The Guinevere Deception by Kiersten White
Publisher: Delacourte Press
Publication date: 05 November 2019
Genre: YA fantasy
Page count: 352 pages
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This review is spoiler-free.
I’m always on the lookout for new and interesting retellings that are a little different from the standard fairy tale retellings we see so often in YA, so I was immediately drawn to The Guinevere Deception. I had never read anything by Kiersten White before, so I didn’t quite know what to expect. I ended up really enjoying this book!
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?
Reading this book made me realise how little I actually know about Arthurian Legend. Clearly the Mists of Avalon didn’t stick in my head as much as I thought it did — I read it over a decade ago. Fortunately, I don’t think you need to know a huge amount about Arthurian Legend to follow and understand this book. I had no issues following the characters and didn’t feel lost at any point. Did I miss out on a few small things or foreshadowing? Probably, but it didn’t hinder my enjoyment of the book at all.
White creates an incredibly vibrant world in The Guinevere Deception. From the wonderful imagery of Camelot carved in to the mountainside and the deep, unfathomable lake that surrounds it to the devouring forests filled with a lingering magic, the world really evoked the feeling of ancient, mythological England and the magic that we so commonly associate with the King Arthur legend. I particularly enjoyed reading about the knot magic that Guinevere utilises to keep Arthur and Camelot safe — I don’t know if this is part of the myth surrounding Guinevere or not, but it felt so natural for her character.
I have a couple of small complaints about the writing in this book. The writing feels a little choppy in places — we jump from setting to setting and there were a couple of moments of confusion as characters just suddenly appeared in a completely new place. I also felt like the book was a little scattered in terms of plot. Guinevere would be so focused on the magical threat, get distracted for awhile, then suddenly remember she’s got a job to do, then would wander off again. The book was fun, but I really wish we had more of Guinevere trying to suss out traitors and threats in Camelot rather than tournaments and marketplaces. I totally get why she included these things, but it did make the book feel a little meandering.
Guinevere is obviously the character that drives the whole story, and I enjoyed her point of view. She’s a really interesting character, particularly given her young age and her choice to give up everything, including her own name, in order to marry a man she does not know. Something White does well is show both Guinevere and Arthur’s age — they are sixteen and eighteen, respectively — and though I sometimes found Guinevere a little scattered and unable necessarily to keep her focus, I found that incredibly realistic for her young age. Speaking of Arthur, I also enjoyed him as a character. I think it would be really difficult to write someone like him who is not only so ingrained in legend and culture, but also as someone who is so Good™. I wont give anything away, but I thought he was an incredibly well-balanced character.
The Guinevere Deception is an incredibly fun read and a great retelling.I am definitely planning to read the rest of the series, and I will absolutely be picking up another of her books based on my enjoyment of this one. If you enjoy YA fantasy and retellings, you should absolutely pick up this book — whether or not you’re a fan of the King Arthur story in its various forms.
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