Cal has struggled to cope with his mother's drinking and her psychotic episodes since he was six; cooped up in their dirty council flat he dreams of a new life. So when he leaves to live with his uncle Trevor in Chepstow he is ruthless about breaking with the past, despite his mother's despair. But getting off the train at the wrong station he finds himself at the castle of the Fisher King, and from then on moves in a nightmare spiral of predetermined descent into a wasteland of desolation and adventure, always seeking the way back to the Grail he has betrayed. Catherine Fisher has created a gripping and highly moving novel that moves between myth and a contemporary journey of self-knowledge until one becomes indistinguishable from the other. Drawing in Arthurian themes, historical re-enactments and the Four Hallows, Cal's quest for a return to peace of mind is an elaborate and ambitious Grail novel for our time. An important new work from the author of the Book of the Crow
Fisherreimagines the enigmatic castle of Grail legend as a roadside inn in this elegiac, mature modern fantasy. Young Cal is leaving his home and his alcoholic mother to stay with his uncle, but gets off the train at the wrong station. Walking through what some local fishermen call the Waste Land in search of a phone, he comes upon Castle Hotel Corbenic, its ominous "vacancies" sign swinging in the wind. Alain Bron, the wheelchair-bound patron of the castle/hotel, befriends Cal, mumbling that Cal is "the one." Bron shows Cal the Holy Grail; only later, when he is back home with his uncle, does he learn the legend, which says if he were to ask Bron about what he saw, the king's wounds would be healed and the kingdom restored. But getting back to Corbenic proves difficult for, as he learns from a ratty man who turns out to be Merlin, "it is not a place... it is a state of mind." Fisher transposes genres to great effect; the opening chapters feel as much like the start of a horror movie as a fantasy tale, with a well-executed sense of dread and mystery. And in a masterful turn, Cal's relationship with his mother is fused with the Grail story into a completely surprising twist ending, one which casts a new, human light on all of the fantasy elements that came before it. Ages 12-up.