Stephen R. Lawhead
Grail (Volume 5 of the Pendragon Cycle)
AvoNova 1997

This is the fifth book in the Pendragon Cycle. Beware! The review might include spoilers if you haven't read the previous books.

The Vandals are conquered, but given land in the north to settle. Gwalchavad (Galahad) gets the sad duty to go tell some northerners that their land has been given to Mercia, new leader of the Vandals, because of the betrayals of their nobles. On his way there, he finds a mute and confused young woman, whom he takes with him. Meanwhile, Arthur has withdrawn to Ynys Avallach in the south to the heal the wounds he received when he fought the Vandal battlechief. He is deadly wounded, but is miraculously healed by the power of the Grail, the cup Jesus used in the Last Supper, brought to Britain by the tin merchant Joseph of Arimateia. This miracle gives him a new vision: to build a shrine for the Grail, where pilgrims from all over the country can receive the blessings of the Grail. A splendid idea, but not only Merlin but also Gwalchavad have a bad feeling about it. A well-founded bad feeling, as it turns out...

This the fifth book in the Pendragon cycle starts where "Pendragon" ends, but now with Gwalchavad telling the story. According to the Arthurian tradition, Galahad was the knight with the pure heart who found the Grail. In Lawhead's version he's the good guy, too, but like all Lawhead's good guys one who would be feeling unworthy if someone should call him that. The bad guy is, of course, not a guy at all, but good old Morgian, King Avallach's daughter and Merlin's aunt, once more trying to ruin the Kingdom of Summer before it's even begun. This time, we get to know her side of the story too (and believe me, it's quite different fromwhat she tells through Marion Zimmer Bradley...) And we experience what her magical power can bring forth.

This story is maybe more fantasy than any of the previous books in the series. Magical and religious realities have been there throughout it, but here they get an even more central position. The Grail in itself is of course one reason for that, but also the magical realities Morgian creates, reminding me of enchanted woods and stuff in the novels about Arthur I used to read when I was a kid. The nerve is there - how can they make this right once more, and how will he make this fit with the last part of "Arthur" which chronologically happens later? But in the end everything fits, and the Summer Kingdom can begin.

If you liked "Pendragon", you'll probably love this one. And if you love this one, you'll probably be disappointed when I tell you that this is said to be the finale to the Pendragon Cycle. But if you ask me, I think there's more to tell. What about this Summer Kingdom we've heard so much about? And what really happened after Camlann? Excuse me, Mister, but there's still more to tell!

Karl Henriksson

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