Oh, what an amazing premise and damn, what a devastating flop. The Guinevere Deception by Kiersten White should have been all sorts of brilliant, but instead turned out to be nothing more than a major disappointment. And really, what that all comes down to for me is the fact that I can’t get behind this as an Arthurian retelling. I have a rather strong love for stories that are centered around Arthur, Merlin, and the Knights of the round table and therefore I suppose I can be rather picky about the changes I’m willing to accept in a retelling. The Guinevere Deception just went a bit too far.
I think the most ironic thing about this tale is that the originally intended premise that the synopsis suggests was amazing and in so many ways I would love to read a story like that. What’s unfortunate is that the story the premise promises is not really the story we got. Instead of a story about Merlin’s apprentice sent to marry Arthur under the guise of being his Queen in order to protect him from magical threats in Merlin’s absence, this very quickly turned into a tale about a helpless young girl who was taken advantage of and needed others to save her repeatedly despite having supposedly powerful magic herself.
I had really been dragged in by this concept of Guinevere having married Arthur for his safety and protection, especially as it pertained to the well-known tale of her affair with Lancelot. And I was genuinely excited for the prospect of seeing a retelling with this reasoning behind Gunievere’s choices. I was over the moon excited to meet this version’s Lancelot as well. But as with so much of the story, Lancelot was an opportunity for brilliance that fell flat as well. This is such an incredible shame because the identity of Lancelot was genius. And yet it was somewhat destroyed by poor character development, predictability, and a lack of attention.
The villains were incredibly subpar and the plot twist regarding who was actually in grave danger was so utterly ridiculous and irritating that this book could have been written beautifully and I would have hated it still just for this dumb plot. I did not pick this book up wanting a damsel in distress who needed protecting. I did not pick this book up because I wanted to read about a girl getting saved by others. Were there not the bit about the patchwork knight, this book would be entirely devoid of any feminist elements. And even then, it’s not enough.
I don’t even think this passes the Bechdel test. And that’s bad because that test isn’t even hard to pass.
And then there’s the fact that the novel, in so many ways, was a literal embodiment of dull. The plot was dull, the events were dull, Guinevere was dull, Arthur was dull, Lancelot was dull, Mordred was dull…I could go on.
But the worst part of this whole novel was the damn love triangle. I don’t think I could stress enough how much this love triangle infuriated me. I spent a good portion of the book denying that it was a thing and another good portion of the book rolling my eyes and groaning aloud in frustration. And just to put it into perspective for you all…the second love interest is not who you think it is. Worse yet, it comes from a rather disturbing version of Arthurian stories that doesn’t follow the more common ones.
Though I suppose there should be some credit due to White since the fact is that this love interest does basically follow his typical plot-line. I just honestly couldn’t bring myself to appreciate this as a retelling of a story that I’ve loved for much of my life. There are certain aspects of the story that I find worth reading in reimaginings. This love-pairing or seduction was not one of them. And after Guinevere was reduced to this meek little thing in need of rescuing, I just really regret reading this book in the first place.
I was provided a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.