Laurence Gardner's previous books, such as The Bloodline of the Holy Grail, have concentrated on revealing details of the supposed bloodline of Jesus first outlined in Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln's famous The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, leading to the French Merovingian kings and beyond. But rather than becoming entangled in the Rennes-le-Château mystery, Gardner's focus is on re-establishing the Stuart lineage of "HRH Prince Michael of Albany". Both men are leading members of various alternative chivalric Orders and organisations (which are not recognised by official bodies such as the College of Arms or its Scottish equivalent, the Lyon Court).
Whatever you think of the validity of Gardner's claims, there is no doubt that his books can be a fascinating read, and none more so than the third in his series, Realm of the Ring Lords, in which he discovers and explores the Grail and Ring basis of much of European folklore and fairy tales. The Ring--best known from Tolkien and from Wagner's Ring Cycle--is a major focus of Norse and Germanic myth and legend, in the Eddas (especially the Volsunga Saga) and the Nibelungenlied. Gardner extends his search way beyond these stories, bringing in the origins and significance of (amongst others) Robin Hood, Santa Claus, Dracula--and Lorna Doone!
Adding to the interest of Gardner's new revelations about familiar and well-loved folk stories are the illustrations, from some stunning Pre-Raphaelite paintings to the brightly-coloured children's picture-book style of Peter Robson, "Court Painter to the Royal House of Stewart". Like Gardner's earlier books Realm of the Ring Lords is controversial, and will no doubt have many detractors, but folk tales and the world of faery are always worth revisiting, and can bear many reinterpretations. --David V Barrett