Wednesday, 29 January 2020

Review: The Guinevere Deception

Rating: 3/5 
Buy or Borrow: Buy 
Source: Copy courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review! 

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? 

It genuinely pains me to give this book only three stars as I was expecting this to be a five star read for me. It's been one of my most anticipated books ever since I spotted it on GoodReads and it didn't even have a proper synopsis. Kiersten White is the queen of retellings for me, I loved And I Darken as well as Slayer, though I haven't gotten around to her Frankenstein retelling just yet but I've heard incredibly good things. So considering how much I love all things King Arthur I was so, so excited for this book and for her to give us a retelling that I expected to be wonderfully twisted to her style. In all honesty, White has never let me down with her offerings post-Paranormalcy which is the only book of hers that I didn't really like and didn't finish the trilogy. 

As soon as I started to read this book I got Merlin vibes. Merlin is one of my favourite TV shows in the world and I rewatch it frequently, and as I was reading this book...hardcore Merlin vibes. I thought of Merlin more than once as I was reading this, and at times I thought I could see echoes of the show, or nods to it. At one point I even had the thought that this was like a twisted version of the show a little. I could picture some of the scenes as scenes in the show, just changed slightly. 

I'll start with the things that I did enjoy about this book. I found the magic interesting, I've not encountered knot magic in a book before and I liked the consequences to using it as it meant Guinevere had to be careful how much she used magic and what she used it for. Being familiar with the mythology, some plot points were predictable but there were some great twists thrown in there to keep me on my toes...Lancelot, Tristan and Isolde and so on. There was some brilliant LGBTQ+ rep and some feminist undertones to it. I liked Guinevere well enough, I admired her determination to succeed at protecting Arthur and wanting to prove herself and find a place for herself. However, in all honesty my favourite character was Mordred. The thing is, I was sympathising with Mordred, I liked him and his humour, he made me chuckle but I know Mordred so I was just waiting for the other shoe to drop when it came to him and then boom. There it was. Of course. I still love him though, I can't lie. 

My problem is, I eagerly started to read this having been so incredibly excited for it...and I wasn't grabbed. Alarm bells started ringing because this couldn't possibly be right, this is supposed to be one of my favourite books because Arthur and Kiersten should be the perfect combination. I started to wonder if it was because I was tired and just not in the mood to read so I put it to one side for a little bit. Then I struggled through to around 60 pages and I was seriously considering DNF-ing this because I just don't have the time anymore to read books that I'm not enjoying. But I decided to persevere even if I did resort to skim reading at one point and I couldn't believe this book drove me to that. The majority of this book is so slow and I had no urge to keep reading, I was reading because I felt I had to and because I wanted to get it finished. 

Guinevere doesn't do anything for most of this book. She faffs about with her knot magic, chatting to her new friends and the other Knights wives, chatting to Mordred and Brangien and so on. Towards the end it does pick up and there's a lot more action but..that's right towards the end after you've struggled through a couple hundred pages of not much at all and I found my attention wandering. I was bored and I didn't think that would happen with this book. 

I also feel like the reader is kept in the dark for too long, to the point it becomes frustrating and then it's all a bit of a cop out. There's so many mentions in the narrative of her 'not being Guinevere' and her alluding to her real name and so on, I was expecting her real name to be revealed at the end of the book and I had a few theories as to who it was...she forgot. She forgot her real name so I didn't even get that at the end although I'm fairly sure I do know who she is. Or where she's from anyway. 

The romance Arthur was bland to me. He doesn't stand out at all, he's just very kind, very brave and he puts the good of Camelot and its people before anything and anyone else. The romance is barely there and there's an attempt made at a love triangle that might have been more interesting if Arthur wasn't He was forgettable and he didn't stand out at all. Then again, none of the characters really did for me. I liked them well enough, but Mordred's the only one that even remotely stands out to me when I think back on the book. 

I had no solid sense of setting either, this is supposed to be set during whatever century it's set during but I had no clear image of that time period. In fact I was picturing the costumes and settings of Merlin more than anything else because aside from the odd mentions of a goblet here, or similar such things, there was no slid sense of time period for this book, which is a surprise and a disappointment considering how rich And I Darken is. 

The last 50 pages or so are good, there's action, it's engaging and it was what I'd been expecting from the entire book but I don't know if it was worth struggling through the rest of the book to reach it. There's some interesting set up for the sequel but I'm quite wary of it now, and unsure whether to read it. I'd like to think the sequel won't start out like this one did, slow and uninteresting for the most part, but then again I didn't expect to be so disappointed with this book either. 

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