What would happen if you crossed Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur, Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses, and Dr. Henry Walton “Indiana” Jones, Jr.? The answer, perhaps, is Vishnul Jain’s THE FUTURE KING: Return of the Once Monarch, the first book in a planned series. After a prologue that retells the familiar story of King Arthur’s death at the hands of his traitorous nephew Mordred, and the prophecy that Arthur would return someday to restore order to his kingdom, the novel shifts to present-day Oxford University, where a lecture is being delivered by the dashing Professor Limren.
Limren is, in fact, the wizard Merlin, who held Arthur as he died and is now trying to make his way in the world as a mash-up of new and old, which affords Jain the opportunity for a little humor. Limren drives a Porsche 911 Turbo, but makes his students write papers by hand. He has a gramophone and an iPhone. Also, his art collection includes “the actual Mona Lisa, a personal gift from Da Vinci himself [. . .] He knew the one in the Louvre always deceived the world.” Limren’s housemate and companion is Raman Rathod, an Indian astrologer and inventor whose life Merlin saved and who now serves the wizard, “forever indebted” to his rescuer. The two might have continued with this Clouseau-and-Cato arrangement for years, but Limren has to visit America—or, as he calls it, “the New World”—on behalf of the university. Once there, he learns from an old sorceress friend, Elysiana, that sinister events are afoot. Will Merlin join her to help save the world? And what does it mean for Arthur’s foretold return?
THE FUTURE KING is steeped in myths from all over the world, making it an encyclopedic entertainment. The action is brisk, the characters are likable, and though the idea of Merlin surfing the internet seems like an SNL sketch, Jain treats it as more than a joke.
Vishnul Jain’s THE FUTURE KING | Return of the Once Monarch is a fascinating (though uneven) epic that combines myths and legends from around the world.
~Anthony Aycock for IndieReader