Coming home from college for summer vacation is a fraught concept for Lance, all because Arthur—the boy he fell in love with, the boy who got in trouble with his parents for him—is still there and still straight. Or mostly straight. Lance has had a hard time reconciling the knowledge that Arthur has had romantic connections to girls in the past, but then admitted his feelings for Lance via text. All bets are off, however, when Lance actually rolls back into Avalon, Kentucky and Arthur proves he will do whatever it takes to convince Lance that he loves him.
Complicated emotions aside, Lance has another, very real concern about trying to build a relationship with Arthur. It’s not just that Lance has been away at Kentucky U and Arthur just graduated college, and it’s not just that Lance is still getting used to his body as a trans man. Rather, it’s all because Lance is deathly afraid of his suspicion that he and Arthur are the reincarnated Knights of the Round table. And when Morgan and her twin brother Mordy arrive in town with their magic and their rituals, Lance is convinced the horrible past is about to repeat itself. Soon, Lance is working together with the twins, his sister Gwen, and even Arthur himself to uncover the identity of an ancient evil lurking in the town. All Lance hopes is that he’s doing the right thing to keep his friends, and especially Arthur, safe.
This is a reimagining of the King Arthur legend told from the perspective of Lancelot and with a lot of modern elements folded in. I love me a good knights-in-shining-armor story and used to enjoy that old 80s or 90s era animated King Arthur cartoon and thought this would be a fun read. My knowledge of the myth started and ended with understanding Arthur and Lancelot loved the same woman, Morgan was an evil entity, and Merlin was a good one. This is absolutely not how the roles breakdown in Avalon’s Last Knight and for me, it was hella confusing to have my old, loose knowledge of the myths constantly turned upside down in this reimagining. If you are well-versed in the myths, your results will obviously vary. In this book, Lance and Arthur are on the same team and very much in love; Gwen is Lance’s sister and has zero romantic interest in Arthur; Morgan is good, but gets possessed by Morgana, who is chaotic sort-of good(?); and Mordy is good, but serves as competition for Lance’s affections.
Garton works a lot of subplots into the story. The first plot we see is the one concerning Lance and Arthur’s possible relationship. This one is chock full of angst and denial. Lance seems to have a lot of reservations about being with Arthur, most/all of which stem from how Arthur’s father reacted years ago when he found Arthur and Lance asleep in the same bed (as in “we fell asleep studying” sleep rather than “we boinked like rabbits” sleep). A large part of this plot thread is warped by Lance’s apparent inability to accept that Arthur could/does want to be with Lance. This belief is nursed along by the fact that Arthur has had romantic relationships with women in the past. However, the Arthur we see on-page is 200% dedicated to being a good partner to Lance, sometimes to the point of discomfort. Overall, this gave me the impression that Lance is very insecure about his body and unsure of Arthur’s real emotions.
The Lance/Arthur ship was the most consistent element in the story for me. Sure, maybe Lance was always second guessing whether or not he could actually build a relationship with Arthur, doubting the authenticity of Arthur’s emotions, and generally not communicating his needs and fears about being with Arthur TO Arthur. Yes, Arthur comes across at times like the guy who will do/say anything to get into your pants, but it’s because he loves you. Still, this was the one point of familiarity for me. All the other falderal in the book really diluted the dynamic between the two, often leaving them with words unsaid and false impressions, so the angst factor was pretty high. It was just a bit exhausting how everything between these two seemed to have to be a struggle even though they both clearly wanted to be together.
Overall, I thought the pacing of the story was not that great. Even when it becomes clear that Lance et al must kill the bad guy, there never seems to be a sense of urgency in planning that. They still plan a summer solstice party and accidentally randomly acquire excalibur (handy!) and visit Morgan and Mordy’s grandpa where they make a bunch of herbal charms (that don’t seem to do anything). But a lot of this could just be the fact that casual reader me has zero knowledge of the black and white and other types of magick that are intrinsically intertwined with half the supporting cast.
One aspect of the story that was a continual source of frustration was the seemingly careless way not only Arthurian legend, but other mythologies got mixed together. The magick that Gwen (and to an extent, Lance), Morgan, and Mordy practice also features in many scenes—mostly for cleansing. Garton also brings in Aztec lore specifically to supply Lance with a special knife. To the uninitiated, this represents a pretty huge spectrum of cultures and artifacts and deities. The overall effect for me was to drape the characters, the plot, their actions, hell the very tools they used to carry out the plot, in opaque symbolism I did not have the energy or the interest in cutting through.
Overall, I did not find this story to be very engaging. All the extra characters and their weird reinterpretations through Arthurian legend distracted me from the main Lance/Arthur conflict. The Lance/Arthur conflict was constantly sidelined by magick elements and somewhat undermined by an extra love interest for Lance. The magick and mythologies were mixed in ways that made me feel excluded as a reader. Although I thought this story was too weighed down with itself, diehard fans of Arthurian legend may enjoy it and seeing on-page friendship develop between two transmen was worthwhile.