The Camelot Spell (Grail Quest Series #1)

The Camelot Spell (Grail Quest Series #1)

5.0 4
by Laura Anne Gilman
     
 

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On the eve of the Quest for the Holy Grail, every adult in King Arthur's castle falls into an enchanted sleep. The future of Camelot rests on the shoulders of fourteen-year-old squire Gerard, who has dreamed of becoming a Knight of the Round Table his whole life. With the help of Newt, the stable boy, and Ailis, a young maidservant, he must face terrible dangers,

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Overview

On the eve of the Quest for the Holy Grail, every adult in King Arthur's castle falls into an enchanted sleep. The future of Camelot rests on the shoulders of fourteen-year-old squire Gerard, who has dreamed of becoming a Knight of the Round Table his whole life. With the help of Newt, the stable boy, and Ailis, a young maidservant, he must face terrible dangers, including a monstrous bridge troll, a wise and scheming dragon — and finally, a dark, powerful force that will stop at nothing to destroy King Arthur, the knights, and the entire realm of Camelot.

Editorial Reviews

VOYA
In this engaging fantasy, the first in the Grail Quest trilogy, three young adventurers must break a mysterious spell that has incapacitated all the adults in King Arthur's court. The trio seeks the magical help of Merlin, but they soon discover that he has been imprisoned in a house of ice and cannot return to Camelot. He offers, however, a riddle and a magic map, both of which will provide clues leading them to three talismans that will lift the spell. Their journey takes them on a difficult path through the countryside, where the children encounter an evil slave driver, a gruesome troll, and a frightening dragon, each of whom holds a piece of the puzzle. Even though readers will never really doubt that the trio will find the talismans, most will be surprised by a final encounter that reveals the evil source of the spell. The believable dialogue, succinct plot, and uncomplicated references to court life will appeal to middle readers who are beginning to explore Arthurian legend. Advanced readers will fare better with books that explore magic and myth in greater detail, such as The Lost Years of Merlin by T. A. Barron (Philomel, 1996/VOYA October 1996). There is some mild violence, but it is limited to a brief scene that is appropriate to the story. Schools and libraries that serve adolescent and preteen populations will benefit from having this well-written book in their collections. VOYA CODES: 4Q 4P M (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8). 2006, HarperCollins, 304p., PLB . Ages 11 to 14.
—Christina Fairman
Children's Literature
Gilman breathes fresh life into the Arthurian legends by skewing the point-of-view of her novel away from the standard realm of knights' adventures. Instead, book one of the "Grail Quest" series explores the journey of three teenagers at King Arthur's court who go in search of Merlin for a solution to the sudden tragedy that befalls the court. A strange spell has put all of the adults at court to sleep, leaving only the children and young adults to defend the castle and find a way to awaken the king's court. Gerard, Ailis, and Newt make a strange trio, each comes from a different background within the castle. Gerard is an adopted nephew of the king and is training to become a knight. Newt has worked his way up from feeding the hounds to the horses, but as a stable boy, his status remains much lower than Gerard's. Finally, Ailis is an orphan, an occasional favorite of the queen, but as a serving girl her status is lowest. The author's attention to the class differences between the three, as well as their understanding and acceptance of it, reveals the inequities built into Arthurian society. At the same time, the three teens learn to work together, developing an understanding of each other's strengths and weaknesses, in order to solve the puzzle. Gilman's reasonably realistic use of the medieval setting and her excellent development of the characters places this fantasy-adventure a step above the average. 2006, Parachute Publishing/HarperCollins Publishers, and Ages 12 to 15.
—Laura Ruttig
School Library Journal
Gr 5-9-This novel about two boys growing up in pre-World War II Vienna provides a unique perspective. The author wrote the book after returning to America from a visit to Poland in 1934, and was alarmed at how growing Nazi persecution was changing the face of Europe. It was published in Yiddish in 1940. Emil and Karl are school friends. Emil is Jewish and has been forced from school. Although Karl is not Jewish, one day men drag his socialist mother away. He goes to find his friend only to discover that Emil's father has been murdered by the Nazis and that his mother has gone crazy with grief. The two boys are totally alone and must escape the omnipresent storm troopers and find food and shelter. They become both observers and victims of the attacks on Jews. Helped by resistance fighters, they eventually escape the city. This important book, newly translated into English, gives a chilling portrait of a world descending into madness as experienced by two innocent children. The excellent translation effectively conveys the helplessness of the characters. As terrifying as their experiences were, the story was written at a time when the full horrors perpetrated by Hitler were yet to occur. While Emil and Karl escaped, the majority of persecuted children did not. A useful comparison might be made to Hans Peter Richter's Friedrich (Puffin, 1987), which did not have such a positive outcome.-Quinby Frank, formerly at Green Hedges School, Vienna, VA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
When all of the grownups in Camelot suddenly fall into enchanted sleep, three contentious teenagers set out to track down the elusive Merlin for help. Gilman crafts a competent series opener, sending humorless squire Gerard, sly, stable boy Newt and Ailis, an orphaned maidservant with a nascent magical gift, through a series of magical trials. When Merlin is temporarily imprisoned by his nemesis Nimue, it's up to the three young questers to recover the parts of a certain sundered talisman, get it back to Camelot (which takes but 12 or so hours-neat trick, since the outward journey takes over four days), and battle Morgan le Fay herself for one final piece. It's all accomplished amid earnest conversations about Believing, and Learning to Work Together. Future episodes will doubtless contain more of the same as the search for the (de-Christianized) Grail begins-but the characters are familiar without being utterly typecast, the author borrows from T.H. White as well as Thomas Malory and there is a consistent sense of "what's going to happen next?" that will keep readers turning the pages. (Fantasy. 11-13)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780060772796
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
02/21/2006
Series:
Grail Quest Series, #1
Pages:
304
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 7.12(h) x 1.09(d)
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

Read an Excerpt

Grail Quest #1: The Camelot Spell


By Laura Gilman

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2006 Laura Gilman
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0060772808

Chapter One

spring, 12th year of
Arthur's Pax Britannica

"This entire castle has gone mad!"

Gerard instinctively ducked out of the way as the chief cook sent his assistants into motion with a wave of one muscled arm, flinging flour-dust over everyone within range. The spring morning was warm, and thrice so down here, where the ovens were burning hot and flour stuck to sweaty skin and dampened tunics and aprons. His face already perspiring, the squire hung close to the doorway, mentally cursing his master for sending him down to the kitchens today of all days.

"It's the Quest," one of the under-bakers ventured from where they huddled near the great brick ovens of Camelot's kitchen.

The cook glowered at the boy who'd spoken. "Of course it's the Quest! Everything has been the Quest for months now! And I, for one, will be glad when they're all gone and out of my hair" -- Gerard, along with everyone else in the kitchen, refrained from pointing out that Cook had no hair -- "and we can get back to living like civilized folk!" He caught sight of Gerard by the door and pointed one oversized, flour-covered hand at him. "You. What are you doing here?"

The squire swallowed hard, reminding himself that in his fourteen years oflife, he had faced much worse than Cook's temper. Well, faced some things almost as bad, anyway. "Message from my master, Sir Rheynold, about -- "

"About that bird of his, I'll wager, no?" Cook was a fearsome-looking mountain of a man at the best of times. But when he smiled, even brave knights took a step back. "Tell your master the fowl arrived safely and will be a masterpiece when we're done with it. Rest easy."

Gerard personally hated the taste of peacock, especially when the outer layer of flesh was stuffed with roasted pigeon the way his master enjoyed it, but he knew better than to say so. It was not his place, as a mere squire, to speak anything but good of his master's choices. Especially when the dish was one the king was also reported to enjoy, and Sir Rheynold was currying favor by arranging for the banquet tonight.

All the knights did it, one way or another, with presents or sweet words or brave actions dedicated to the king and his queen. Arthur was an easygoing man, for a king, but he wore the crown, and the crown had the power. Gerard had lived in Camelot for six years now under Sir Rheynold's fosterage, and he thought he understood how things went. Power was to be catered to, and you had to establish your own power in turn. Or, in Gerard's case, maintain the power of the man who sheltered and trained him. That was the way of the world.

Nodding his head to give the right amount of respect due to a servant of Cook's ability and reputation, Gerard said, "I'll tell Sir Rheynold of your assurances. I am sure he thanks you for your attention to this offering."

Message delivered, he turned to escape the heat and chaos of the kitchen. He should have gone directly back to his master's rooms up in the east wing of the castle to see what else might be required of him. But Cook had not been exaggerating about the energy that was filling Camelot. Two months prior, Arthur had announced a Quest. It had come to him in a dream, he said. A great Quest, blessed by God, to search out and find the Holy Grail brought to this island by Joseph of Arimathea from the Holy Land and then lost for centuries after his death.

The Knights of the Round Table would find it. Restore it. Bring it back to Camelot, where it would be the fitting symbol of Arthur's kingship, alongside his sword Excalibur. It would be a glorious, wonderful thing.

For the past week, men had been riding to Camelot to speak with Arthur and explain why they should be honored with a place on this Quest. At the banquet tonight, Arthur himself would proclaim the names of the knights who would ride out on this Quest of his. The entire castle was mad from it; so much so that anyone caught unoccupied was sure to be put to work.

Gerard never shirked from work . . . but he saw no reason to look for it, either. Especially, he admitted reluctantly to himself, since the Quest had completely overlooked him. Not that he, a mere squire, would have been allowed to take part, but he was no more immune to the dreams than any other. To be the one who found the legendary Holy Grail, who brought it home to Arthur's hands and reaped the praise and rewards such a treasure must bring . . .

"But first you'd have to be there to find it. And that's not going to happen now, is it?" he told himself, moving down the narrow side-halls that were used only by servants and the occasional page or squire in a hurry. No, it wouldn't be he who found the Grail, even if he had been allowed to go along on the search. One of the knights would find it. Most likely Lancelot, who was the perfect knight, brave and noble and kind even to the clumsiest of pages, although his face was not handsome. Or Gawain, whom everyone called "the Pure." No, not a lowly squire, no matter how noble his bloodlines might be.

A page, his young face flushed with exertion, hurried toward him with half a dozen parchments under one arm. "Gerard, Pickleface is looking for you!"

"Drat it," Gerard muttered, waving his thanks to the younger boy. If Pickleface -- Master Balin, so-called because of the sourness of his expression -- was looking for him, it could only be bad. As a squire, Gerard was supposed to be above any duties the page-master might give him, but explaining that to this adult would earn him a sound boxing on the ears and he'd still have to do whatever Balin had in mind.

Continues...


Excerpted from Grail Quest #1: The Camelot Spell by Laura Gilman Copyright © 2006 by Laura Gilman. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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