Paperback, 672 Pages
Adult/ Historical Fiction
By: Giles Kristian
“‘My sons!’ said the King of Benoic, thrusting his sword into an open mouth and hauling it back. ‘Don’t be afraid, boys,’ he growled. ‘It is only death.’”
This currently has a rating of 4.25 stars on GR and it totally deserves that but it only has like ~1600 ratings which means it is a criminally underrated book. I should mention that it is not the type of books I usually read. I am someone who is not a fantasy of history in general and find it boring but my friend Petrik chose it for me for my 10 readers, 10 recommendations challenge and as usual the recommendation ended up being a favorite.
My mix for the perfect novel is simple, a balance of everything with a focus on characters and this was just that. A book with an eloquent prose, realistic characters that I rooted for and mourned. Great atmospheric world-building and many twists along the way.
I usually avoid these kind of books because they are slow-paced, very dense and have complicated writing. I thought this was the opposite with an average pacing, very available yet very alluring prose and I didn’t feel that it was a dense novel. The book is a long one for sure (more than 600 pages) but I found myself lost in the world and suddenly I was finishing it. The author has such a way with words that made me push through the beginning easily and then fall for the rest of the story after that.
“No glory now. Just two men hacking at each other with sharp steel. Each craving the other’s death. Both desperate to live.”
I am not someone who is an expert when it comes to historical fiction either from movies or books. I have never read an Arthurian tale so I can’t say that I was familiar with the characters. At the acknowledgment part, I read that mostly these kind of stories are told from the POV of Arthur or Uthred but I thought that author was aiming for something different and fresh. He wanted to show the character of Lancelot and I think he did an outstanding job at that. The book has a characters list at the end of the book and a map at the beginning which is something I love very much. The magical thing is that I ended up following everything without needing to check those which is very magical for someone who usually have difficulties with that kind of stuff. I just thought that the author polished the characters very much and made them three dimensional that you were obliged to care about them as a reader whether they are a main or a secondary character. Even the characters that I didn’t like as a person, I enjoyed as a reader because they were just so well executed, the druid for example was a character that I had so many strong emotions toward and I think that’s brilliant!
Another thing I did not expect but liked that the story goes through the life of Lancelot as a young character and has a few time jumps which showed how he grows as a character . Guinevere too was a character that grew a lot through the story and I think the romance between them was just effing cute and great. I think it was one of my favorite bookish relationships that I read about this year.
“What is the worst they can do to us?” Perhaps I was a fool but I felt neither fear nor regret. And as for Guinevere, I loved her and she loved me; I believed that was enough.”
I found the pacing to be average leaning toward the slower side of things although I have seen some readers describing it as slow-paced or fast-paced in their reviews so I think it is very subjective. As someone who is not familiar with the tale, there were many twists along the way that just were surprising and gave me goosebumps. I won’t mention much but if you read the book then you probably know which are those. The plot is kind of the only thing I wanted to criticize initially because it was not clear where the book was going. It starts as a revenge story but soon after, it deviates from there and we have kind of subplots and then the story ended up kind of fast but after thinking about it, it is a retelling and the author has to preserve the historical facts so there is not much he could do about that and that’s why I am less annoyed with the plot now. Add to that many action-packed scenes and I am going to pass over the things that irritated me a bit.
Summary: This is a character based Arthurian retelling that just maintained perfect mix of everything else. If you are a history of historical fiction then this is a must read and if you are not but willing to try something then I recommend this too. I am definitely getting the HC of Camelot and reading it soon.
This may be the first 5-star I’ve ever seen you give
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LOOOOL! I am not that mean XD
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