Wim Coleman & Pat Perrin,
The Taker & the Keeper
(Chiron, 2009)

If you know an 8-year-old who wishes the Back to the Future movies had gone just a little -- well, OK, kind of a lot -- further back in time, go ahead and hand him Wim Coleman and Pat Perrin's The Taker & the Keeper for a brisk romp through the age of chivalry.

Or, perhaps more accurately, just before the age of chivalry. Modern-day preteen Gregory Guest and his friend Yolanda Torres wake up one morning to find that things have gone subtly wrong. Everyone is cranky. The air smells bitter. And King Arthur stories have been replaced with the tale of a man named Arthur who wants to be a knight but can't quite cut it. Instead, he becomes a blacksmith, has a bunch of kids, gets into drunken tavern brawls and dies in his sleep.

When Gregory and Yolanda stumble upon a wormhole that takes them back to the day before Arthur is supposed to pull Excalibur from the stone, they discover the source of the problem: Excalibur has been stolen by Morgan le Fay. Without it, even Merlin has forgotten Arthur's real fate. It's up to a motley crew consisting of Gregory, Yolanda, their cranky science teacher, Merlin and his apprentice to retrieve the sword and restore magic -- and chivalry -- to the once and future world. Of course, Morgan le Fay isn't about to just give it back.

The story is simple and occasionally a bit illogical, but it's still a fun, fast-paced read that plunges straight from one adventure into the next. Gregory is a likable character whose troubled background adds a jolt of realism to the story and provides solid grounds for his fears and motivations. And if the other characters and setting are on the insubstantial and undeveloped side, there's plenty of action and suspense to make up for it. Readers will appreciate the authors' flashes of tongue-in-cheek humor and their ability to make the potentially confusing and complex subject of time travel accessible.

While it won't win any prizes for subtlety or sophistication, at under 200 pages, The Taker & the Keeper is a short but enjoyable read for Arthurian fans (ages 8-10) who are just a little too young for the Gerald Morris series.

review by
Jennifer Mo

21 November 2009

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