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Kingdom of the Grail Mass Market Paperback – September 1, 2000


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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Roc Trade (September 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0451457978
  • ISBN-13: 978-0451457974
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.1 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,409,866 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

A descendant of the wizard Merlin, the young warrior known as Roland vows to free his ancestor from centuries of imprisonmentDunaware of his own monumental destiny. With her customary artistry and feel for period detail, the author of The Shepherd Kings weaves together the legends of Camelot and the Song of Roland, creating a tapestry rich with love and loyalty, sorcery, and sacrifice. Tarr's ability to give equal weight to both history and myth provides her historical fantasies with both realism and wonder. Highly recommended.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Centuries after the fall of Camelot, Merlin, one of the two protagonists of Tarr's new yarn, remains imprisoned in an enchanted forest. One day Roland, a young shape changer, visits the magician and leaves vowing to free him. Years pass. Roland, who carefully conceals his powers, is now a champion at Charlemagne's court. When one of Merlin's old enemies comes on the scene, however, old ethical and physical conflicts break out anew. A master of historical fantasy, Tarr successfully links the Arthurian legends to the Chanson de Roland by means of the Holy Grail, which predated Christianity but was strengthened by it, and she also weaves in the legend that Roland, renamed Huon of the Horn, was a king of the Hidden Folk after his supposed death. Tarr makes the blending of medieval legends, often attempted by lesser writers with indifferent success, into a worthwhile addition for most fantasy collections. Roland Green
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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More About the Author

I have a lot of academic credentials (PhD from Yale, MA from Cambridge University, AB from Mt. Holyoke) and taught writing and Latin at Wesleyan University in Connecticut--before I ran away from it all to live on a mesa in Arizona. I breed and ride Lipizzan horses, read and study history (and make up my own alternate and fantastical versions), and write--novels, short stories, articles. I teach writing online (details at http://capriole.smoe.org) and blog on the livejournals as dancinghorse. My alter ego is author Caitlin Brennan, who also has a plog on amazon.

Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Dan on May 6, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Judith Tarr has taken the epic Chanson de Roland and the historic Charlemagne and created Kingdom of the Grail, a fantasy novel which explains Ganelon's treachery and Roland's death while mixing in the more familiar and popular grail legend from Arthurian mythology. Tarr's representation of Charlemagne's court is a composite of the historical court and the Charlemagne depicted in the chanson.

Tarr, who holds a Ph.D. in Medieval history, clearly has a deep understanding of such primary sources as Einhard's Vita Caroli, Notker's De Carolo Magno, and the 12th century Chanson de Roland, as well as secondary sources such as Pierre Riché's La Vie Quotidienne dans l'Empire Carolingien. Her tale draws elements from all of those works and her use of short paragraphs is reminiscent of the verse style of the chanson.

The novel follows the basic plot of the Chanson de Roland, with Ganelon's arrival at Charlemagne's court, the decision to battle the Muslims in Spain and the subsequent ambush at Roncevalles. After the battle, Tarr follows the historical record, specifically the revolt of Charlemagne's son, Pepin. However, this is juxtaposed with Roland's adventures in Montsalvat, the Kingdom of the Grail, where his greater destiny is revealed.

While Tarr takes an interesting an under-explored legend and mixes it with the more popular tale of Arthur, the ideas she presents are more interesting than the novel itself. She never manages to get the pacing correct, and the characters are led by their fates rather than any sense of free will, although towards the end of the novel, the question of free will becomes important in and of itself.

Early in the novel, Roland forms a relationship with the mysterious Sarissa.
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on September 13, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Though never counting the years, centuries have passed since his former lover trapped Merlin in a magical forest that living things including birds avoided. However, one day, a boy Roland, visits the incarcerated magician. Obviously having much magical abilities or else he could never have arrived at the forest prison, Roland vows to find the means to free Merlin.

Years later, Roland is a knight loyal to King Charlemagne, but has not worked at his magic. Roland wins a contest that gives him possession of the sword Durandel, but not the trust of its former owner Lady Sarissa. Still, Roland remains faithful to his liege as they set out to fight a demon that has corrupted the monarch's son with a world at stake. However, his side needs Roland to complete his oath by freeing Merlin and gaining the support of the Grail mages to triumph over their evil enemy and his allies.

Judith Tarr is known for her wonderful historical fantasy tales that blend real persona and events into a mythical story. Her latest release, KINGDOM OF THE GRAIL, combines remnants of Camelot with the Song of Roland into an exciting story. The key to the plot is Ms. Tarr's uncanny ability to make her primary and secondary players seem so real that both the fantasy elements and the historical perspective appear genuine. The novel will charm fans of the Arthurian and Roland legends and medieval epic adventures.

Harriet Klausner
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By D. Baker on January 25, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Judith Tarr mixes Merlin, the *Song of Roland* and the myth of the madman of the forest together in a romance that is more romantic than historical. This gives her the chance to create several Rolands: warrior, lover, shapechanger, Carolingian loyalist, madman of the woods, and reluctant champion-king. Character motivation is weak, especially for the distrust of Sarissa (who would not be allowed the freedom she exhibits in a real Carolingian setting). Nor would a woman of her time necessarily sleep with someone she does not trust completely. A slow read, it picks up in spots, and she has a gift for description, but I had to push myself to finish. Why is Tarr considered a queen of historical fiction? I don't see it. She offers a mish-mash of ill-defined magic, over-romanticized characters, and idealized history with a New Age bent.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Chrijeff VINE VOICE on March 5, 2008
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Historians tell us that Charlemagne's peer, the mighty warrior Roland, was killed in Roncesvalles Pass not by Saracens (as his Chanson has it) but by Basques. Basques there are at Roncesvalles in this historical fantasy (defined as a story "set in real-world or alternate historical periods, often involving historical figures"), but someone else is there too. Working backwards and forwards from that beginning, Tarr has imagined an alternate Roland and a fantasy take on his fate. Roland is a descendant of King Arthur's wizard Merlin, and in boyhood somehow penetrates the magical prison in which Merlin still languishes more than 200 years after his sovereign's death. Roland is a natural shapeshifter; his favorite form is that of a hawk, though he can also become a wolf or a stag if he wishes. And he knows something of Merlin's story without ever having been told it, though he doesn't know how he knows. Time and again he returns to visit Merlin, and to learn some control of his own magic. One day Merlin tells him the story of the Holy Grail and of a powerful sorcerer who coveted it, and who almost gained it but for one of Arthur's own Knights. The sorcerer was "cast down by the night of the Grail," losing his beauty and much of his strength--but not his life. Years later, in the service of Charlemagne, Roland encounters and knows that sorcerer, the supposed priest, Ganelon (who, in the Chanson, betrays him to the Saracens). The King's hunchbacked son, Pepin--who can't inherit the throne because of his deformity--seeks power and asks Ganelon to teach him magic. Now Roland knows that to protect his King he must watch both Pepin and Ganelon, and so events are set in motion.

The first half of the book is sometimes a bit slow, but with the ambush at Roncesvalles things pick up.
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