R. Garcia Y Robertson
Tor Forge / 560 pages / January 2003
Few students graduate from high school without reading Mark Twain’s classic A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. In the future, you may see that paragon of time travel literature supplemented with this new novel. It’s dangerous to say anything uncomplimentary about Twain’s work, but comparing the two books, some readers just might find themselves favouring Garcia Y Robertson’s updated take on the displacement fantasy.
This time around, Robyn Stafford is the modern day woman plucked from her secure, if stale, twenty-first existence into the year 1460, smack-dab in the middle of the War of the Roses. As with every time refugee, the first thing on Robyn’s mind is getting back to where she belongs. Leaving behind the love of a dashing, courageous young knight is the only dark spot on her happiness upon returning to our time. But, the past is not through with Robyn; she can’t run away from her fate that easily.
Life for Robyn in the 15th century is a bit of a rude awakening. Unlike Hank Morgan, Twain’s hero, she finds her ability to affect radical changes is limited by the materials on hand, her own knowledge, and the superstitions of the people around her. No history-changing inventions are going to spring from Robyn’s displacement in time; she’s going to have to work with what she’s got.
That’s part of the appeal of Knight Errant — the realistic portrayal of the time period: the sanitary (or unsanitary) conditions, the politics, the social structure. This is fantasy grounded in reality and every detail makes the story that much more riveting.
Actually, that’s only one of the strengths of this story. The characters are unique and fascinating. There are good guys and bad guys, but they are characters with dimension. The settings are rich in detail, both in the 1460’s setting and in the present. The political machinations play out in court intrigue and on the battle field, with Robyn making her own contributions to the struggle.
Even as she joins in the fight for the future of Britain, Robyn must avoid falling into the hands of her enemies, who will use any excuse to eliminate her permanently. As much as she wants to return to her own time, her foes want her gone even more. But, is the twenty-first century where she truly wants to be? Is it even where she belongs?
True, Knight Errant is a big book, but it goes by so fast. Robyn’s story is one that is genuinely difficult to take a break from. Garcia y Robertson’s creation is irresistible, entrancing and leaves you wanting even more. If we’re very lucky, maybe we’ll be seeing more of Robyn and her gallant knight in new adventures. Keep your fingers crossed.