Goodreads: The Guinevere Deception
Series: Camelot Rising #1
Published: November 5, 2019
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 is an imaginative retelling that weaves together pieces of Arthurian legend (itself often wildly but beautifully inconsistent) to create a story about a girl who needs to find herself while protecting her new home of Camelot. While overall I think the story is strong and well-crafted and will be satisfying to a large number of readers, personally I was not always gripped and would have liked a bit more development of the plot.
Though there are a few aspects of the book I believe were intended to be plot twists, most of it was predictable—starting with the opening of the book where there is some “secret” the protagonist holds…which in this case is mentioned on the book jacket summary. There is also a mysterious Guinevere herself must solve, and it’s also laughable how obvious it is she is following the wrong threads and clues. I’m not generally one to read mainly for suspense or surprise, but it was a bit wearying to feel the character was wasting her time—and to feel I was, as well, as I had to plod through the requisite pages until she finally discovered how wrong she was and started doing something more useful. Interestingly, the elements from Arthurian legend incorporated into the plot did not feel as blandly predictable, even though I was aware where certain scenes must be heading.
Guinevere as a character is interesting, however, and it was fun to read about her. She is someone who is not necessarily drawn in detail in a lot of Arthurian source material, which can give writers some room to play. White has a created a character who is both powerful and vulnerable, smart but often in the dark, important but clearly still very young. Sometimes in YA, while the characters are doing great deeds, it’s hard to remember they’re teens; I generally remembered that Guinevere was, even as she was impressing me with her talents.
I also enjoyed the characterization of most of the other players in the novel and had fun picking out where White was inspired by her sources. In addition to the obvious characters like Mordred and Merlin, White adds ones like Tristan and Isolde and Percival and Blancheflour, who might be less familiar to some readers. Personally, I’ve always been interested in Gawain, so it would have been fun to see him get a larger role, as well, but that’s not actually a flaw of the book.
The main premise of the new vs. the old, magic vs. order, nature vs. peace, etc. is also interesting and nuanced, and I think there’s a lot of room for this to grow in the following books. In some sense, The Guinevere Deception has the tiniest feel of The Lord of the Rings, as characters ponder whether it’s time for dangerous magic to leave and for a world ordered by men to take over. There’s also general medieval influence here, of course, in the sense that magic and folklore beliefs coexisted with Christianity, sometimes openly and sometimes secretly, for quite a while in the Middle Ages.
The Guinevere Deception is a strong fantasy with strong female characters that will likely please many readers. I enjoyed it myself; I just wasn’t gripped enough to want to continue reading the series.
7 thoughts on “The Guinevere Deception by Kiersten White”
I enjoyed it more than you did even if I can understand and appreciate the “flaws” you are mentioning. I really loved the role reversal and the women taking charge here. A fresh intake on the legend LoL
I liked the leading females, as well, although I thought the tone was a bit like Jennifer Donnelly’s Stepsister in that there was an explanation about feminism or some throwaway remark about how men always destroy things every couple pages, and I think the message could be a bit more naturally ingrained in the story.
I can understand why following Guinevere around on a known fruitless task would be frustrating as a reader. However, I’ll definitely still be reading this. I’ve never seen a middle-grade retelling of Arthurian Legends, though I am certain some exist somewhere. Based on the legends? Everywhere. Retelling? Unknown to me. Plus, I love White’s writing.
How do you decide if you’ll keep reading a series or not, Briana? I’m certain you have a LOT you pick from!
I think it’s mostly subjective, whether I care enough about the characters or plot to invest in reading a whole other book about them. In a lot of cases, I like the first book, but it feels like enough for me.
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Do you think any of your subjection for whether you care enough about the characters or plot has to do with mood? I know I’m a big mood reader, but not everyone is. A book I wasn’t into a few years ago might be perfect for me now. It’s so complicated.
I’m a mood reader sometimes, but I think I often recognize it, like, “Oh, I would liked this in middle school” or “I would have liked this if I were actually in the mood for a cute romance.” I don’t think I ever felt I’d be more interested in continuing a series based on my mood, for some reason.
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I’m a sucker for Arthurian legend books, but also I struggle to read a lot of them because a lot of them that I pick up seem to drag. It sounds like this might suffer from that a little, too. But I’m excited to give this one! I’ve loved the idea from the start of a book focusing on Guinevere as not just some blatant villain with Arthur being a perfect savior. *rolls eyes* Looking forward to picking this up. :3