dark moths and little knots | camelot rising trilogy by kiersten white

by - 9:01 AM

"Even when the stories told were true, they never talked about what happened after the quest. About all the wounds - visible and otherwise - that lingered long after the neat close of the tale. They had rescued the damsel. The end. But there was still so much pain there, and perhaps there always would be."

Hello there! It has been a minute since I've been able to cross a completed series off my list so I figured I'd do a full review in honor of this momentous occasion. The Camelot Rising trilogy by Kiersten White is a retelling of the classic story of King's Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table only through the eyes of Guinevere who happens to be a changeling trained by Merlin to protect Arthur from the Dark Queen. With magic outlawed in Camelot and the Dark Queen slowly regaining her strength, Guinevere must navigate the dangerous political world of Arthur's court while working behind the scenes to prevent Camelot from falling apart.

B O O K S H O P *      |     G O O D R E A D S
formats read: physical (book 1), e-book/netgalley (book 2 & 3)

questionable characters
It was the premise that initially drew me in because I've been the biggest Arthurian legend fan since middle school and I also love anything that has to do with a bit of fairy lore. The Camelot Rising trilogy ultimately fell flat for me as a whole and I'll admit I finished all three books almost out of spite and the mentality that I've already "gotten this far" that I might as well see how things played out. As displayed from my ratings above, it was quite a rough reading adventure and that all comes down to the portrayal and arcs of the characters.

I really did not like Guinevere as the main character which was so disappointing because she was the reason I picked up the first book. With the premise placing her as the lead and someone who practiced magic illegally, there was so much potential for her character to explore and break the confines of "Guinevere" that most Arthurian retellings use. If I had to categorize her character arc through the three books in the simplest terms it would be: lost --> petty --> indecisive. It became almost frustrating to read from her perspective because I couldn't understand her decisions and was also confused why her priorities were always slightly askew in comparison to the greater plot.

highlights and inconsistencies
Being a retelling, there were some highlights that paid homage to the original text and that became some of my favorite Easter eggs to spot throughout the trilogy. I also appreciated how Kiersten White managed to diversify the relationships beyond the traditional pairings and how it was also simply normalized through Guinevere's eyes. There are moments where you can clearly see how the author was breaking the stiff boundaries of the original legend with women-empowered characters like gender-bending Lancelot to be a female knight and the Northern tribes treating their women like equals in battle and leadership - moments that became some of the highlights amidst Guinevere's self-deprecating monologue.

While I did appreciate the attention to detail in the regard, there were other moments where characters would seemingly do a complete 180 in their development just to further the plot. Characters who were central to the plot showed up at convenient moments to cause tension that felt unnecessary or became completely different in personality and goals just to prove a point. It all led down to this idea that Camelot was the shining beacon of the future, destined to lead the world to greatness and everyone else was somehow lesser. This idea is definitely a central theme in the legend but part of me wishes that with all the advancements made in other aspects of the story that there could have been more expansion to the finale.

Ultimately, I wished I loved this trilogy because there has yet to be an Arthurian retelling with a premise that interested me and proved to actually meet my expectations. Finishing these books also made me reevaluate my opinions towards YA fantasy because maybe I'm simply outgrowing some of these stereotypes and dramas that make the genre exciting for a younger audience. In the end, it all comes down to personal preference, but damn I really could not stand Guinevere. 

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  1. As rare as writing series reviews may feel for you, to me it seems like series reviews have become a less frequent type of post in the blogging community! It's been ages since I've seen one, so I appreciate this. Sorry to hear that the series fell flat for you. The premise of an Arthur retelling does sound compelling-- I've actually never seen one before!

    I can relate to the feeling of trudging through a book/series just because I "made it this far," haha... I felt that way with my most recent read.

    claire @ clairefy

    1. aww thank you for this comment claire! i had more fun writing this than i thought even though it made me nervous to write something on a more negative track but this does make me want to actually finish more of my incomplete series. hopefully your next read is better!!

  2. Ahh I'm sorry to hear this one was disappointing for you! I was interested because of Guinevere too so it's sad to hear how her character arc doesn't seem to be written really well here.

    1. it had so much potential too 😭 the hunt for a good arthurian legend retelling continues!