The Last Knight
by Candice Proctor, historical (2000)
Ivy, $6.99, ISBN 0-804-11930-9

The talented Candice Proctor visits the medieval era and comes up with The Last Knight, a vivid story of faith and duties vs hearts' desires. It is also rich in history.

Attica d'Alerion is resigned to her future of being a wife of a fourteen-year old viscount. She is a pious and virtuous girl who is raised to be good and responsible. And her only joy in life is in her pride of her brother Stephen, a dashing knight. But obviously fate has give this woman a push, so she stumbles upon crucial information that the King - and everyone in the royal contigent, including her brother - is in dire peril. The naughty prince Richard and French king Phillip plan to attack the king after the La Ferte-Bernard conference.

With that, she dons her boy costume and runs away from home to warn the king. Along the way she meets Damion de Jarnac, who has a Bad Past and is now making atonement by trying to find out the bad guys in Henry's court.

TLK, I must say, is a schizophrenic novel. On one hand, it wants to be different. The history, the piety, and the difficult choices one has to make between duty and desires are all presented here in skilful prose. The last third of the novel, when all the intrigue just explodes in everyone's faces, is particularly well-done.

But on the other hand, we have the usual girl-disguised-as-boy and her road trip with a standard surly hunky knight with Bad Past. The villains are pretty much of the Bungle and Bunglers school of philosophy. Therefore, the entire middle of TLK is pretty much a standard medieval yarn.

Still, there's no denying that TLK is a very well-written book. It's just that sometimes it surprises me, sometimes it drags on and on - it's a pretty uneven book that just keep stumbling to find an identity all the way to the last third. Then it finds its pacing, but soon after it's the epilogue.

Ms Proctor can write, and with her talent, heck, I'm sure she will fly high, if she hasn't already. So why is she trying so hard to conform to the rules of romance as rigidly as her characters? It just jeopardizes her story and distances me from the two potentially fascinating characters in her story.

Rating: 83

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