The Guinevere Deception (Camelot Rising, # 1)
By: Kiersten White
Publication: November 5th 2019 by Delacorte Press
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Retellings
Source: Publisher via NetGalley (Thank you!!)
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Goodreads description--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?
*THE FIRST BOOK IN THE CAMELOT RISING TRILOGY*
The problem with retellings is that readers may have both knowledge of the story you're retelling as well as strong attachment to specific pieces of the original. Think of it like this, in music let's say there's a famous song that everyone loves. But if an artist comes in to do a cover of this song there might be specific melodies or notes or inflections that if changed would leave the audience unsatisfied and wishing for the original. That's kind of how I felt about The Guinevere Deception. Granted, I haven't delved extensively into King Arthur's stories and what I have read was like ten or fifteen years ago. So not everything is fresh in my mind. However, there are certain key things that I knew I didn't want messed with or had been hoping Kiersten White would go in a specific direction. And well...she did not.
I was all for bringing some strong(er) female characters into this world, but one of the things that I'm coming to find is that oftentimes this is done at the expense of strong male characters. That's not always the case, but it does happen. And I was a little conflicted with how Kiersten White chose to go about her changes to the females in this story.
First there Guinevere who is not Guinevere. We still don't learn her real name, and honestly, I'm not sure she even remembers it by the end of the book. She's Merlin's daughter and thus can use magic. She believes she's sent to Camelot by Merlin to protect Arthur from an unknown magical threat. To remain close to him, they marry and she becomes queen. Even though she's active in trying to find the magical threat against Arthur, I was a little disappointed that her biggest accomplishment (from Camelot's view) is planning and executing a tournament. I feel like there could have been some better uses of her within the story and in Camelot that might defy the traditional role of a woman and/or a queen from that time period beyond the magical. My issues with this are complex and would take a great deal longer to discuss than I want to do here in this review.
Brangien is Guinevere's maid. She also becomes her closest friend. She came to Camelot with Sir Tristan when he was banished for his love affair with Isolde. Only Tristan wasn't the one in love with Isolde. So while I loved Brangien as a character, Tristan and Isolde's story is one of those pieces of the source material that I wasn't fond of being twisted. It's like taking the high note out of I Will Always Love You as sung by Whitney Houston.
Dindrane...I couldn't decide how I felt about her. She's one of those characters that most people would hate but Guinevere saw beyond the surface and took on as a friend. I guess knowing that the things she says are mostly her attempts at protecting herself emotionally helps, but at times she could appear delusional. Thankfully Dindrane knew that Guinevere wasn't really buying what she was selling and so her comments became comical where they could have been more grating. I wasn't sure she was fleshed out enough. Or maybe Kiersten White knew her well enough but the reader doesn't get to understand her as much as I would have liked. I was excited to see her have the possibility of a romance though.
Rhoslyn was fine. Nothing really to complain about there.
I (mostly) liked how Kiersten White chose to write Lancelot. I never have liked the love affair between Lancelot and Guinevere in the original legends. Lancelot probably accomplishes the most (beyond Guinevere) of what Kiersten White was trying to accomplish with her approach to this retelling. However, there's one line that becomes a Mountains Out of Molehills issue for me.
I definitely appreciated how Kiersten White chose to write Arthur. He is no less captivating than he should be. The way that he's written is supposed to keep you guessing as to his feelings and intentions toward Guinevere, but I found everything about him to be the exact reason for me pressing on and continuing this book when at multiple times I thought about putting it into the DNF pile. If anything, I am curious to see the continued development of Arthur as things move forward, but to be honest, I'm not sure I'll finish the series as further books are published. I'll see how I feel after some time has passed and what the descriptions look like for the remaining two books.
Mordred kept me guessing the most. Was he an enemy? An ally? In love with Guinevere? Would he expose Guinevere if he found out about her use of magic? So many of my questions revolved around him. And I bounced back and forth between whether I liked him or not.
Kudos to whoever designed the cover for this one because it is stunning in my opinion.
All in all, I felt like Kiersten White didn't just want to write an empowering, female-strong version of King Arthur and his court so much as a politically correct, LGBT friendly one which resulted in her twisting some of my favorite pieces of the original stories. In some areas, I enjoyed the twists, and in others, I felt like she strayed too far. The analogy I used above was of someone covering a Whitney Houston song without hitting the high notes or changing the melody. Some pieces of the original are too ingrained and left me feeling unsatisfied with the changes she decided to make. I bounced around so much with my enjoyment of the book. At times I was dying to get back to it, and other times I was considering DNFing it. I had to go back to my rating scale which lands me at 2.5 Stars. I can't say it was completely "ugh" but I don't think I can give it a "pretty good" either. Have you read The Guinevere Deception? What did you think? Let me know!