I first bought this book in 2008 my last year of primary school at a book fair, I was far to young to understand what I was reading and never finished it, I kept trying for years and only a few things stuck with me such as the castle, the Fisher king and shadow, always this book has been in the back of my head, a few years ago I remembered the tittle and but not the Author and I searched tirelessly on Google for the author, I found her and my mind got moved on else where until I got a kindle, and I remembered, so almost 10 years later I finally finished the book, this book has many many important lessons, I wouldn't recommend the book to anyone younger than 11, the languages and some themes are bit dark for anyone younger to understand but it is definitely a worth while read.
This is a very subtle novel. It tells the tale of a boy who has come loose from his roots and must find his way back through the story of the Grail. Catherine Fisher really knows her myths & legends and she weaves them into the story with breathtaking dexterity. I can guarantee you'll find this one hard to put down and I'm not the only adult to think that!
I was emotionally blown away by this book, which like others I read in a day - I thought Fisher's Darkhenge was good, but this beats it hands down. It rivals, and possibly surpasses, Garner's Red Shift and the Owl Service, and Cooper's the Grey King, which for me previously represented the pinnacle of YA "fantasy" stories.
But I'm not sure how much I would have got out of it as a teenager; I think I would have been too troubled by its subtlety, its refusal to differentiate Cal's internal and external worlds. Maybe that's just the kind of kid I was, but I think this book will be appreciated most by adults (those who don't think YA literature beneath them).
It's "YA", however, only because of its protagonist's age and its lack of sex and politics. And its length, I suppose, but since it's so well-written, demanding to be read with care, it feels longer than it actually is. The language is beautiful; every word and punctuation mark well-chosen. Cal is a complex character; Fisher has taken a risk by making him in some ways unlikeable, though my sympathy for him (or his mother, or pretty much anyone else in the story) never wavered. Fisher's refusal to make characters obviously "good" or "bad" is a relief after reading so many fantasy stories which trade lazily in medieval concepts of good/evil.
If this is an example of children's books today - then I think I'll give up reading adult ones! As "Grail Legends" go it is better by far than some of the "adult" fiction I've come across lately.
The writing style is so much better, more perceptive and far more imaginative than a lot of the better known popular super-hyped super-rich authors of childrens' fiction today.
It is an excellent read, which I found extremely hard to put down (read it in two evenings).
The plot is intricate, sympathetic, enthralling and gives a wonderful insight into the insecurities of Cal the troubled and heroic teenager's mind. It deals with everything from alcohol abuse to the pointless pursuit of materialism, but to say more would be to give away the wonderful ending.
Catherine Fraser is a rare and wonderful find and I would highly recommend this book to both children and adults alike.
Beautifully written, tender and heartbreaking this is a reworking of the Grail myth through the life of a lost boy running from the hell of his life caring for his alcoholic schizophrenic mother. Cal leaves his mother to live with and work for his uncle but he gets off the train at the wrong stop, a station called Corbenic. In the rain and oncoming storm he stumbles upon a beautiful luxurious country hotel and is treated like a king, but when he denies the evidence of his own senses he sets in motion events which take him on a painful journey of self discovery and atonement. A book I hated to finish and that had me wanting to read the source texts.
I can beat your last reviewer - I read it in four hours, on a car journey, despite the fact that reading in cars makes me feel sick! I couldn't put it down. This didn't surprise me, having read her others. I'm an adult too and I don't think children should have all the good stuff to themselves! This is gripping, poetic, alive language, the sense of place is fantastic and I do like the way her heroes are not necessarily "nice" people - just human. There is a stunning twist in the middle of this which was well unexpected and which I don't think many writers for this age group would have ventured. I didn't think she could better The Margrave but she has.
Cal has spent an utterly miserable childhood in Bangor with his mother who is schizophrenic and an alcoholic. Since he was six he has looked after her and run the house. Now he is old enough to leave home and get a job, he is off like a shot and the story opens as he travels down to South Wales by train to live with and work for his uncle Trevor who runs an accountancy firm. On the way he falls asleep and gets of at the wrong station, Corbenic, where he is directed to the Castle Hotel. He is greeted by the wheelchair-bound host, Bron, and treated to a sumptuous banquet at the end of which he witnesses the Grail procession. He fails to ask the question, believing it all to be an hallucination and fearing he is losing his mind as his mother has. Next morning, he wakes in a ruin with only a sword that Bron has left him to indicate that his experiences have been real... There are various versions of the Grail legend and Fisher has based her book on the Welsh versions (naturally) as well as those by Chrëtien de Troyes and Wolfram von Eschenbach. Hence Cal is Percival and not Gawain or Galahad who are the Grail Knights in other versions. Those who are interested in such things can trace the parallels, but it is not necessary for the appreciation of this powerful story. As ever it is beautifully written with a terrific sense of place and although the characters have their roots in their legendary counterparts, they are real people with real flaws and problems. Young readers, 12 plus I would say, (though as with Philip Pullman some mature 10 or 11 year olds too) will love it, but as the other reviewers have said it's for adults too. A great read!
I just thought I'd add my voice to the reviews. I think this book is amazing, not just for being a great fantasy novel but also for the great emotional content, I had a lump in my throat at the end! Very, very good. The story is well paced and written well with some wonderful characters, definately a book for adults as well as children, read it!
Fantastic in the main. Catherine Fisher has an excellent grasp of tradgedy. Her characters are never simply good or bad - Cal is flawed. The way he sees things is twisted by a really bad upbringing ... sounds hard going, but it's not, and it's really classy.