The Wrong Sword by Ted Mendelssohn
Henry is a faker. He helps trick Parisian nobles into buying fake swords of power, medieval knightly knock-offs, if you will, but when he tricks the wrong person, he suddenly finds himself on an all too real quest for the sword of all swords: Excalibur. You remember that one right? The one King Arthur pulled from a big rock?
The premise of The Wrong Sword would be some pretty stinky fromage if it were completely serious. But it’s not. In fact, I think its anachronistic humor is the best part. The students of Paris spout postmodern theory, at one point Henry gives a knight “A Full Merlin” by disrobing him, and the sword, well, she’s a magical pain in the butt.
The Wrong Sword delivers many laugh-out-loud moments, and the conniving Henry is more real and likeable than perhaps even King Arthur himself.
I have only a few hesitations in recommending this book (why I’ll give it 4 out of 5 stars where they do that kind of thing): not many characters are as well-developed as Henry, and the plot drags at some points even though it’s jam-packed with action—perhaps because not all the narrow escapes are believable and a few scenes are hard to follow. It felt like one more round of editing would have polished The Wrong Sword to a better shine.
That said, The Wrong Sword a really fun adventure story and a great bargain for your e-reader. It brings all the adventure of the Roundtable without any of that high-minded chivalry merde, if you’ll excuse my French.
Which reminds me—if you’ve never read any of the great King Arthur stories, here are two classics:
The Sword in the Stone by T. H. White
It’s the whole King Arthur adventure with a side order of political philosophy. “Might makes Right” any one?
The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley
The Mists tells the whole thing from the so-called ladies’ point of view. And really Morgania (Morgan Le Fay) and Gwenhwyfar are fascinating characters in a tale that is usually a male-dominated sword-fest.