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July 2003
© 2003 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu
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One Knight Only by Peter David
Ace / Penguin Putnam HCVR: ISBN 0441010571 PubDate: 07/01/03
Review by Don Smith

373 pgs. List price $ 24
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“I am the first hero of history, Percival. I was king of Uruk in Babylonia…I was, and am, two-thirds god, one-third man…” “I don’t care if you’re two-thirds orange juice and one-third vodka,” shot back Percival. - Gilgamesh and Percival in "One Knight Only"

In Knight Life, author Peter David returned Arthur Pendragon, the once and future king of Britain, to modern times and gets him elected the mayor of New York City. In the process, Arthur is reacquainted with Merlin, Morgan Le Fey, Modred, Percival – the Holy Grail Knight, and the reincarnations of Guenivere and Lancelot.

Now in One Knight Only, set about a decade later, we find Arthur two years into his Presidency of the United States. The country is fighting a War on Terror and the First Lady is wounded by a would be assassin’s bullet. Arthur’s only hope is to find the Holy Grail. However, the Grail is in the possession of the Eternal Gilgamesh and he is holding Percival captive.

With One Knight Only, Peter David has managed not only to be funny, but insightful and astute as well. He has written a humorous fantasy novel that could, and perhaps should, be used to teach modern political science in schools around the country.

Considering this is a fantasy novel, one can tell what is inspired by real life. One of the most moving scenes comes in a flashback while Arthur is still mayor of New York. David describes a scene set in the aftermath of a 9/11 inspired attack. In the middle of the tragedy, King Arthur’s actions are also clearly inspired by the real life actions of Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. Arthur’s actions are what end leading him into the White House.

David uses the scenes in a very tasteful manner. He takes great cares not to exploit the “9/11 like massacre” into a “nifty story plot.” In an almost affirmation to Americans, David plays out a debate between King Arthur’s Presidential administration, Gilgamesh’s sole monarchy over Grail Island, and Sandoval’s tyrannical control of the fictional Arab nation Trans-Sabal. But the amazing thing is – is not written in a “grandstanding” manner. It is a thoughtful and eloquent diatribe, that is also very powerful.

Here is an example from Arthur’s speech:

“Because when people are able to speak out without fear of repression, that’s where ideas come from and change comes from. Yes, the indigenous people were slaughtered…but not anymore. Yes, people were enslaved…but not anymore. Yes, Asian citizens were imprisoned…but not anymore. Practices and actions taken by the government and the people it represents are constantly changing, developing, growing as new thoughts and new ideas were presented.”

But at the same time, he writes characters that are real and fun to read. Best example, is Miss Basil. A human beauty hiding the form of a large snake – the Basilisk – and turns Merlin into stone. David writes her as a cross between Famke Jansen in the first Pierce Brosnan James Bond movie, Goldeneye, and the last twenty minutes of Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets.

Something continuing in most Peter David novels are “nods and nudges” of other works of art. Allow me to throw another example: Ziusara studied him [Merlin] for a moment. “Weren’t you a statue?” “Yes. But I got better.”

I am sure the “Monty Python” troupe would approve, and I am sure you will too.

© 2003 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu
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