Nigel Bennett and P.N. Elrod,
Keeper of the King
(Baen, 1997)

It had to happen sometime. Given the recent popularity of vampires and the perennial appeal of the legends of King Arthur and his knights, it was only a matter of time before someone crossed the two. The result is the unique novel Keeper of the King.

Richard d'Orleans, the third son of the duc d'Orleans, is 35 years old -- an old man by the standards of the time. When he loses a tournament to a 16-year-old boy, his father banishes him from his home, for there is nothing there for a third son. The first inherits everything, the second goes to the church and the third must make his way as best he can.

Richard is given a purpose by the mysterious Lady Sabra, the Lady of the Lake, a priestess of the Goddess. She and her sisterhood are sworn to protect a new king in Britain, who is to bridge the chasm between the old ways and the new. The king's name is Arthur and Richard becomes Lancelot du Lac in Arthur's court, his champion and guardian -- and a vampire, by Lady Sabra's grace.

Flash forward to the present day in Toronto. Richard d'Orleans is now Richard Dun, security consultant. Hired by the RCMP to protect the Prime Minister from an assassination attempt, he finds himself fighting the terrorist Charon.

But for the first time in centuries, Richard is having trouble keeping his mind on the job. For Sabra, both lover and mother, is dying. The only thing that will save her is to drink from the Holy Grail and so Richard flies to Britain to find it in Avalon. What he does not yet realize is that the Grail is also the object of Charon's quest. And if Charon gains the Grail, not only will Sabra and Richard die, but countless others as well.

Both P.N. Elrod and Nigel Bennett know something of vampire lore. Elrod, of course, is the author of numerous books on vampires, including Death and the Maiden and Red Death. Bennett is better known as the sometimes-more-evil-than-not vampire LaCroix in the television series Forever Knight. The cover art includes two versions of his portrait, so if you're at all familiar with his television work, you can't miss it.

The team of Bennet and Elrod have put together a fascinating story with a most interesting variation on the Arthurian legends. There are very few flashbacks to spoil the line of the narrative, and it moves steadily toward its somewhat surprising conclusion. Although one of the cover blurbs mentions "lots of action and gore," it is not really as gory as one might expect. Of course, what there is is rather graphically described, but it is not so horrific that you'll want to put the book down and run screaming for the exits. I recommend picking up a copy if you come across it.

[ by Laurie Thayer ]

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