What better book to read for the Past/Future Week challenge than a book about the Once and Future King, Arthur himself? While his actual past may be more mythical than historical, the place and peoples it’s based on were real. When I was younger, King Arthur was one of my favorite stories, so when the chance to grab another Arthurian retelling showed up, of course I grabbed it with greedy hands.
This version of the Arthur story involves a 14-year-old boy — right on the cusp of adolescence — who is all emotions, impulses, and insecurity. One moment he’s trying to save his cousin (who is risking his life by pretending to be a knight), and then next he’s the new King of Camelot. He’s surrounded and protected by Merlin, the handsome and mercurial man now guiding Arthur through his new role in life, and the Knights of the Round Table, each of whom seem to think they would be better with almost anyone other than Arthur.
Already facing multiple attempts on his life, hateful gossip in the palace as people wonder how long it will take him to die (or wishing he’d die), and a confusing kiss with the handsome and charming Mordred, Arthur decides to leave it all behind. The magic sword, the fine clothes, the title that fits him like an iron collar around his neck, and vanishes into the dark depths of city only to find that peasant, king, or nothing at all, he can’t ignore the cries of the poor girl screaming for help.
Somehow, Arthur has to find a way to prove to himself that he deserves to be king, and then prove it to everyone else, as well as to find out who is behind the assassination attempts on his life — while surviving them — and then, when he has a moment to spare, he has to try to figure out what to do about his feelings for Mordred. Is it so much to ask for a King to be able to love his Knight?
This book reads a little on the younger side of the YA spectrum, in part because Arthur and Mordred are 14 and 15 respectively, and the oldest of the Knights isn’t even 20, yet. There’s a lot of action and a lot of angst. Arthur has to overcome his own insecurities while, at the same time, standing up to the omnipresent disdain, uncertainty, calculation, and indifference of everyone around him. Only his Knights seem to see the young man behind the Holy Sword, and even so, they don’t start out with much faith in him.
I will say that, pacing wise, it got a small bit repetitive with what felt to be an assassination attempt every three chapters. Other than that, things moved at a fairly brisk pace and, while I personally would have liked to see more time given over to Mordred and Arthur’s friendship, I still very much enjoyed the book. Enough so that I read it in one sitting, which isn’t always the case, for me. It’s interesting seeing a different take on what are, to me, familiar characters and archetypes. Mordred, Lancelot, Galahad, Tristan, Percival, and Gawain are all present, but it’s clear the author has written them into her own vision and her own story.
This was fun and cute and I enjoyed it for what it was. Enough so that if the author writes a follow up, I’d be very interested to get ahold of it.
This review is part of our Reading Challenge Month for Past/Future Week! Leave a relevant comment below and you will be entered to win one of two great book bundles from Carina Press (you can see the details and full event prize list here)! Commenters will also be entered to win our amazing grand prize sponsored by NineStar Press: a Kindle Paperwhite loaded with 50 NineStar Press books! You can get more information on our Challenge Month here (including all the contest rules) and more details on Past/Future Week here.