In Tyson’s heartfelt fantasy debut, a British leader recruits a scholar of Celtic folk religion to find a man who just might be the second coming of King Arthur.
In 2037, hunger and war have flooded the United Kingdom with desperate African refugees. Neo-Nazis want to overthrow the government, and as part of their plan, they want to rally Britons around a charismatic figure. After a man pulls a sword from a stone at a carnival attraction, he mysteriously vanishes, and U.K. Permanent Secretary Sir Dryw Merrick suspects the fascists are involved. He summons Peter Quince, an American theology professor (and former Marine), to help search for Arthur Redux, hoping that Quince will succeed where his deadly secret agents have failed. During the professor’s investigation, he interviews eyewitnesses to the sword-pull: Ricky, the surly carnival manager; Flora and Dora, elderly twins (with apparently one mind) who speak in riddles; and Thistle, a woman who’s charming, intelligent and gorgeous—except for her oversized left eye. Tyson infuses these and other encounters with wry humor. For example, after Peter barely gets any information out of Flora and Dora, he thinks, “If Alice had met that pair in Wonderland, she would have slashed her wrists.” Rollicking with consistently sharp dialogue, Peter’s travels in myth-steeped Great Britain are also enchantingly informative; Tyson never explores a new landscape without including a sentence or two about the relevant history and architecture. He also nails the country’s legendary mystique: “I’d seen spectacular sunsets before, but I’d never seen one from where the sun steps down from the sky each evening and wades into the ocean.” Indeed, all that keeps the novel from being a perfect fantasy adventure is its truncated climax; the plot’s extended falling action unfortunately diminishes the thrill of the chase.
A clever, historically robust fantasy journey.