Amanda Hemingway, The Greenstone Grail
reviewed by Jerry Wright
The Greenstone GrailAuthor: Amanda Hemingway
Publisher: Del Rey
Trade Paper: 384 pages
This "Grail" had been in the care of the Thorns of Thornyhill, but had been stolen prior to World War Two, and thought to be in the hands of the Nazis, until it surfaces at Sotheby's to be auctioned to the highest bidder. But in actuality it is one of three objects of power, along with a sword and a crown. It is also from either a different universe, or from the end of time.
The story starts with Annie Ward and her infant son Nathan being chased through the dark English countryside by somethings, harrowing her until she attains safety at the home of an elderly albino named Bartlemy Goodman (who turns out to be 1500 years old, with a talent for magic, and really good cooking).
Other reviews have called this book an "Arthurian fantasy" which doesn't make a lot of sense to me, as I find the only thing vaguely Arthurian is the quest for the Grimthorn Grail (aka the Greenstone Grail of the title.) Nathan, a 12 year-old of uncertain parentage (we know who his mother is, but who is his father, really??) has been having dreams of a strange world called Eos (which oddly enough means "Dawn") which is at the end of time, or perhaps just the end of ITS time. Whilst exploring the tangled English forest close to his home, he stumbles across the buried ruins of an ancient redoubt, and an altar, upon which he sees a vision of a large cup, the grail, filled with blood.
Nathan's nightly dream visions become more and more real, he can hear and understand the people in his dreams, and finally he disappears from his own time and space and appears in the world of Eos, where he saves a man from drowning by drawing him into our world.
Obvious comparisons are to Lloyd Alexander's Prydain books and Susan Cooper's The Dark Is Rising sequence, but Nathan is no Old One like Will Stanton, nor is he Taran. One of the other things that make this book stand out from other similar books is the fine delineation of Annie Ward, a strong female character, Bartlemy, the gentle man who has lived on the outskirts of Thornyhill for as long as anyone can remember, and his dog called Hoover "because he vacuums up the crumbs". Of course his NAME isn't Hoover. That's just what he's called. And he too has been around for a long time.
There are a lot of things happening in this book, and because it is Book One of a trilogy, there are a number of things that go off on a tangent and aren't properly dealt with. We'll find out more in Book Two, The Traitor's Sword. Or, as we now find out The Sword Of Straw.
This is an excellent beginning and well worth looking for.
Copyright © 2005 by Jerry Wright for Bewildering Stories