July 2004
© 2004 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu
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One King One Soldier by Alexander C. Irvine
Del Rey / Random House Trade: ISBN 0345466969 PubDate: 07/01/04
Review by Bill Herriman

384 pgs. List price $ 13.95
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“There is magic in the world.”

That line, spoken by a character in One King, One Soldier by Alexander C. Irvine is both a concise summation and an apt description of what beats at the heart of a this wonderful novel. This is a well plotted tale of the search and the finding of what must be one of the best known mythical icons of western civilization – certainly in the history of Christianity – The Grail. The Holy Grail the Cup of Christ spoken of in a whisper, it hovers, always seemingly near, just over that vague border where lore and legend live. Alexander Irvine guides the reader over that boundary in pursuit of the Grail and, in so doing, uses a unique blend of fact and fiction to render the Cup (which, without giving away too much is not a cup at all!) as not just a relic that links mankind to the heavenly realm, but is also a piece of something far greater – a device that delineates the very nature of otherworldly power.

The story moves through time and place – from the beat environ of San Francisco in the fifties to the isolation of Nova Scotia and onward (and back ward) to the Solomonic world of Sheba and Ethiopia. The characters are deftly rendered. One, who was a real flesh and blood American poet of the mid-twentieth century, author of The Holy Grail (1964) is Jack Spicer. Irvine does a masterful job of recreating this character and the time in which he lived.

Other players in the Grail game are Lance, Gwen and Arthur (methinks I spy a Round Table in the distance), each given the flesh and blood realism that only comes from good, solid prose. There is action galore form gun fights to swordplay to chases, chance encounters with the unknown and even the growing of anew of an amputated leg through the power of the …oh, well, read it, you’ll love it. It‘s just plain thought provoking fun and, like the song says “who could ask for anything more?”

All in all this is a cracker-jack work of imaginative writing and, even though it is only Alexander Irvine’s second novel, his star is clearly in the ascendancy. The cup may be myth, but good writing is as real as it ever was. And this, Gentle Reader, is good writing.

© 2004 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu
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