Fantasy

The Guinevere Deception: Mixed Feelings Regarding This Arthurian Retelling

3.5/5 Stars

Author: Kiersten White

Publisher/Imprint: Delacorte Press

Edition: e-ARC, 257 Digital Pages

Hardcover Publication Date: November 05, 2019

A Spine that Shines? Partially

*This review is based on the e-ARC edition provided by the publisher via NetGalley. All quotes used in this review come from the uncorrected proof. These are my honest opinions. Thank you.*

There was dangerous magic in pretending. Pretend long enough, and who could say what was real?

-Kiersten White, The Guinevere Deception

Initial Thoughts

The Guinevere Deception was my first experience reading a Kiersten White book. Honestly, I have mixed feelings after finishing this book. I love reading retellings based on various legends and mythologies. Unfortunately, this Arthurian retelling wasn’t exactly what I was hoping it would be.

Let’s begin with the more positive aspects of this review:

  • You will find plenty of characters from Arthurian legend in this novel. There is a great twist concerning the Lancelot figure.
  • The mountain structure of Camelot itself is unique; the entire city has been carved on the side of a mountain, surrounded by water.
  • Excalibur possesses an interesting power, and I thought that added a nice twist to the story.
  • The final 25% of the book is full of fun and action! That is certainly my favorite section of the story.
  • It is also nice to see some disability representation. One of Arthur’s knights has a withered arm. What I found most unique was a blind horse, who is not hindered by her blindness because her master guides her effortlessly, as if they were one.
  • The Guinevere figure possesses an interesting ability to sense things through touch – “touch magic.”
  • The short italicized snippets of narration (from the POV of a villain) in between chapters add a creepy, sinister element to some otherwise boring segments.

There was good, and there was evil, but there was so much space between the two.

-Kiersten White, The Guinevere Deception

What Didn’t Work So Well?

The Plot Pacing & Withholding of Information

In my opinion, the main issues were the pacing of the plot and the author’s decision to deliberately withhold information. I believe the two are connected, because the information is withheld for too long, and not all of it is clarified by the end of the novel.

  • Magic – along with Merlin – has been banned from Camelot under Arthur’s rule. A fake Guinevere has been sent by Merlin to protect Arthur from a magical threat. However, she must use magic to protect him. Hmm.
  • Furthermore, the Guinevere figure must protect Arthur by marrying him. This is supposedly the only way she will be close enough to protect him. Why couldn’t she have impersonated a different person in the castle, or a distant relative? The reason given is this: Arthur does not want to marry politically, because if he did so, his choice could offend one of the nations adjacent to Camelot’s borders. Easier for him to marry someone from afar. Personally, I’m not sure that justifies a marriage. I think this plot point would have worked much better if a certain person was not aware of Guinevere’s impersonation.
  • In addition, Merlin does not bother to tell Guinevere what the magical threat actually is. So for a while, she wastes a lot of time waiting around because she can’t find the real threat.
  • We also don’t learn exactly who – or what – Guinevere is. I mean literally, the author withholds the girl’s real name through the entire novel. Because of this, I felt a bit detached from the character; names are supposed to be a powerful element associated with a person’s identity. Thus, without the girl’s true name, how can I as a reader fully understand who she is?
  • The pacing feels quite slow for several hundred pages. Aside from a few exciting moments here and there, I’d say I was fairly bored for most of the first 75% of the novel. There is a lot of waiting around for something to happen while Guinevere goes about daily life in Camelot. The final 25% of the book was a blast of fun, and I really wish the pacing had been handled better in the earlier segments as well. That final quarter of the book had 4-star vibes. But unfortunately, the first 75% of the book kind of outweighs the exciting 25%.

The Love-Interests

The main romance in this novel revolves around Guinevere, Arthur, and Mordred, who is Arthur’s nephew.

  • Honestly, I didn’t find Arthur very interesting. He is this good, perfect ruler who almost always acts for the good of Camelot. Okay. But half the time, he hardly notices Guinevere – even though they are married. She often feels neglected by him.
  • In my opinion, Mordred is way more interesting and complex as a love-interest. He actually notices Guinevere, and he cares about her in his own way. In fact, if I read the sequel, I’ll probably read it to find out what happens with Mordred. I don’t want to spoil anything, so I’ll just leave it at that.

Was there not enough peril in the world already without the dangers of simply being a woman?

-Kiersten White, The Guinevere Deception

Final Thoughts

I also wish there had been more of Merlin. There are very few scenes that include Merlin, and he behaves rather cryptically in them. As is, he just seems like a stock wizard character, included in the story for the sake of Arthurian legend.

Nevertheless, I am still curious about this author’s previous novels and would be open to giving them a chance in the future. As I mentioned, I really enjoyed the final 25% of The Guinevere Deception. Because of that, I’m glad I pushed through to the end of the novel. If you’re interested in Arthurian legend, don’t let my review stop you from giving this novel a try. These are my personal opinions, and every novel is the result of an author’s hard work and effort. Perhaps other readers will enjoy this one more than I did. Happy reading 🙂

*Content Warnings: Mention of rape that happened in the past; a few uses of the s-word for comical effect.*

Up Next on My TBR: Coral (ARC)

Screen Shot 2019-11-05 at 6.29.26 PM

Spines that Shine

7 thoughts on “The Guinevere Deception: Mixed Feelings Regarding This Arthurian Retelling”

  1. I actually like slow stories, but I kind of thought the book didn’t really focus on what it was good at. I wanted to see more of Guinevere spending time with the noblewomen and trying to maneuver her way around the court politics despite being untrained. I feel like more politics in general really would have helped the book a lot.

    I also liked Mordred a lot. I think I made THAT pretty clear in my review, lol. I did legitimately love the side characters in this. They were so amazing.

    I did think Excalibur and the magic system were very cool! Also, the photos you take are so beautiful, I love them.

    Liked by 1 person

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