OK, I'll admit that I'm biased. I went to school with Tim: truly! Hey, every celebrity was a kid, once, and went to school and had friends :-) That being said, I've read most of Tim's books, but haven't enjoyed them all. This is one that I *did* like, a lot. It grabbed me almost from the beginning, in much the same way that "On Stranger Tides" did; that's my favorite of Tim's books, BTW. While it definitely helps to know something of the legends of King Arthur and the Fisher King, of Percival/Parsifal and Taliesin, of the Tarot and the Holy Grail, it isn't necessary. This story holds together very well as a modern fantasy-thriller, of something we might call "fantasy noir", perhaps, although not of the same sort that Glen Cook (another favorite author of mine) writes. Still, there is something of a 40s detective story in here: who really *is* the hero, and who the villian? What are their motivations? As with all of Tim's books, though, the layers are much thicker than that, and if you can take the time to re-read some passages, you'll come away with a greater appreciation for how much care he has put into weaving all the threads together. This is *not* a casual "summer read"! If you are not willing or able to take the time to read this book word for word, do yourself a favor and don't buy it! But if you savor well-written stories, whether you like fantasy or not, you should give this, and all of Tim Powers' books, a read; you are not likely to be disappointed.