THE FINAL QUEST by Richard Monaco


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Following Parsival (1977) and The Grail War (1979, paperback only), this third volume in Monaco's multi-crannied exploration of the Arthurian Grail legends begins at the close of the Grail War, a no-win holocaust. Ignorant armies, madmen, monsters, and soul-crippled knights (including Sir Parsival, that ""mighty hero of a non-existent Grail"") blunder through an acrid and blasted landscape of blood and muck. The ""victorious"" Norsemen strain for a seacoast they will never reach. Fat Baron Howtlande prates of renewed military might--if the bloodthirsty shreds of men will only ""join forces."" Sorcerer Clinschor raves on to his cannibalistic ""Truemen"" as he still pursues the Grail, and tattered priest John exalts in his vision of the Great Pig. But Parsival has had enough of dreams: ""I've seen all the visions I need to see. . . I'm an ordinary man. That's the remarkable thing."" So he will simply hunt for his once-abandoned family--and though wife Layla caustically takes to drink (and the Norseman who captured her), amnesiac son Lohengrin will eventually learn to slough off the blood memory and live in the present. The other knights also settle down: Sir Galahad discovers the simple reverent act of tilling the soil; Sir Gawain, mutilated, becomes healed and whole before death by doffing his helmet of war. There will, however, be one final trek, bringing the shattered survivors to the Grail fortress--a terrible blood-night of killings, cannibalistic orgies, and sour winds that climaxes in a vision of bloodthirsty children, buzzing horrors, industrial cities, and more. Yet even in the face of all this, Parsival reveals the gold thread of life that will cleanse and renew the earth. Monaco's dialogue and meditations are often salty and fresh, though at times maddeningly oblique; and he takes a diabolic delight in sustained ick: "". . . timbered tunnels for flies and long shuddering worms."" A restless, strenuous, often pretentious rumination on civilization's death and resurrection--probably worth the trouble for Arthurians and lovers of philosophical fantasy.

Pub Date: Jan. 12th, 1980
Publisher: Putnam