THE GRAIL OF HEARTS by Susan Shwartz


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 The promotional copy bills this latest novel from Shwartz (Imperial Lady, 1989--with Andre Norton), her first solo hardcover, as a ``breakout'' book, but it's hard to imagine how this uninspired reworking of the Grail legends (owing most to Wagner's Parsifal) could satisfy even Shwartz's regular readership, let alone win her a new following. Amfortas, the Fisher King, is decidedly unhappy with his dull life as liege of the holy castle of Montsalvasche, so when he hears a woman's cry of distress, he hurries to the rescue. But it's a trap: Amfortas's archenemy, the evil wizard Klingsor, has staged an attack on his lovely servant Kundry (who is the Wandering Jew, cursed to wander eternally for laughing at Christ on the cross), and she proceeds to seduce the Fisher King after he rescues her. The land withers; Kundry, guilt-ridden, rebels against the wizard; and he casts her back in time to relive her fatal moment of mirth in ancient Judea. Kundry breaks free of Klingsor for a time, losing her spell-held beauty and serving the Grail knights as a crone, until Parsifal can arrive and redeem them all. Shwartz follows her sources too closely--during the interlude in Judea, for instance, the biblical characters recite the very words of the King James version!--and her characters rarely display any emotion but crushing, self-hating guilt (which becomes monumentally tiresome). In all: ponderous plotting and dialogue, plus repetitive, unimaginative imagery, do little to elevate this formless hodgepodge of a book.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0-312-85176-6
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Tor
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 1991


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