Tom Holt,
Grailblazers
(Orbit, 1994)

The problem with quests is, once you make a solemn vow to complete one, you're pretty much stuck with it. There is, in the realms of chivalry anyway, no escape clause. So that explains why a handful of Arthur's knights are still alive, well and living in England -- and, after all these years, they still have no clue where to look for the Holy Grail.

Having for the most part given up the quest as a bad bet, they've pretty much settled into their immortal lives. Now that they're out of the quest business, they're making their way as an insurance salesman, pizza deliveryman, window cleaner and so on. Meanwhile, Sir Boamund, who failed to properly charm a Sleeping Beauty, was cast into an enchanted sleep of his own after a flagon of questionable milk. Now he is awakened from his 1,500-year repose with a charge from Merlin himself to get the knights back on track and find the grail.

Trouble is, they still don't know where to look ... nor do they really even know what it is they're seeking.

But they do get some clues from a helpful dwarf, which lead them on a unicorn hunt in Australia, into the bank vaults of Atlantis and through Santa Claus's sock drawer. This Father Christmas is a little different than most people imagine, so tread carefully -- and stay well away from the red-nosed reindeer in his company.

Danny Bennett, Holt's ubiquitous news hound, makes several cameo appearances, but for the first time, there's no real point to them. It seems almost as if Bennett is in there because, well, he's supposed to be. There are also some good bits about the universal contents of pockets, and the ghost of Shakespeare lends an accidental hand.

Grailblazers is one of my least favorite of Holt's books. And yet, it still had me laughing throughout -- Holt is that good. I keep hoping that U.S. publishers will catch on and give him the kind of ride they've given fellow Brits Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett; until then, you'll have to quest for his books online or while on holiday to Britain or Canada.

[ by Tom Knapp ]



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