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Literature / Grailblazers

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What exactly is a Grail, anyway?

Grailblazers is a comic novel by Tom Holt describing the misadventures of a group of modern-day Grail Knights who are forced to resume the quest (rather than continuing their comfortable lives of selling insurance, delivering pizzas, and so forth) when the heroic yet stupid Prince Boamund is awakened from a magical sleep and assigned to lead them. Hilarity Ensues.

Brave knight, here will ye find some of the tropes contained in the pages of Grailblazers...

  • Achievements in Ignorance: Boamund and the rest of the Grail Knights eventually succeed in their quest, for all that they have no idea what a Grail actually is...
  • Atlantis: Bedevere and Turquine have to go there to acquire a relic as part of the Grail Quest. The sunken kingdom is now an offshore banking haven.
  • Axe-Crazy: Klaus and his daughter.
  • Batman Gambit: Boamund tries one on his fellow knights, which doesn't work out.
    Boamund: The message (in the envelopes) isn't the real message. All it says is Shame on you, you're dishonoured. That'll teach them.
    Toenail: Then why did you give them the envelopes now?
    Boamund: Because I knew they'd open them. And, this way, they'll know that I knew they'd open them, and that way, they'll know they're all rotters, and then we'll all know where we are, do you see?
    Toenail: (to the others) You're right. He has gone stark raving bonkers.
    • On a different level, Simon Magus awakened Boamund in the first place as a gambit against Klaus and Kundry, the Queen of Atlantis. Putting them on notice that the Knights were actively searching for the Grail again forced Klaus and the Queen to accelerate their plans, leaving them in an exposed position.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Sir Bedevere will break your arm if he has to, but he will do it regretfully and gravely, with a sense that he would much rather you hadn't pushed him so far...
  • Boisterous Bruiser: On the other hand, Sir Turquine enjoys nothing more than letting himself loose with assorted blunt instruments. When he meets a crowd of opponents, it tends to sound like a motorway collision, and usually only Turkey is still standing when it's over.
  • Book Ends: Boamund's heroic tale begins when the dwarf Toenail I gives him some drugged milk, which sends him into a magical sleep in a secret mountain cave. It ends when the dwarf's descendant, the modern-day Toenail, gives him another drink of drugged milk, putting him back to sleep in the same cave, where he will wait until it's time to assume his kingdom.
  • Chilly Reception: Apart from his old friend Bedevere, the Grail Knights, who have been living settled if unprofitable lives, are less than thrilled at Boamund's appearance.
  • Clothes for Christmas Cringe: It's revealed that Santa was the fourth Magi, and while the others gave gold, frankincense, and myrrh, all he could do was hand over a pair of socks and say "He'll grow into them." He is therefore cursed to spend every Christmas giving bad gifts.
  • Conspiracy Theorist: Recurring Tom Holt character Danny Bennett, investigative reporter, accidentally gets his hands on an account of the finding of the Grail, which sheds new light on almost every other conspiracy theory in existence. He dismisses it as a load of old rubbish.
  • Evil Gloating: Klaus von Weinacht loves to do this. Turquine takes advantage of it to get in a quick strike and escape.
  • Convenience Store Gift Shopping: Santa Claus is really one of the Wise Men who gave gifts to the infant Jesus, doing community service as punishment for the fact that (unlike his colleagues, who planned ahead and brought gold, frankincense and myrrh) he left it until the last minute and couldn't come up with anything better than a pair of socks.
  • Grail in the Garbage: Almost literally - at the end of the book the knights find it in their garage.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Played for Laughs: Boamund and Galahaut clash over Klaus' daughter upon meeting her, eventually fighting a duel for her affections. However, Boamund gets stuck after trying to pull a particularly tricky move, and they call it off.
  • Groin Attack: For knights, the Grail Questors do this a lot. Perhaps justified since they are the six survivors out of the original 100; they don't put Honor Before Reason when it comes to fighting and staying alive.
  • Heel–Face Turn: The Queen ends up helping Boamund in the end, once she accepts that she doesn't have a shot at retrieving the Grail for herself.
  • Holy Grail: The goal of the quest.
  • King in the Mountain: Boamund was put into a magical sleep 1,500 years ago and re-awakened in order to lead the Grail Knights on their abandoned quest. In the end he goes back to sleep in the same cave, to await the day he is needed again. Also played for laughs; Boamund mentions an ancient king who supposedly is asleep under Suilven Crag, due to wake up if ever the king of Benwick sets foot on the soil of Albion again.
    Toenail: I guess he forgot to set his alarm.
  • Jerkass God: Both Klaus (better known as Father Christmas) and the Queen of Atlantis are laboring under Disproportionate Retribution curses due to their individual involvement in the life of Christ. In Klaus' case, he was the Canon Foreigner Fourth Wise Man at Jesus' birth, who neglected to bring an appropriate gift; her sin was refusing to do the dishes after the Last Supper.
  • Malevolent Architecture: Atlantis magically relocates itself every few minutes (to change tax jurisdictions). If you're not in the insulated main office, the effects of this are disconcerting. The best you can hope for is to have the lights go out and everything be three feet to the right when they come back on. In other cases, you can find yourself standing on a staircase where you had been in a corridor a moment ago. Or it can be considerably weirder than that...
  • Master Swordsman: Subverted when Galahaut and Boamund fight a duel. First they take forever limbering up; when they finally begin, each tentative blow is preceded by asking the other if he's ready. Finally, Boamund attempts a difficult maneuver which he remembers (halfway through) that he never mastered, gets stuck, and has to be helped up by Galahaut, ending the duel.
  • Only Sane Man: Toenail.
  • Our Dwarves Are All the Same: Averted. Toenail the dwarf (brother Hangnail, cousin Chillblain) is about 3 feet tall, clean-shaven, and decidedly not a warrior. He goes and hides in baskets or under tables when trouble threatens. Dwarves in general are servants to the knightly class; they're the ones who clean the floor and polish the armor. They are also extremely clever and adept at solving riddles and crosswords; since they're too short to reach the pool table and too weak to throw darts, that's all they have to do at the pub on their nights off.
  • Percussive Maintenance: Klaus attempts this on his sleigh, managing only to beat the living hell out of it.
  • Public Domain Character: All of the knights have been appearing, sometimes by rather different spellings, in stories since the High Middle Ages. Also, there's Klaus von Weinacht, better known as Santa Claus, and an appearance by Jesus.
  • The Three Wise Men: Santa Claus was one of the Wise Men, doing community service to expiate the sin of Convenience Store Gift Shopping for the Messiah; unlike his colleagues who planned ahead, he left things until the last minute and couldn't come up with anything better than a pair of socks.
  • Timey-Wimey Ball: In Australia, Lamorak and Pertelope encounter the Timekeeper, a 15-year-old girl who was a victim of a misguided time-travel experiment. Instead of being sent into the future, she and the crew of her spaceship were sent into the past; their aging was also reversed, so she is no longer the 46-year-old woman she was when she started out. And she has to wear braces, or risk setting off a temporal paradox (she had perfect teeth as an adult). Lamorak knows all this because he met one of her crewmates, 250 years ago in his time, but in the "future" for the Timekeepers.
  • Unicorn: The heroes at one point have to find a unicorn in order to use it as bait to capture a virgin. It turns out that modern unicorns are scruffy and unpleasant feral critters.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: Discussed: The Grail Knights are stuck in Albion (now Britain) until they complete their quest; they appear to be functionally immortal unless someone kills them. Due to their lack of success, and the fact that none of them know what a Grail is in the first place, they have had to take up mundane jobs to make ends meet. As a consequence, their lives are terribly, terribly boring, and Bedevere at least is ready to be shaken out of the routine when Boamund arrives.
  • Wouldn't Hit a Girl: Bedevere threatens the Queen, but when push comes to shove, he can't bring himself to knife her. He does mug her, though...