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The Table of Less Valued Knights    by Marie Phillips order for
Table of Less Valued Knights
by Marie Phillips
Order:  USA  Can
Random House, 2014 (2014)
Hardcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

If you're a Monte Python fan, you'll appreciate the antic humor that Marie Phillips (author of Gods Behaving Badly) injects into her historical romp, The Table of Less Valued Knights.

Naturally you've heard of King Arthur's Round Table. But what do you think happens to the knights who've reached their level of incompetence, or just can't quest any more? According to Phillips, they sit at a Table of Less Valued Knights, 'home to the elderly, the infirm, the cowardly, the incompetent and the disgraced'. Humphrey du Val sits there, disgraced and bored.

The story opens at the feast of Pentecost at Camelot, where the knights await a prestigious new quest. When Edwin, self-styled King of Puddock, shows up, seeking help to find his kidnapped wife (Queen Martha), the task is assigned to Sir Dorian (the one who took Humphrey's spot at the Round Table). The evening over, Humphrey lingers in the empty hall ... and the real Pentecost quest shows up.

Lady Elaine du Mont, a true damsel in distress, needs a knight to find and rescue her kidnapped betrothed, Sir Alastair Gilbert. Not mentioning his lesser status, Humphrey tells her he's the knight for the job. They head out accompanied by his squire Conrad (a small giant) and Conrad's steed, the elephant Jemima. But Elaine is keeping a secret of her own.

While this bizarre group meanders through the countryside, readers are introduced to Queen Martha of Puddock, whose father has just died. She's quickly pushed into marriage with Prince Edwin of neighboring Tuft, but flees (magically disguised as a boy) after glimpsing his 'enormous, awful, extraordinary teeth'. Naturally her path crosses that of the questors (with nudges from a Lady of the Lake - or Millpond - and a magic sword).

By now you have an idea of the hilarity that ensues, as Marie Phillips has fun with all sorts of myths, legends and stories (like her take on virgin meets unicorn, the trio of prisoners in iron masks, the stand-in Lady of the Lake, and a magical sword with its own agenda). There are happy endings for (almost) all parties. The Table of Less Valued Knights is tremendous, tongue-in-cheek fun, absolutely not to be missed.

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