The Guinevere Deception

The Guinevere Deception was written by Kiersten White and first published in 2019. It is a fantastical mystery which retells the story of Camelot from the perspective of Queen Guinevere. The novel is the first part of a planned series and the sequel – The Camelot Betrayal – is planned for release in November 2020.

Guinevere has travelled to Camelot for the first time to wed King Arthur – a man that she has never met. At least, that is how it appears from the outside. The truth is that the true Guinevere is dead and this one is an impostor, her identity concealed by Merlin’s magic. It is her duty to infiltrate all levels of Camelot’s society and defend the young king against an unknown threat.

The problem is that Guinevere does not know what form this magical attack will take. While she can sense some kind of witchcraft afoot in in the great city, she does not know what direction an attack will come from. Arthur is also not the easiest man to protect as his duties take him all over the kingdom, frequently leaving him exposed to an assassination attempt.

Guinevere immediately comes to suspect that the Patchwork Knight – an aspirant knight – has some connection to a woman who has been recently exiled for witchcraft, but her investigation into this is hampered by her expected duties as a lady of the court. Guinevere knows that she needs to find a balance and quickly. The woods are starting to awaken and the legendary Dark Queen may be moving against Camelot once again…

I received this novel in my December Owlcrate, and I must admit that I have been putting off reading it. While I have reviewed a couple of other Arthurian novels in the past, including The Book Knights and Flame and Fury, this is certainly the most traditional one that I have ever looked at.

This is purely due to the fact that Arthurian novels – or Medieval fantasies in general – just aren’t my thing and I don’t really know many of the legends that surround them. However, I must admit that I was pleasantly surprised. The Guinevere Deception was quick to capture my attention as the sting at the end of the first chapter – the reveal of Guinevere’s identity – really flipped my expectations on their head.

The premise of The Guinevere Deception is simple, yet very effective. It is a re-imagining of the tale of King Arthur from Guinevere’s perspective. Arthurian legends tend to be very male-centric, focusing on Arthur, Merlin and the Knights of the Round Table. The central focus of this novel instead rested with the ladies of the court, relatives of the knights and maids, as these were the people that Guinevere interacted with each day. The result was that The Guinevere Deception felt fresh and interesting, showing a different side of Camelot and the people who lived there. While the motivation of many of the characters was still as you would expect, simply flipping the narrative focus gave it a very different feel.

However, this format was not without its flaws. As Guinevere is a high-ranking lady of the court, she exists to be protected. This means that The Guinevere Deception is incredibly slow burning. Despite the fact that Guinevere has formidable magic of her own, a lot of the action occurs off-page or is focused away from her. The result was that this was that the novel had more of the feel of a Regency era romance than a Medieval fantasy. The story also spent a lot of time in Guinevere’s head, which further slowed down its pacing. The third person narrative was very prone to exposition, usually voicing Guinevere’s doubts and suspicious over and over. She spent a lot more time procrastinating over what she needed to do, rather than actually doing it.

Yet, for all my gripes, as The Guinevere Deception, drew to its climax, the story really did start to come together. A lot of character motivations are not truly revealed until late in the tale, and the last thirty pages are especially action-packed. While all of this occurred a little too late in the story for my liking, it did make me excited to find out what would happen next. I will certainly be picking up the sequel, as I desperately want to know what these eleventh-hour revelations will mean for Guinevere and her allies.

In terms of characterisation, The Guinevere Deception was a little varied. While Guinevere is likeable and easy to empathise with, she is also a heavily flawed character. As Merlin has essentially taken everything from her, right down to her real name, if felt as though she accepted her fate a little too readily. She essentially enters into an arranged marriage without weighing the consequences. I also felt that her resolve seemed to falter towards the middle of the tale. While early chapters showed her sneaking out at night to stalk the Patchwork Knight, this quickly faded from the story. As the plot progressed, she seemed to use her magic less and less, relying more on Arthur and his knights for protection.

Guinevere can also be frustratingly naive. She was particularly quick to jump to conclusions, such as her assumption that a young woman found guilty of witchcraft must be the one orchestrating Arthur’s downfall. Seriously, she seems to abandon all other reasoning because she is so certain of this fact, despite the overwhelming lack of evidence. Guinevere’s logical leaps can be incredibly frustrating, especially when the actual answers are painfully obvious to reader.

The secondary cast can also be a bit varied. While Brangien and Mordred were very complex characters, revealing many hidden sides as the story progressed, some of the other major characters felt rather shallow. Arthur, in particular, is almost infuriatingly perfect. While I kept expecting him to reveal some hidden secret, he largely remained the image of a virtuous king.

I also felt that the Patchwork Knight’s secrets were revealed far too late in the story. This mysterious character ultimately became one of my favourites. While I did quickly guess who they were, the eventual reveal of this to Guinevere came with a twist that I certainly was not expecting. I look forward to seeing how they develop in the sequel.

I think that I’ve probably rambled for long enough. All in all, The Guinevere Deception was a bit of mixed bag. While it was a fresh take on Arthurian legend, it felt more like an extended introduction to the series due to its incredibly slow pacing. Still, I did love the climax and am very excited to see where White will take the story from here.

The Guinevere Deception can be purchased as a Paperback, eBook & Audio Book from Amazon.co.uk

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. justonemorepaige
    Mar 30, 2020 @ 02:19:28

    I love the story of King Arthur, in all its forms. Thanks for this honest review – it will help me set expectations if I pick this one us.

    Reply

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