When I found this book at the bookstore, I had never heard of Kinley MacGregor or the Lords of Avalon series. I bought this book because it was relevant to the King Arthur legend–I’ll buy just about any King Arthur novel out there, although I’d say half of them disappoint me. This one turned out to be near the top of my list of disappointments.
First of all, it wasn’t until after I finished reading it and I went to Amazon to read reviews by other authors that I even realized I had read the 2nd book, not the first, in the series. I had thought it was the first since inside the book is a list of the author’s other works and it is listed above Sword of Darkness, which made me assume it was the first and Sword of Darkness the second in the series. Nowhere on the front or back cover was it indicated in which order to read the books. However, I don’t feel I missed anything by not reading the first in the series and I have no intention of reading it in the future.
I also discovered at Amazon that Kinley MacGregor is a pseudonym for Sherrilyn Kenyon, whose name I had heard in reference to her vampire novels, although I had not read them. Those vampire novels might be worth reading, but when I did a little more research and found this author has written over 60 novels and is only in her mid-40s, I understood why Knight of Darkness is so bad. No author can whip out that many books in 20 years and expect to create quality. That she is a bestselling author is just a sign of how good marketing can sell anything. The attractive cover must have helped sell this book–the writing inside sure couldn’t.
Actually, Knight of Darkness didn’t start out too badly. The main character, Varian duFey, is the son of Sir Lancelot and an evil woman who is Morgen le Fey’s right hand. Varian, however, works for the good guys–including Merlin, but a female Merlin–and as a hired assassin for them. The book is set in modern times as well. I was slightly intrigued by the situation.
When a grail knight is assassinated, Varian is supposed to find out who the murderer is. So far, so good, and for about fifty pages, I was interested, despite the writing not being of the first quality, but then the book falls into campiness. Varian is captured and imprisoned, and in his efforts to escape, becomes involved with an unattractive woman, Merewyn, who agrees to seduce him in exchange for becoming beautiful–and Varian’s mother is the one who makes the deal with her. I just read this book a couple of days ago, but I’m having trouble remembering the details of what they even wanted from Varian–a sign the plot wasn’t thought out well. Varian has magical powers they want to prohibit, but they also want to stop him from learning who murdered the grail knight.
But what makes things really difficult is the whole mystery gets forgotten in the ridiculous overuse of magic throughout the novel, Varian and Merewyn’s escape into some sort of inbetween realm that doesn’t make sense–really is nonsensical, not to mention cheesy–and a whole lot of erotic scenes between Varian and Merewyn that go on and on and tend to be more boring than titillating. Add into it Merewyn falling into a slough of despond or some such name that sounds like something out of Pilgrim’s Progress, and mix into that a bunch of characters who keep quoting from Spamalot–a show I like but which I don’t need to have replayed for me in the pages of the book (I won’t even get started on the book’s other faults, including the talking rock that’s supposed to grow up to be a gargoyle and all the ridiculous geeky dialogue). Suffice it to say, this book may well be tied with the movie Quest for Camelot for the title of the ultimate Arthurian cheesefest!
Seriously, I don’t mind some humor–I find Spamalot very funny–but cheesiness is more than I want. The Arthurian legend has prevailed for centuries because of its tragedy, its romance, its awe and mystery, its sense of ideals to strive for, even if they may not always be reached. None of that exists in the pages of this book. All that is here is a badly-written, badly-thought out story, that I would not have even finished reading if it hadn’t been the only book I had to read while on an airplane.
If you want some cheesy Arthurian time travel in other dimensions type story, go check out the worst of the remakes of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court–there are plenty of them, and they are all better than this book. Knight of Darkness is truly a dark night for Arthurian literature.
Tyler R. Tichelaar, Ph.D. is the author of King Arthur’s Children: A Study in Fiction and Tradition, available at www.ChildrenofArthur.com