Review: The Guinevere Deception

The Guinevere Deception
By Kiersten White
Published November 5, 2019 by Delacorte Press

Publisher’s summary:
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 Arthurian retelling that puts the emphasis on Arthur’s queen. I love the Arthurian legends, but they do tend to be a bit male-centric, so I’m a fan of retellings that focus on the female characters.

GuinevereGuinevere is an imposter. The real princess died, and the false Guinevere is a shadowy creature, the daughter of King Arthur’s magician Merlin. The kingdom of Camelot has forbidden the use of magic, and Merlin has been banished by Arthur (although he did it unwillingly). Now, with Arthur’s agreement, Merlin sends Guinevere to Camelot to become Arthur’s bride and to protect him from forces that threaten the kingdom.

Guinevere is something of an unreliable narrator. She knows that she is Merlin’s daughter and that she learned her magic from him, but there are many details of her past that she doesn’t remember, including the identity of her mother. She embraces her role as Arthur’s magical protector, and the two develop a tentative bond, even though the marriage is in name only.

Part of the fun of an Arthurian retelling is seeing how an author interprets the original tales. This version has all the original characters, including Tristan, Lancelot, Mordred, and Gawain, but there are also a couple of rather minor female characters from the legends who are given larger roles here. The author does some really interesting things with Mordred, who is usually a rather cardboard villain. Here, he’s a much more nuanced character.

White is a skillful writer who breathes new life into a well-known story. The Guinevere Deception is an engaging read, and I’m excited to see where the story goes in the next book (it’s going to be a trilogy).

I received an ARC from the publisher through Amazon Vine.