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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 Guinevere Deception was my November BOTM YA, and the premise was intriguing to me because I’d never really dove into any of the King Arthur stories beyond the story of the sword and the stone. I was excited to see that a character besides Arthur was being placed in the spotlight, and I’d never even heard of Kiersten White before picking this up, so I was also excited to be introduced to her.
The plot of The Guinevere Deception seemed more episodic than linear. It followed Guinevere as she planted magical enchantments throughout the castle in order to protect Arthur, exploring Camelot and learning more about its people and history. But nothing really happened for….a while. Usually, when nothing happens I get bored, but I found myself still engaged in the story, likely due to White’s easy-flowing prose.
The threats in the book never got to a point where I became nervous for the characters. I didn’t really expect anything bad to happen due to the relatively low stakes throughout the novel. Fortunately, the last 15 pages delivered these high stakes, and I became interested in the novel and felt the pressure of these stakes. Unfortunately, it took over 300 pages to reach that point, and then after that, the book ended.
One thing I appreciated about the novel was that White included the backgrounds of each of the characters and how they were connected, making the book accessible to those who aren’t familiar with the King Arthur myths (like me!). I still feel like I don’t have a complete understanding of them after reading this, because I believe that White added new twists to the story, but I appreciated the accessibility.
The main character, Guinevere, is the “daughter” of Merlin and a changeling, currently inhabiting the body of the actual Guinevere who is dead. She is a protector and a witch sent to protect Arthur from the magic that is threatening his reign, since her father Merlin was banished from Camelot.
“There was nothing in the world as magical and terrifying as a girl.”
This quote made me even more excited to meet Guinevere, because she sounds like she would be awesome, right? Well, she’s not. Guinevere’s only real personality trait is the fact that she can do magic. And it kind of makes sense, I guess. She’s missing some of her memories, she’s not who she says she is, she’s living a lie, etc, but a main character needs to have a personality! She only became the fierce and powerful main character I was expecting her to be in that final action scene, but it took her so long to get there that I don’t entirely believe it was a deserved change.
Thankfully, Camelot features a large cast of characters, and Guinevere was often surrounded by people who were more exciting than she was. I loved King Arthur, his goodness, his nobleness, and I wish we saw more of him. Mordred was one of the more appealing characters because of his interest in Guinevere, and how he was always there when Arthur wasn’t. Brangien, Guinevere’s handmaid, was also so sweet, and more multi-dimensional than meets the eye which was exciting. I also loved the patchwork knight, whose identity I won’t go into because of spoilers. Just know the patchwork knight awesome. There’s also LGBTQ+ rep! Woohoo!
The world-building was pretty average. Despite the fact that Camelot is described as this incredible city worth fighting for, that people have been killed for, White doesn’t really describe anything particularly special about Camelot. They had a system of aqueducts which was cool?
I never really understood the character’s urgency to protect this particular city and why they felt so strongly about it. Of course anyone would feel strongly about protecting their home, but I thought Camelot was supposed to be this shining utopia that people dreamt about. Maybe it’s described more in the Arthur myths?
THE WRITING STYLE
White has a really lovely writing style. It flows nicely and made even the less exciting parts continue the pacing of the story. Thankfully, we never spent too much time in Guinevere’s head because if I had to deal with her questioning herself, her identity, her place as Arthur’s wife for another minute I would’ve probably DNF’ed this.
The type of magic present in this book was really unique, but kind of lame. It’s called knot magic. I don’t really know how it works, though — Guinevere seems to just throw knots at people and then they do things? I’m not totally sure how it works, but I’ve never seen anything like it before. That counts for something!
Overall, The Guinevere Deception was a disappointing read that took over 300 pages to truly captivate my interest and care about the stakes. I know this is a trilogy, but I currently don’t plan on reading the sequel.