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Literature / Knight Life Series

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"Of course young people don't vote. It's a right handed to them, and therefore they don't appreciate it. Young people care about two things, and two things only: Those things they have to fight for, and those things they're told not to do. Going around telling teens to vote: that's your problem right there. You're telling them to do something. ... 'Every young person hearing this or watching this, listen to me now and tell all your friends I said this: Don't vote! Come election day, you are absolutely not to vote! I forbid it! I flatly forbid it!"
King Arthur "Penn" in a mayoral debate, Knight Life

Knight Life is a series of Urban Fantasy novels written by Peter David. The books are comic political fantasies about King Arthur returning in the twentieth century to become President of the United States. First, however, he must become mayor of New York City, which was covered in the first title, Knight Life. The original Knight Life was published in 1987 and since then, copies of the title became scarce. Peter David considered developing a movie of the book, but responding to demand, he published a revised version in 2002. The new version removes some of the more dated references in the original title (such as Republicans not being a major political force in New York City) and adds nearly 30,000 words of new material. The success of the new volume resulting in two more titles, making it a trilogy, though the later volumes never gained quite the attention of the original title.


The story of the original novel focuses on King Arthur running a political campaign to become mayor of New York as Arthur Penn. As very few can know that he is actually the original King Arthur, much of the campaign must consist of simply getting his name out there. Arthur sets himself apart from the other candidates by making a vow to never lie, no matter what anyone may ask him. He is aided by Merlin and Percival, as well as Gwen (Queen Quinevere reincarnated), but dark forces are working against him, including Morgana (Morgana le Fey) and his bastard child Mordred "Mo Dreskin."

The titles in the series are:

  • Knight Life (1987/2002)
  • One Knight Only (2003, working title was Dead of Knight)
  • Fall of Knight (2006)


The original Knight Life provides examples of the following:

  • The Ageless: Percival, who made the extremely poor choice of drinking from the Holy Grail while completely healthy.
  • Author Tract: When not espousing certain positions that would only seem logical to someone of his era, Arthur seems to express a generally libertarian viewpoint in his political views.
  • Cassandra Truth: When confronted about the fact that he is actually King Arthur during a debate, Arthur simply admits it and launches into a "Camelot speech." Everyone that doesn't know the truth believes the speech to be some sort of metaphor.
  • Determinator: Gwen becomes this after she is tricked by Morgan
  • Do Not Adjust Your Set: Early in his campaign, Arthur runs a series of ads that basically just feature him saying "Hello, I'm Arthur Penn, vote for me," and a graphic depicting him as candidate for Mayor of New York in order to get name and face recognition. Since the ads are only a few seconds long, they're dirt-cheap and therefore can be run pretty much every commercial break during the key hours on all the major stations, essentially creating this effect in advertising form. One of his opponents even calls to his campaign manager to complain about him seeing the damn ad pretty much every time he turns on the television.
  • Even the Guys Want Him: A male reporter comments that he's almost tempted to turn gay for Arthur.
  • I Need You Stronger: After Morgan's latest plan to destroy Arthur's mayoral ambitions fails, she decides that if he thinks things are going great now, then it couldn't help to build up his hopes even further. She'll make it seem like things are going well with the election, only to crush his dreams at the last minute.
    Morgan: All right, fine. You want to build up your hopes, Arthur? Fine. I'll build them up even higher, then, and that way they'll make an even louder crash when they fall! And nothing will distract me from my purpose! Nothing!
    Lance: Morgan? Will you spank me?
  • The Jester: Percival declares Buddy and Elvis to be Arthur's jesters for better or worse
  • King Arthur: Duh
  • King Incognito: Very few learn that Arthur is actually the King Arthur
  • The Little Shop That Wasn't There Yesterday: Gwen gets The Carpathian Book of Fey and Daemonfolk from one of these. She learns where to find it from Arthur Penn's secretary "Miss Basil" (a basilisk), who tells her of a little bookshop she's never seen before, even though she knows the area quite well.
    Gwen: I know that street...that block. I've walked past a hundred times. There's no bookshop there. Is this some kind of trick?
    Miss Basil: ... ... Tell me, have you ever been looking for it?
    Gwen: No. How could I look for something that isn't there?
    Miss Basil': All you have to do is not look where it isn't.
  • Luke Nounverber: Merlin is called "Merlin Demonspawn" derisively by his enemies...and Miss Basil.
  • A Man Is Always Eager: Gwen notes that having been in a cage for a thousand years, Arthur must be the "horniest man on the planet." Arthur consults a dictionary, then agrees.
  • Not Quite Dead: Arthur is killed at the end of Knight Life, but it was only his heart that was stopped; they revived him.
    • Happens to Gwen in One Knight Only; this causes Arthur to resign the Presidency (yes, you heard right) and seek the Holy Grail.
  • Older Than They Look: Merlin, who due to his reverse aging looks and sounds like a nine-year-old boy
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Buddy and Elvis, who were so wiped out on drugs before meeting Arthur that they don't remember their real names
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: King Arthur
  • Taken for Granite: Miss Basil, a basilisk in disguise. Forced to serve Merlin during Knight Life, she was released from her servitude before One Knight Only, taking her vengeance out on Merlin by turning him to stone.
  • Those Two Guys: Buddy and Elvis, two drugged-out muggers who end up working for Arthur's campaign and become jesters of a sort for him after witnessing him receive Excalibur ("the day-glo sword") from the Lady of the Lake.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Gwen takes one within the course of the book, starting out as an Extreme Doormat. She is then rescued by Arthur and gains confidence, but takes a dive when she is tricked by Morgan le Fay. She then goes on a spree, gaining knowledge and power to confront Morgan.
  • You Have No Idea Who You're Dealing With: When Gwen summons a demon, it tells her that she has no idea what she's screwing with. She says just enough to prove she knows exactly what she's screwing with and then binds it to her will.

Alternative Title(s): Knight Life, One Knight Only, Fall Of Knight


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