to once again try to change the world. However, Britain isn’t quite what it was in his time, and he’s not quite ready for national leadership…so he’ll start small-he runs for mayor of NYC.
In the process, other faces from the past pop up; a young woman who looks awfully familiar named Gwen D. Queen, and Moe Dreskin-a fellow who knows Arthur quite well indeed…and I had to feel a little sorry for him given the pretty bad position he’s put in…! Even more dangerous, Arthur has to deal with the press, his political opponents, and the cynical nature of New Yorkers.
This was an interesting book, as I’ve already noted. Knight Life was written by Peter David some time ago, so this is almost a reprint; but the author has redone things in this book to “fix” it. Not having ever seen the original version (in fact, I’d never even known he’d written one!), I have no idea what might have changed. I never felt that I was reading dated material, though (unless you count some of Arthur’s political views).
Knight Life is not an action packed book; while it has a couple of scenes, those are not the strengths of this book. It’s all about watching Arthur try to run for political office in a city that wouldn’t believe the truth about him if someone told them; it’s about Arthur trying to pursue the woman who seems ready to repeat history with him; it’s about the diabolical plans of Morgan Le Fay, hoping to put a final finish to her most hated enemies. And it’s about a man from the past looking at present day society and comparing their attitudes towards life with his…and the differences aren’t as clear cut as one might think.
The introduction to the book hints that David is preparing another novel, which will be a sequel to this one. I sincerely hope it happens, because I found Knight Life to be an enjoyable read; it was an interesting take on King Arthur-one that doesn’t rely upon the might of the sword, but on the ability to make people believe in him. And that’s something that any politician should envy.