Books are so much easier to review when you either love them or hate them …
Love it? ALL THE GUSHING.
Hate it? ALL THE RAVING.
Middle-of-the-road? … uhhh … well … the cover’s cool?
In The Guinevere Deception‘s defence, the cover is pretty great. I wish I could pull off that sort of smoulderingly-mysterious gaze.
And the book was … well, it was OK. I’m not going to race to the bookstore to buy a personal copy. (*cough*) But, I will check out Book #2 from my public library.
I think that’s a sign of a solid three-star read.
The Guinevere Deception is a King Arthur retelling from the perspective of Queen Guinevere. Similar to the BBC’s Merlin series, Camelot has banned all forms of magic … including exiling its handy dandy (and very mad) time-jumping wizard. However, that doesn’t mean magic doesn’t still pose a threat. Unable to attend to Arthur in person, Merlin sends his daughter in his stead. Taking on the guise of the dead Princess Guinevere, the girl becomes Arthur’s queen and protector … one of the few barriers between him and the wild magic of the world.
The individual components of this book were pretty brilliant. Not-Guinevere’s magic. The supporting characters. Arthur’s gosh-darn goodness. The magic. The setting. But, great parts don’t necessarily make a great whole.
Perhaps it’s an unfair comparison given different target audiences, but I’m tempted to compare The Guinevere Deception to The Song of Achilles. Both are based on well-established myths; both weave together magic and society; both have rather irregular pacing, with a very slow start. But Achilles was riddled with quietly-epic observations about relationships, society, identity/roles, family, gender, loyalty, bravery, pride, love, etc. The book was so powerful that I was left physically aching by the end.
The Guinevere Deception was … boring. We get 200-ish pages of exposition — and not the of the subtle thematic development sort — followed by 50-ish pages of super-rushed and rather intense action. (A book-redeeming sort of action.) I was left winded and overwhelmed, and wishing that “Merlin’s beard” was a more satisfying curse.
Things I liked:
Guinevere’s knot magic. Very cool! I especially love how this sort of magic relates to craft and the textile arts, so would have been a completely appropriate type of magic for medieval women to practice.
The setting. Camelot is the epic city of myth and legend, and Guinevere’s magic adds an extra layer of complexity to it. I loved reading about the mountain’s looming presence — the flower carvings in the castle’s ceiling — the secret tunnels — the winding alleyways …
Arthur. One-dimensional? Yes. But I love slightly-damaged good guys … and Arthur is definitively a slightly-damaged good guy.
Things I disliked:
The characters. In a word? Flat. The characters in this novel felt under-developed, distant, predictable, and dull.
The Dark Queen’s perspective. For me, these little snippets completely ruined any tension or mystery, and seriously interrupted the flow of the novel. They were entirely unnecessary in moving things forward.
The prose and pacing. The first two-thirds of the novel d-r-a-g-g-e-d. The characters meandered with little sense of purpose or structure. While this is reflected in the plot — Guinevere doesn’t know what the threat is or when it will come — it’s nonetheless frustrating as a reader to watch things progress … nowhere.
Also, please note:
slow novels =/= character-driven novels
The “twist”. **yawn** Anyone familiar with Arthurian legend will have seen it coming from … even before they picked up the book.
The modern interjections. Repeat after me: The fifth-century CE is not culturally equivalent to the present era.
“I did not want a wife like that. Merlin has been the only constant in my life. And you are part of him. I hoped that if I brought you here and filled the role of queen so no one else could demand it, I would have peace. More than that … I would have a friend.” He dropped his head, staring down at his hands. “It was unfair to you. And I hated the deception. And I hated that you did not view yourself as my queen. Not really. Please … please do not go. Do not leave me.”
The Guinevere Deception has lots of promise, though falls flat on its execution. Still, readers (1) unfamiliar with Arthurian romances and/or (2) on the hunt for a female-inspired medieval adventure will probably enjoy it.
- The Book: The Guinevere Deception by Kiersten White
- Published: 2019, Delacorte Press
- My Copy: KFPL
- Read date: January 15-23, 2019
- Rating: ★★★☆☆
- You should read this if you like … dialogue
- Avoid this if you dislike … BBC’s Merlin