“I am untouchable.”
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?
DISCLAIMER: I received an eARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
EXPECTED NOVEMBER 5, 2019
CW: violence, loss of a loved one, self-harm, sexual assault (referenced, not on page), child death, animal death
After not really enjoying Kiersten White’s Conqueror’s Saga, I was nervous about going into The Guinevere Deception. Was my disappointment with The Conqueror’s Saga about the content, or was it more related to the author and her style?
I can now say it was just that And I Darken wasn’t for me, but The Guinevere Deception most certainly is! Following Guinevere (who is actually someone else entirely, a changeling sent by Merlin using the name of the dead princess Guinevere), The Guinevere Deception navigates the danger lurking in Camelot, with Guinevere as Arthur’s wife but not wife, tasked with keeping him safe against a threat that Guinevere will know when she sees it, if Merlin’s vague directions are to be believed. There’s forbidden magic, tentative friendships, knights in patchwork armor, and best of all, there’s the full force of the Arthurian legends woven underneath.
I found it hard to connect to Guinevere initially, but as the book went on, it became clear that the initial distance between reader and character was meant to emphasize that Guinevere was a changeling, not the real princess. Distance means survival for her. Carefully structured interactions keep her surrounding company at bay, lest they discover she is not who she says she is, and she is only meant to be there to save King Arthur’s life from the mysterious impending doom Merlin has foreseen.
Of course, this made it all the more satisfying as Guinevere opened up and became herself around some of Camelot’s more important figures (and, of course, with her clever lady’s maid). As closed off as she tried to be, she had to ask for help, had to trust the people around her, and I am a SUCKER for that kind of content. Yes to the power of friendship! Yes to asking for help!
Equally delightful is the gradual unspooling of the plot. While this book isn’t all action (there’s still two books to go, and this one has more of a political intrigue and deception air rather than the air of an adventure), it does have a touch of mystery to it, with fast-paced combat scenes interspersed between moments of careful political maneuvering and sly investigation. For some folks, this may, admittedly, be a little slow, but I think it does a reasonably good job at setting up the plot to come.
That said, one of my biggest (and only) complaints is that too few questions were answered. Yes, I get that we have to save some mystery and intrigue for future installments, but the heavy hinting at Guinevere’s true identity, the name she burned away in a candle, lies unresolved without a hint by the end. I have my own suspicions, that’s true, but it felt like a lot of bait for something that lacks any payoff in this installment.
I’m also a bit irritated with Merlin for his vagueness, and while it does seem in character, I get tired of intentional miscommunication far faster than I can forgive it. Tell each other the truth, GEEZ.
And somewhere in between good and bad, mostly nebulous with potential, I’d like to mention that there is a possibility of either GNC or trans Lancelot, a concept I can get fully behind. I hesitate to tag this review as queer, since only one side character is outright queer, and Lancelot seems queer-coded without any explicit confirmation of queerness, but it’s certainly on my mind, and I expect to see further development of this in the rest of the Camelot Rising trilogy.
On the whole, The Guinevere Deception was a fresh spin on Arthurian myth, woven through Guinevere’s eyes, and I have to say that I recommend it to anyone with an interest in the legends of Camelot. It also comes out tomorrow, November 5th, so if you plan to pre-order or get an early request in to your library, today is the day to do it! Too bad you don’t get your own personal Excalibur if you pre-order, though. Wouldn’t that be fun?