The Guinevere Deception
by Kiersten White
Young Adult / Fantasy
Published November 2019
Kiersten White has solidified her spot on my Always-Read list. After Slayer and the And I Darken trilogy, I knew I liked her. With The Guinevere Deception she is three for three – or five for five, if you count the And I Darken trilogy separately – and that’s enough to land her squarely on my list of “READ ALL OF HER SHIT.” I need to get my hands on The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein, since I’ve heard so many good things about it!
The Guinevere Deception is much less dark than the And I Darken trilogy, more on a par with Slayer. Not to say there aren’t dark themes here; there are plenty of those. While our “Guinevere” mentions often in her thoughts that she’s thankful for the real Guinevere for dying and making all this possible, I wouldn’t put it past this version of Merlin to have actually killed the real Guinevere and forced the possibility of this deception. I should back up and explain.
The story opens on Guinevere riding towards Camelot to be married to Arthur, however we learn from Guinevere (the story is told from her POV) that she’s not the real Guinevere. She is Merlin’s daughter, sent to protect Arthur after Merlin was banished from Camelot along with all magic. She, Merlin, and Arthur all know that Arthur needs magical protection, and though she’s not as strong as Merlin, the people of Camelot also don’t know she has magic. So she’s allowed to stay. We never learn Guinevere’s real name. (Maybe we will in future books?)
So Guinevere often reflects on the dead woman she’s impersonating. There’s also some consent issues with memory magic. Guinevere messes with a knight’s memory in order to let a dragon get away, and through the course of the book, we realize her own mind has been muddled when it comes to certain things. Merlin has a lot to answer for, domestic abuse and emotional abuse being the first of many sins.
I always love retellings of the Arthurian legends, because it’s fun to see the different takes on each facet of the tale. A changed romance here, a gender swap there, a slightly different parentage or sibling relationship over there. Someday I want to see an Arthur-Guinevere-Lancelot polyamorous triad instead of a love triangle, but that has yet to appear.
For some reason, I picked up this book thinking it was a standalone. I’m not sure why I thought that; it’s actually the beginning of a trilogy. I’m looking forward to spending more time with these characters, though, and seeing where some of these relationships go. I really enjoyed this book, even as it made me quite angry at Merlin. I’m cheering for the Lady of the Lake, but I can’t tell you why without ruining some surprises!
It’s interesting that the main plotline – the danger to Arthur – feels like a secondary plotline. I think the true main plotline is “Who IS Guinevere?” and that has not yet been answered by the end of the book. I have a strong suspicion, but I’ll have to wait for the next book to find out.
From the cover of The Guinevere Deception:
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 that 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, knotted 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?