by Kiersten White
Series: Camelot Rising #1
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: November 5, 2019
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
I received an advance review copy of this book from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.My rating:
From New York Times bestselling author Kiersten White comes a new fantasy series reimagining the Arthurian legend, set in the magical world of Camelot.
There was nothing in the world as magical and terrifying as a girl.
Princess Guinevere has come to Camelot to wed a stranger: the charismatic King Arthur. With magic clawing at the kingdom's borders, the great wizard Merlin conjured a solution--send in Guinevere to be Arthur's wife . . . and his protector from those who want to see the young king's idyllic city fail. The catch? Guinevere's real name--and her true identity--is a secret. She is a changeling, a girl who has given up everything to protect Camelot.
To keep Arthur safe, Guinevere must navigate a court in which the old--including Arthur's own family--demand things continue as they have been, and the new--those drawn by the dream of Camelot--fight for a better way to live. And always, in the green hearts of forests and the black depths of lakes, magic lies in wait to reclaim the land. Arthur's knights believe they are strong enough to face any threat, but Guinevere knows it will take more than swords to keep Camelot free.
Deadly jousts, duplicitous knights, and forbidden romances are nothing compared to the greatest threat of all: the girl with the long black hair, riding on horseback through the dark woods toward Arthur. Because when your whole existence is a lie, how can you trust even yourself?
Helloooo, gorgeous cover!
“There was nothing in the world as magical and terrifying as a girl on the cusp of womanhood.”
I was especially excited to see this was an Arthurian retelling from Guinevere’s POV, and that it deals with the clash between magic and, well, men. Arthur was made king because of magic (a sword, Merlin) but can only stay king by pushing out that magic (banishing Merlin, turning to Christianity). This also leads to a curtailing of women’s power – both magical and political. The Lady in the Lake and the Dark Queen may have had far-reaching powers, but the Queen of Camelot is reduced to seating charts for banquets and visiting the other ladies of court, a footnote in Arthur’s story. Because of that, the book does move somewhat slowly – there’s some adventure, but a lot of it is Guinevere exploring the limits of her life as a lady of Camelot.
“She was not Arthur’s wife, not really. But she was sad nonetheless. It was not easy, revolving around someone who did not revolve around her.”
I felt let down by the romance plot. Obviously, there’s something between Arthur and Guinevere, but there’s also a third character as well. I’m not much of a big fan of love triangles, though I’m more accepting of them in YA, and honestly at points I wanted to throw up my hands and tell Guinevere to hightail it out of Camelot and find some farmer or something. There were some good scenes between Arthur and Guinevere, but most of it is bookended by Guinevere fretting about why she couldn’t be interested in him. This was also compounded by the fact that Arthur felt bland to me. This may be by design – Arthur puts Camelot above everything else, including himself, and certainly above his wife. As for the other love interest, I loved their interactions, but, due to being familiar with the Arthurian legends, I had a pretty good idea how this would all end up.
“I believe in King Arthur. I believe in his story. And I want nothing more than to be part of it.”
With all that said, there was a lot I liked about this book. Guinevere’s friendship with Brangien, her lady’s maid, and other women in the castle and beyond were lovely. There were a lot of plot twists throughout the book, some obvious to me (the Patchwork Knight) and some not. While all those twists were exciting, it was also jarring, as it felt like a lot of information was being withheld from the reader for too long. I did like how Guinevere started the book as a blank slate and then slowly grew into her power and sense of self, accelerated in the last portion of the book. I’ve mentioned the slower pacing before, and it’s the end where everything really picks up and there’s action and plot twists a-plenty.
Overall, while the book wasn’t what I was expecting and seriously suffers from first-in-a-series syndrome, I’m still curious enough about what happens to Guinevere to read the next one. I’d rate the majority of the book as 3 stars, with the last portion being more 4 stars, so rounding down to 3.