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Parzival and the Stone from Heaven
Lindsay Clarke
HarperCollins Voyager, 229 pages

Alan Lee
Parzival and the Stone from Heaven
Lindsay Clarke
Lindsay Clarke was born in Halifax, West Yorkshire in 1939, and educated at Heath Grammar School in Halifax and at King's College Cambridge. He worked in education for many years, in Africa, America and the UK, before becoming a full-time writer. He currently lives in Somerset with his wife, Phoebe Clare, who is a ceramic artist and Feng Shui consultant. He has one daughter from his first marriage, Maddy, who manages a recording studio in London.

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Past Feature Reviews
A review by Cindy Lynn Speer

Gahmuret was a born soldier. He could not bear to stay behind while there was fighting to be done and glory to be won, so he set off to lands well beyond Europe's borders. He served the Caliph of Baghdad, and eventually found himself on the shores of the African city of Zazamanc, where he fell in love with the Queen Belakane. He would leave her for the call of trumpets elsewhere, granting her a son, half white, half black. Eventually he would fight for a Welsh Queen, Herzeloyde, and win her hand, as well. He gave her a son, too, and left her, dying on the road to a new battle. She went mad, grabbing up her son and fleeing to the forest, where she raised him much like a wild animal.

That son's name was Parzival.

Parzival will leave her, too, to learn about being a knight. He will have a chance to get the grail back for the world, and, remembering the advice he was given to never, ever ask questions, Parzival keeps silent instead of asking the one question that will bring him triumph. Mocked at King Arthur's court for his failure, he is determined to regain his honor by finding the grail once more. But how can one find something that only appears to a person once, and never again?

Parzival and the Stone from Heaven is a retelling of Chrétien de Troyes's epic poem, most especially Wolfram von Eschenbach's version. Lindsay Clarke admits to streamlining the story in the hopes of interesting readers of all ages, and I think it was carried out very well. The story is told perfectly. The cadence and read of it recalls all the best old Arthurian legends, a little bit more adult than Sidney Lanier's but certainly a cleaner, clearer read for those of us not very familiar with (or willing to wade through) Middle English. The very essence of the tale is there. The beauty and honor of the round table, the way that knights are supposed to live their lives. Here and there are some clever (and even risqué) comments that I don't think I would have gotten if I read one of the older translations. The reckless sexuality of Gawain is evident and becomes a part of a very valuable lesson that he must learn in order to win at his own quest. Chivalry, honor and faith are also keystones to this story, and Parzival's loss of his naive faith, then regaining a truer, richer one is very well done.

The main point of the story is that Parzival, while being a good person, has to learn to look outside of this grand life he attempted to live and to learn to give compassion to those around him, not just feel it.

It is always fascinating to read a take on the Arthurian legends, especially those from the past, "closer" to the source of the story. There are always tiny differences. Uther's still alive at one point and grumbling over the fact his son isn't there to joust with everyone else, the grail is a stone of bright beauty, Merlin makes no appearance at all, his usual role taken over by the often quite mean sorceress Cundrie.

Parzival and the Stone from Heaven is a well done tale keeps the spirit and the style of the story while making it accessible to a contemporary audience. A wonderful job.

Copyright © 2003 Cindy Lynn Speer

Cindy Lynn Speer loves books so much that she's designed most of her life around them, both as a librarian and a writer. Her books aren't due out anywhere soon, but she's trying. You can find her site at

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