Thursday, 20 May 1999
Tom Holt: Grailblazers (1994)
Review number: 254
By the time he wrote Grailblazers, Tom Holt's style was well established. Indeed, nearly all of his novels since Expecting Someone Taller have followed its successful format: a comic re-evaluation of themes and characters from a well known medieval legend set in the twentieth century, comedy being provided by the attempts of the characters to fit into a culture alien to them (and allowing Holt to satirise the more ridiculous aspects of the modern world). This makes all these novels a little too similar to each other, as is also the case with Terry Pratchett's Discworld series, but you can certainly say that if a reader enjoys one they will enjoy them all: the standard is much more even than the Discworld novels.
In the case of Grailblazers, the medieval myth is that of the quest for the Holy Grail. In the fifteen hundred years since the quest of the Order of the Grail began, those knights who remain have become resigned to their lack of success, and are holding down normal twentieth century jobs (insurance salesman, pizza deliverer and so on). The major skills of the medieval knight have got rather out of date: who needs chivalry today? Then, when their leader retires to set up an estate agency, a new broom is appointed by Merlin to take over.
Boamund is an anachronism. He drank drugged milk, and has spent the last fifteen hundred years asleep in a cave (where his armour rusted so solid that he had to be released from it with an oxyacetylene torch). He immediately brings new enthusiasm to the knights' quest, to their dismay (especially as they all remember him as a priggish prefect at the school of chivalry).