The Camelot Betrayal by Kiersten White
EVERYTHING IS AS IT SHOULD BE IN CAMELOT: King Arthur is expanding his kingdom’s influence with Queen Guinevere at his side. Yet every night, dreams of darkness and unknowable power plague her.
Guinevere might have accepted her role, but she still cannot find a place for herself in all of it. The closer she gets to Brangien, pining for her lost love Isolde, Lancelot, fighting to prove her worth as Queen’s knight, and Arthur, everything to everyone and thus never quite enough for Guinevere–the more she realizes how empty she is. She has no sense of who she truly was before she was Guinevere. The more she tries to claim herself as queen, the more she wonders if Mordred was right: she doesn’t belong. She never will.
When a rescue goes awry and results in the death of something precious, a devastated Guinevere returns to Camelot to find the greatest threat yet has arrived. Not in the form of the Dark Queen or an invading army, but in the form of the real Guinevere’s younger sister. Is her deception at an end? And who is she really deceiving–Camelot, or herself?
DISCLAIMER: I received an eARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
EXPECTED NOVEMBER 10TH, 2020
Last we saw, Guinevere had brought back the Dark Queen.
It wasn’t entirely her fault, given that Mordred tricked her. But now, back in Camelot and with the threat temporarily beaten back, Guinevere begins to doubt her role in the kingdom. How can she protect Camelot if she has had a hand in releasing such power? How can she protect Arthur?
And more importantly, why is she here? Because Merlin lied to her, so clearly lied to her, and now, whatever purpose she once held close to her heart is muddied. What is her role truly meant to be in Camelot, where her magic is forbidden and her existence is founded on a lie? What can she say to the sister she has never known, now knocking at her doors? And when the danger comes calling, is there anything she can do, or is this the end of it all?
The Camelot Betrayal is the political intrigue counterpart to its adventurous predecessor.
That’s not to say it’s lacking in adventure. After all, there is a rescue, a dragon, a wedding, and plenty more still after that to go around. What else could you ask for in an Arthurian tale? But rather than focusing on protecting Arthur and Camelot, this time, Guinevere is focused on knowing herself.
It’s a difficult thing to do, given the blank spaces in her memory. She cannot remember a time before Merlin, cannot recall the true name she so long ago gave away to the flame. Her own existence is a mystery to her, and as concerns close in around her, Guinevere can’t help but face the flaws that come hand in hand with this lack of knowledge. How can she be a proper queen of Camelot when there’s still so much she doesn’t know about herself? Worse, how can she be a queen when there is so much she cannot tell her people?
But to cap it all off, this time, Guinevere must navigate court politics as they challenge her relationships with her dearest friends. The arrival of the real Guinevere’s sister sets her qualifications into question, whispers of impropriety create a rift between her and Lancelot, not to mention Lancelot and the other knights, and still she and Arthur have no heir, something Camelot has noticed but neither party is ready to approach, not with their relationship built on necessary secrets.
“Threats could be vanquished or disarmed, but questions lingered as long as wounds.”
This is where The Camelot Betrayal falters. As much as I loved seeing Guinevere explore the options and consequences of her actions, she was almost painfully introspective. Diving into the same questions over and over while pushing the supporting cast away is more frustrating than anything, and lends itself painfully well to a case of second-book syndrome. This could have been a story where Guinevere leans into her own agency and begins to sever her connection to Merlin, who used her for his own gain. It could have been a story that highlights the good relationships she does have in Camelot these days.
But in spite of a few scenes of greater character depth for the supporting cast (particularly Lancelot, the likely lesbian after my own heart), it’s a lot of internal doubt and questioning on Guinevere’s part. And questions lingering as long as wounds is no fun when it’s the same questions for nearly three hundred pages.
It leaves us teetering on the edge of a great book, or at least a great finale. These questions must lead somewhere, and we’re so close to seeing exactly where. But in the meantime, they’ve slowed the book’s pace and left us spinning in circles next to Guinevere, while once again, Arthur rides forward. For a series about Guinevere finding herself, there’s perhaps a little too much acceptance in being left behind. And too many poor consequences for the moments where she does forge ahead as herself.
I’ll still be around for the Camelot Rising finale.
Too much still lies unresolved, and I need to know if Lancelot and Guinevere get together. I can’t keep being teased with all these love interests when there’s a perfectly good, perfectly devoted butch lesbian knight right there! Let them kiss, dammit!
But shipping preferences aside, I think The Camelot Betrayal is laying the groundwork for an explosive finale. I’m sure we’ll get to see Guinevere decide which iteration of herself is the truest, and we’ll see all the consequences fall on Camelot, be what they may.
But in the meantime, The Camelot Betrayal suffers from second book syndrome, and I wish it hadn’t. Nonetheless, if you have any interest in seeing this trilogy through, be sure to pick it up starting tomorrow, November 10th! There’s at least a good heap of sword and sorcery in it for you if you do. ⚔️✨
CW: violence, animal death, child death, loss of a loved one, sexual assault mention, implied domestic abuse, suicide mention