Author Eileen Enwright Hodgetts has a unique answer to why the legend of King Arthur is so strong yet we have little to no historical evidence the man existed. (Best theories put him as a war leader fending off the Saxon invasion, not as a larger-than-life heroic king of all Britain.) Her answer? The king ruled in an alternate Britain around the 1100s and his knights slid through into our world to quest and run off their wild oats.
The novel Excalibur Rising picks up today, when an English historian offers an acquisitive Las Vegas crime boss the chance to purchase King Arthur’s legendary sword. The boss assigns his curator, Marcus, a former television treasure hunter, to verify the details and get the sword if it’s authentic. That starts a whirlwind of murder, trips to Florida, England, environmental protests, kidnapping, car chases, and semi-psychic tracking.
The main characters are Marcus and Violet, the semi-psychic that the mob boss contacts to help with the search. Both are well written. We meet Marcus first and he’s about what you would expect from a man once famous, now slightly on the seedy side. His television show is long gone as is his money and most of his self-respect. He has not contacted his ex-wife or children in years and lives in his boss’s casino hotel.
Violet is pretty but plump, not at all active and lives in Key West with her brother and sister. All three were adopted and no one knows anything about Violet’s background. Violet’s brother is a wannabe actor and adds a lot of humor and snark to the story. Violet herself is pretty greedy – that Conch house eats money! – and can often find recent history just by touching something. She wants the mafia boss’s reward.
Despite initial reservations and distrust the two join forces before the meet a whole crowd of extra characters, some nasty, some nice and all too many dead.
Mordred (or his latest descendant) makes an appearance and is the same conniving, greedy, care-for-nobody that we all detested in the original Arthur stories. His evil minions are alive and well and join to terrorize the people in their version of Albion. King Arthur himself is the central point of the novel but appears only at the very end.
The author is telling a fantasy and writes well. She sets her plot to move fast, from Las Vegas to London to northern England to Wales, picking up people and clues along the way. The book moves fast enough that it’s easy to suspend disbelief, although after Marcus once more said there was no evidence for King Arthur whatsoever I wanted to raise my hand and point out the Saxon invader theory. (As a theory it explains a leader, but none of the knightly trappings or round table or any of the Grail quest.)
I thoroughly enjoyed Excalibur Rising, in fact it was a very pleasant surprise to read a book as well-written with so many engaging characters. It sets up for a sequel at the end, but can be read and enjoyed as a standalone.
Excalibur Rising is right between 4 and 5 stars. It’s not quite there to get 5, but better than many 4 star novels. I eagerly look forward to reading the sequel.