|Possibly the best book covers ever to grace bound wood pulp.|
I've spoken elsewhere about how I came to meet Monaco and how he came to be one of the most important writing mentors I've had, so here I want to talk about his book series and why it's set apart from other Arthurian fantasy novels.
Monaco's Parsival series tales as its starting point the Perceval legend as set down by Chretien de Toyes in Perveval, the Story of the Grail and by Wolfram von Eschenbach in Parzival.
|And, yes, they are about as riveting as you might expect.|
Her plan seems to work well until the boy comes in contact with a group of Arthur's knights in their shiny armor on their way to hunt down some other poor sod who's crossed the king in someway. Parsival takes these knights for angels, and when he learns that they are in fact noble knights, he is told he can go to Camelot and Arthur will make him a knight, too. Parsival leaves, and on his way to Camelot meets the Fisher King, has a vision of the Holy Grail, and completely fails to understand what he is experiencing.
For the first third of the book, Monaco pretty much retells the traditional myth with subtle changes: Its fairly clear the knights are having a laugh at the foolish Parsival's expense when they tell him to go to Camelot. Once there, Arthur seems far less noble than traditional legends portray him. Not corrupt or evil, though, just fairly mundane and petty. He sends Parsival on a quest that would surely get him killed, to destroy the evil red knight who is terrorizing Camelot, without so much as a buckler or sword, all for a laugh at the foolish boy who would presume to be a knight.
Once Parsival leaves Camelot, though, Monaco leaves his source material firmly behind, and we are presented with a grim depiction of life in the Middle Ages, a life which seems suspiciously like our own. This is where Monaco's version of the tale shines. These books deal with far more than just a retelling of the Holy Grail story. They use the Percival legend to examine man's conflict between his duty to his family, his country, and himself. The relationship between Parsival and his wife, Layla, brings up questions of marital fidelity, both physical and emotional, and Parsival's estranged relationship with his son Lohengrin (which reaches its climax in later volumes) becomes a frank look at how even the best of us can, through our own self-absorption, fail as parents despite all our best intentions.
Monaco’s genius lies in his ability to masterfully take archetypal stories and mold them into metaphors for modern dilemmas. Pick a book at random and you will see it, though I recommend Dead Blossoms: The Third Geisha and his 1987 novel Unto the Beast as the next best examples after the Parsival books.
|These covers aren't too bad either.|