|Juliana Garnett: The Knight|
Books (Paperback), ISBN 0-515-13053-2
The dying Earl of Essex commissions Sir Stephen Fitzhugh to find the Holy Grail, rumored to bestow eternal life. In exchange, the earl grudgingly promises Sir Stephen title to the manor that should have belonged to the knight by birthright -- had the earl not conspired with the Church to confiscate the land from Stephen's mother after she conceived him out of wedlock. Angst toward the earl, God, and the Church, tempered with hefty skepticism in the Grail legend, hardly befits one who seeks the most famous relic of Christendom. But Stephen remains determined to fulfill his personal quest.
Enter Aislinn, young widowed niece of the late Abbot Robert of Glastonbury, who harbors her own agenda for unearthing the Grail and King Arthur's bones. Fire destroyed the original Glastonbury Abbey five years earlier, and although King Henry II's patronage assures rebuilding funds for now, kings and circumstances can change. But finding the Grail and King Arthur's grave would assure the abbey's prominence forever (or at least for another 350 years, until Henry VIII splits with the Catholic Church).
When Stephen's heretical attitude collides with Aislinn's firm faith in the crucible of mutual physical attraction, sparks fly.
The Knight presents a credible snapshot of 12th century southwestern England. Vivid sensory detail abounds, and the historical details prove reasonably accurate -- aside from the fact that Garnett prolonged King Henry's life two years beyond the recorded date, for the benefit of the plot.
On the downside, Garnet resorts to the nurse-patient cliché and graphic sex scenes conveyed in typical romance phraseology -- although I award a bonus point for depicting the consequences arising from the characters' actions. A point comes off for lack of differentiation between the major characters' viewpoints, for a scene toward the end when Stephen and Aislinn's dialogue seems to be out of character and for the presence of some annoying, one-note minor characters. I'd love to hack off another quarter-point for the cover art depicting chain mail improbably slashed in a "V" to expose a virile chest, but I suspect that blame for that bizarre choice belongs to the publisher, not Garnett.
In sum, I found The Knight to be a unique and engaging read, in spite of its flaws. I recommend it to anyone who not bothered by the issues I mentioned above.
Click here to share your views.