A persuasive reinvention of the Arthurian legend from Montana writer Rice--whose first novel is replete with the requisite great battles, great loves, and appropriately larger-than-life cast of heroes and villains. As King Arthur lies dying, mortally wounded by his treacherous son Medraut, he instructs Sir Bedwyr to return his famous sword, Caliburn, to a nearby lake. But the grieving Bedwyr finds he cannot, so he hides the sword in a tree and in despair heads to Rome to fight with the great General Belisarius. The Dark Ages are nigh, and Western Civ. is in danger. Not only the Empire but Britain itself is being overrun by Saxons, who, pillaging and plundering as they advance, are taking over the country; and Bedwyr feels he should return to help his kin comply with Arthur's request. But Caliburn has disappeared; the British kings are quarreling; and Camelot is occupied by Saxons. A new Arthur is sorely needed, but the only candidate is Irion, son of Medraut and therefore suspect to Bedwyr. As Bedwyr searches for Caliburn, he meets an old love, fights off Saxon raiders, and is finally able to form an army to regain Camelot. The Britons are outnumbered, the carnage is terrible, but when Caliburn is found, young Irion shows his mettle and saves the day. Caliburn is returned to the lake, and Bedwyr realizes that whatever happens, Arthur and his Camelot are a ``song of beauty'' that will live on in the imaginations of all who have heard it. Rice is an accomplished storyteller and scene-setter, but what gives the story greater heft is his concern, albeit low-keyed, for more transcendental themes in a world as much physically as spiritually under threat. An absorbing whirl of a read.