Peter David,
One Knight Only
(Ace, 2003)

This is a whole 'nother Arthur -- for a whole 'nother world.

In Knight Life, Peter David gave us funny, action-packed fantasy surrounding Arthur, the Once and Future King, who has come back to life and is making a bid to become mayor of New York. In the long-awaited sequel, One Knight Only, Arthur has advanced to the presidency -- but this is no light-hearted yarn.

Merlin is gone, turned to stone by an ancient monster and left to decorate the Rose Garden lawn. That leaves Arthur Penn without counsel in this post-9/11 world. (While the precise terroristic attacks on New York's World Trade Center and the Pentagon did not occur on Sept. 11, 2001, in David's not-quite-reality there was a similar tragedy -- and the heroic Arthur has led the war against terrorism in its wake.)

The fight takes a personal turn when Sandoval, the chief terrorist leader in hiding, decides to make an example of Penn -- targeting his wife, the reincarnated Guinevere, with an assassin's bullet.

The aftermath leaves Arthur with his leadership in shreds, his life and love destroyed. He makes a deal with the devil, of sorts, to reclaim some honor -- and seeks the one icon of legend that might save his wife from death. Unfortunately, another immortal king from the realms of mythology stands in his way.

One Knight Only is a much grimmer book than its predecessor. That's not to say it lacks humor, but it's much subtler and less likely to have you laughing out loud as you read. Instead, you'll find yourself riveted to the page as the ultimate fantasy hero confronts the ultimate real-world evil.

Granted, David's take on certain true-life issues is a little more black and white than we have today, and President Penn has a greater respect for human life than the current U.S. leadership. But rarely have mythical characters been inserted so realistically into current events. As the book progresses, the story unfolds less in the real world and more in a new, mythic setting -- but the ending is somewhat ambiguous and leaves room for a sequel.

Let's hope Peter David continues this tale more quickly than he did last time!

- Rambles
written by Tom Knapp
published 28 June 2003

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