Legend tells of an impostor-sword crafted by a witch-queen, destined to destroy a king. The whole story has never been told. Until now.
Recently appointed to the Table of Less Valued Knights, Sir Thomas the Hesitant doesn’t mind that the credit always goes to celebrity-knights. He tells himself this frequently. He doesn’t truly believe it. The truth is, he thinks it’s rubbish.
When five armies attack England, everyone on the Round Table is too busy to track down the missing court wizard. Seizing the opportunity to shine a light on the Less Valued, Thomas vows to rescue Merlin and sets himself on a collision course with a talented but overconfident rookie sorceress, a lizard with delusions of grandeur, and one rather unfortunate pigeon.
Only one thing is certain – things are not as they seem. They seldom are.
Sir Thomas the Hesitant and the Table of Less Valued Knights is one of the best surprises I’ve had since I started blogging, hands down. Filled with charm, whimsy and hilarious asides, I pretty much shoved it into the hands of everyone I spoke to as I was reading it. So it’s fair to say I had high hopes for this sequel, and I was thrilled to find that Perrin has both outdone himself and found his own unique style along the way.
Faycalibur picks up shortly after the events of Sir Thomas, and we find that things aren’t quite so rosy as we previously believed. Thomas has grown restless with his Less Valued status, and tires of having his glory snatched by more famous knights. His family still dotes on his brother and gives Thomas little credit for his achievements. He’s down in the dumps, and his resentment is beginning to have an effect on his relationships with the other Less Valued knights, and with Marie, his patient but increasingly careworn girlfriend.
We’re also introduced to Gus, a young squire who foists himself on Thomas with an enthusiasm bordering on insanity. He’s a bright boy with a squeaky voice and an encyclopedic knowledge of knightly affairs; a bit of a know-it-all, but a good natured one. Thomas finds his hero worship endearing. Philip seems less convinced.
Thomas grinned. He couldn’t help it. And then, with Gus bowed before him, Thomas quietly removed a familiar “Kick Thee” note from his back. Gus seemed the type who would attempt to explain to the hooligans that their joke didn’t make sense. “It means, ‘Kick You,'” he’d say. “You meant ‘Kick Me,'” he’d tell them. “You heard ‘im lads!” the hooligans would say. And then there’d be kicking.
Experience was a cruel but effective teacher.
When five armies attack Britain, Thomas sees his opportunity to wrap the Less Valued in glory and seizes on it. Merlin is missing, and he vows to bring him back. To that end, Thomas, Philip and Gus embark on an eventful journey to France in pursuit of their quest. There they meet a host of colorful characters including Lancelot, Morgan le Fay and a mysterious young sorceress who seems set on scuppering their plans.
Also a lizard that might be a dragon. Or not. Nobody’s quite sure.
“If you are a dragon,” said Lancelot, “then explain to Lancelot why did you say that you are not a dragon?”
“Because I’m a dragon!” said the creature. “That’s what we do. We deceive people. And we eat damsels. And we hoard treasure. And we get vanquished by knights. But you can’t expect us to do all the work.”
“Did you eat the damosel these men are here to rescue?”
“Can you show me your treasure hoard?”
The creature paused. “The thing is—”
“The thing is that there is no treasure hoard yes?”
“It’s been a hard year,” said the creature.
It’s a hugely enjoyable read, witty and packed with whimsy, puns, running jokes about grammar, and just plain warmth. It has the silliness of Monty Python, the wit of Terry Pratchett, and a sense of tenderness that’s all its own. People often talk about the bite of Pratchett and the underlying rage against injustice that drives his work. In contrast, Perrin’s work is driven by kindness, and a sort of wistful desire for the goodness in people, and I find that it speaks to me just as much. The Less Valued Knights are not the boldest, the bravest, or the brightest, not by a long shot. But they might just be the noblest for all that.
One of the main strengths of Sir Thomas for me was the wry, quotable asides that frequently popped up unexpectedly and made me laugh. In Faycalibur, I think the strength lies in the character development and plot, which have really found their direction this time around. The first 30% is a little slower as Perrin does the important set up work, but as soon as the characters set off for France the pace picks up and it’s a joy to read. There’s still plenty of situational humor, but this time around each main character is given time to shine, and the story benefits hugely as a result.
Morgan le Fay makes for an excellent foil and Perrin clearly had a lot of fun writing her, and the mysterious sorceress who trails after Thomas and co. is fascinating. Gus is the perfect addition to Thomas and Philip’s dynamic and is, ironically, every bit as underappreciated by them as they feel in Camelot. Philip and Marie both grow a great deal, with Marie becoming a more confident and self-assured character, and Philip taking on the role of Thomas’ conscience in his darkest moments. Thomas himself undergoes an arc that leaves him a better person than where he started, but with some pretty sizable obstacles along the way.
I found myself struck by the huge amount of memorable scenes, and how often I still find myself smiling about them weeks after I finished reading. One bathtub scene in particular would leave even J.K. Rowling green with envy for its sheer playfulness and creativity. And watch out for Philip once he’s tried out grog for the first time. 😀
In conclusion, Faycalibur is every bit as warm, funny and absurd as its predecessor. With Sir Thomas and his crew, you’re amongst friends. I didn’t want to leave, but I know I’ll visit often.
Without a doubt, Perrin is an author for whom (ha) I will drop everything.
Check out our interview with the author here!