The Guinevere Deception; a review, in which we rant about mixed feelings and why the heroine should have chosen the villain, as usual

The cover is, if possible, even prettier in person.

**Mild spoilers throughout**

Before we begin, can we talk about how Mordred, the villain, is portrayed as ever-so-subtly more feminine than the other characters? Oh hey! It’s almost as if femininity is treated as a dangerous, villainous force that is only accepted when it is smothered and tamed! Which, of course, brings us to all our other issues with this book.

This review sums up my issues with this novel (and with literally every book in YA) much better than I probably could. It’s not that it’s a bad book. It felt a little uneven in parts and the setting could have been better developed, but the pacing is good and the writing is exquisite. It’s just…

…Perhaps it isn’t quite as empowering a book as it thinks it is?

Let me regale you with my extremely irrelevant personal experiences. I’ve always been a bit of an outcast, okay? Some of that came from other people, and some of it comes from myself. I naturally prefer being alone. I’m naturally hard to categorize, a thing society finds very dangerous. I don’t *rubs chin* fit in. I don’t want to fit in. Have you ever seen me without this stupid hat on? That’s weird.

Okay, enough with the stupid Riverdale references. I haven’t even watched the show. Anyway, where am I going with this?

Simply that, when a character that society has rejected gets dragged back into society and placed into an acceptable mold, it drives. Me. Batty. It’s not that this is a bad story–it’s not, it could have used better development, but it’s perfectly fine. But I’ve seen a certain trope play out over and over and over, and I am sick of it. Allow me to explain. This story has several directions it could go in as far as the ships go. Guinevere could realize that no one in Camelot is actually really there for her except three people, embrace her inner villainess, get together with Mordred, and have her happy ending (I mean, she’d better get that happy ending. Even the legends had her usually survive till the end, and those were written by medieval writers not very concerned with the perceived feminism of their work). Alternatively, she has a cute, possibly sapphic romance with Lancelot, and I am happy, but maybe won’t read the next two books, because even though I like both characters a lot, I’m going to be quite upset if the pure, chaotic femininity of the Dark Queen* gets demonized without any reflection as to how this may contradict with the themes of this work. If Gwen gets with Mordred, she can become that pure, chaotic femininity herself. Someone like Queen Maeve, like Clytemnestra, like (heh) Morgan le Fey. That would be fun.

*Yes, the villainess really does refer to herself as the Dark Queen. To be perfectly fair, it’s nowhere near the most ridiculous thing an Arthurian character has done. Also, as you can probably tell, this story is a pretty loose retelling. The setting is also more fantasy than medieval in some ways. It threw me off at first, but I got used to it eventually.

But. Of course there’s a but. If it keeps going the same way the story left off, I am going to be very upset.

We’ve all seen the story play out in some book or another, haven’t we? A character is outcast from society in some way, sometimes even persecuted. In Guinevere’s case, she’s a witch in a society that banishes and executes them, and she’s a woman in a society that is very reluctant to give women power. Arthur is not doing much to change this. Arthur is responsible for some of this. And I am terrified that Guinevere is just going to keep trying and trying to prove herself to him. I’ve read so many stories where either the heroine conforms to society and hides part of herself to be accepted (happy endings, am I right!), or else society grudgingly accepts the nonconformist part of her—provided she doesn’t get TOO uppity, of course. Alternatively, the heroine will reject society the same way society has rejected her, embrace her inner powerful villainess, and then die. Can’t have women destroying that status quo, after all! That would be threatening. We might not even have a box to shove her in! Everyone knows only men are allowed to be trailblazers, villains, outcasts who stray from the beaten path. (And even then…a lot of male characters end up getting dragged back into a socially acceptable mold eventually. Can you tell this is my least favorite trope?)

Yeah. I’ve run into stories like that over and over and over, where a character is either forced into a socially acceptable role or killed off. Some of y’all out there are afraid of powerful women, and it shows.

I JUST WANT GUINEVERE TO GET TOGETHER WITH THE VILLAIN, OKAY. (I want her to become a villain, at least in the eyes of everyone else.) Mordred didn’t grab me at first–I thought he was pretty condescending toward her at the beginning of the book, excuse me that is your queen show some respect–but he shapes up shortly after, and I’d say he treats her…maybe a lot better than Arthur does. Let’s examine the many, many sins of Arthur Pendragon as a boyfriend, shall we?

Firstly, Arthur lies to her. Like, a lot. He lies to her about quite important things. Guinevere admits this at the end! But she goes back to him anyway.

Secondly! Arthur seems to consistently undercut Guinevere’s power while pretending to give her free rein. I don’t know if he’s doing this deliberately or accidentally, but it’s a pretty big problem either way. He takes her along to settle a treaty with the Picts, which is good! But she’s only there to look pretty and be a sign of Arthur’s trust for the other leader. She’s not informed of the politics in any way! Arthur doesn’t let her in on any of his decisions in this process and doesn’t allow for any of her input. Arthur doesn’t allow Guinevere any actual power. He only allows her to be busy with very safe things that she can’t mess up too badly, so she feels like she’s doing something while not actually doing anything important. It’s entirely possible that it’s an accident on Arthur’s part! But he’s still doing it, and it’s beyond frustrating that Guinevere never points it out and struggles against that. At one point, Arthur tells her he wants her to act as his queen, it’s a really big moment, and then cut to the next scene where he puts her in charge of seating arrangements at the tournament. (Give that job to Mordred. He’s obviously in need of something to keep him busy. For heaven’s sake.) She goes so far as to say that Arthur has given her a job not important enough for a king, but fitting for a queen. Good heavens. Have some self-respect, honey.

Thirdly, Arthur just doesn’t spend a lot of time with her. He consistently puts the kingdom’s needs ahead of hers–which, sure, he probably needs to do as king, and I can get frustrated with leaders who put either themselves or their one true luv ahead of their actual duties. But at the point where Guinevere!! gets kidnapped!! and Lancelot and Mordred take way, way more initiative to save her than Arthur ever did? Arthur, maybe it’s time to put your wife first every once in a while. Even if, in the end, you put your country first, your queen still matters, and I’ll thank you to act like it.

I’m fine with heroines who try to fit in with society’s expectations and who are more willing to try to work within the patriarchy rather than against it. But it’s just kind of frustrating to have a book all about celebrating women and fighting the patriarchy, and then the heroine goes along with the patriarchy hook, line, and sinker. She should have either gone with Mordred or made her own plans, and it’s the most frustrating thing in the world to me when she goes back to the man who consistently puts her last. I didn’t get why she would. It wasn’t as though she chose Arthur as the lesser of two evils (which would be a perfectly fair thing to do. Much as I like nature, wicked queens, and fairies, I’m not THAT delusional). She just continues to insist that Arthur is the best man in the world despite all evidence to the contrary, and I don’t understand why she would.

Also, Arthur is just kind of shady in general? Arthur is apparently ordering witch hunts? Guinevere does not question this for some reason. Guinevere does not question a lot of things throughout this story, and I’m left wanting to shake her a lot of times. More on that problem later, though. And also Arthur described Merlin as being a really great guy and then later Mordred tells Guinevere that Merlin assisted in the rape of Arthur’s mom?? I’m starting to be paranoid about everything Arthur Pendragon says and does, and I’m possibly starting to be more paranoid of Arthur than Mordred “Eco-terrorist” Pendragon??

Lancelot is really cool though–she’s a knight pretending to be a man, and she’s implied to be enby (she’s referred to with feminine pronouns so far, in case you were wondering). She and Guinevere have a really respectful relationship, and I do like them a lot, and I do ship them in their own way! It doesn’t have quite the chaotic appeal for me as Guinevere going full villainess, but I still like it!

I thought Brangien and Isolde’s relationship was really nice! Thus far, Brangien is not a stereotype or anything like that. We’ll see how it is when we actually see Isolde and Brangien together on-page, of course, but so far it’s really good! I love Brangien, and she’s my favorite character besides Mordred. I’ll admit I kind of brOTP ship Brangien and Mordred. I don’t want them to become a couple or anything like that, but I want them to become platonic partners in crime. Dindrane was also a really nice character. I don’t run into characters like her too often. I was a little weirded out that someone would rewrite Blanchefleur’s character into the harpy sister-in-law when, from all that I remember, she’s a perfectly nice character in the legends, but oh well. We didn’t see much of Blanchefleur on-page, so hopefully she gets some depth added in the next two books. I do like the focus on female friendships in this book. I will definitely say that. You can’t have a feminist book without female friendships!

Honestly, back to the love triangle, I feel like there’s something wrong with the fact that I feel that which direction the story takes is dependent on which person Guinevere takes as a romantic partner, but I don’t think it’s my fault. Guinevere’s decisions are often made based on what the plot requires rather than decisions a human would actually make in those circumstances. She’s not quite as developed as she should be, and she definitely isn’t developed enough to carry a plot by herself. And it kills me, because she had the potential to have so much bite. And then she didn’t.

Guinevere was also…maybe not quite as smart as she could have been. I understand that she’s lost a lot of her memories and isn’t working with all the information she needs! But she doesn’t ask any questions. She discovers something extremely shady about Merlin? She’ll put off asking Arthur. She doesn’t want to be a bother, and they’re so happy together right now! Arthur’s been keeping something from her? Well, she won’t ask much about it. Arthur can tell her in his own time! Literally everyone who has put her in this precarious situation has been lying to her? Well, she’ll just have to trust them, after all! Arthur is a good and true king, and he must know much better than she does! Has Arthur actually given her reason to believe he’s a good and true person to her? Well, no, but everyone else tells her he’s good and true, so he must be!

It. Is so. Infuriating. I want to shake her and tell her to wake up and embrace her inner villainess.

I’m feeling kind of like an evil villain myself as I write this review. I’m like that annoying character who screams at the main character, “lEt ThE hAtE fLoW tHrOuGh YoU” or something.

(As a side note, the one thing I refuse to blame this book for is the love square. Arthuriana was built on the backs of unholy love pentagrams, and who am I to question that? Judging an Arthuriana book for a love triangle/square/pentagram isn’t really something I’m going to spend my time doing.)

I do have plenty of quotes I like in this book! Most of them from Mordred, of course. Allow me:

Mordred slipped into the shade, finding a cushion near Guinevere and lying idly at her side. “Did you miss me?” His voice slid beneath the chatter so no one else heard.

“Were you gone?” Guinevere asked.

Mordred put his hands to his heart, feigning being pierced by an arrow. He fell onto his back and closed his eyes.

“Are you going to nap instead of hunt?” Brangien asked, cross.

Look I have a type okay

“Brangien.” Mordred put a hand to his chest as though wounded himself. “You have the soul and imagination of a hammer. Stories are not nails to be driven home. They are tapestries to be woven.”

Yeah so he’s the dumb hot villain that I will hopefully forget about/feel embarrassed for liking soon enough, but until then, let me enjoy my bright spot of a slightly disappointing novel in peace.

Am I disgusted with the fact that the hot villainous eco-terrorist is, yet again, my favorite character? Absolutely. Am I going to think about why that is? Absolutely not. I feel I would find many things about myself I would be better off not knowing.

In conclusion, do I like the book? Yes. It was entertaining and funny, even if it wasn’t, again, as developed a book as it could have been. The side characters were wonderful. I think my issues with the book could definitely be solved by the sequels. The problem is, they could also be made a lot worse, and I’m really unsure which direction this trilogy is going to take. I might wait for reviews of the next two books and try to find out what happens before I read (yes, I am one of those psychopaths who doesn’t mind spoiling a book for myself).

But it did really frustrate me to see Guinevere choose the person who she knows has been lying to her and undervaluing her the whole novel. I didn’t understand why she would. I think this book would have done way better as a dark retelling in the vein of Elizabeth Frankenstein, where we know there isn’t really supposed to be a good guy, except for the poor heroine trying to navigate it all. The Guinevere Deception is definitely not the worst book, not at all! But I am left with wracking doubt for the sequels, and there are many, many books that have never left me feeling like that at all.

Also, I was having trouble imagining Guinevere so then I just imagined her as looking like Wen Qing from The Untamed instead, because Wen Qing is beautiful. This is a completely irrelevant fact that I will probably delete before I post the review.

My Various Unasked For Thoughts on Different Arthurian Characters, Because I Can

Yeah, so…I just wanted to list the different Arthurian characters and my different thoughts and opinions about them. Why? I don’t know. I thought it would be fun. I’m not going to cover all the characters here at all, only a couple of the most well-known ones, because otherwise that would be loong.

So, in order of popularity (sort of):

Arthur

  • Probably the one character I don’t have super strong opinions about, to be honest.
  • I don’t really care how you play him, so long as he’s not boring.
  • I do personally happen to like stories that include the ‘he tried to murder his infant son and failed’ aspect, though, because ANGST.
  • I guess I kind of like stories that portray Arthur as a more complex character? One that makes a lot of mistakes, even though he may still be a noble man. I don’t like stories that portray him as perfect, and I don’t like stories that railroad his character for the sake of it. That’s me and every Arthuriana character, though.
  • I honestly have no idea what that whole ‘he ordered that Guinevere be burned at the stake when he found out she committed adultery’ thing was about. Like. It doesn’t make sense from a logical perspective? Of course Lancelot is going to try to rescue her and that’s going to make the whole political situation worse. I don’t get why Arthur did it. Were the noblemen demanding it?

Guinevere

  • I love this character.
  • So, while I don’t have anything personal against retellings that portray Guinevere as some type of warrior queen, I still don’t really like it. Guinevere can have power in a political way and not on the battlefield! Honestly, I could be wrong, but it seems like I don’t run into a lot of stories that have a girl be a competent political leader. I’m just…a liiittle bit tired of warrior girls. I love warrior queens, until that becomes all people are willing to write.
  • I just love Chretien’s portrayal of Guinevere as someone people listen to and respect. That was kind of amazing.
  • I’m okay with someone writing villainous!Guinevere, but it seems like people never do it in ways I can get behind. The few times I’ve seen it done, she’s just a stereotypical, unpleasant, meddling woman rather than a respected enemy. Can some people not write villainous powerful women without tripping into a bunch of stereotypes?
  • While we’re on this topic, my Arthurian OTP is Mordred/Guinevere. I love the ship so much. I’ve yet to come across a (remotely good) novel that’s about this relationship, and the ship has…maybe six fanfics on AO3? Why are all my favorite ships so obscure?
  • Guinevere just has so much potential as a character. She’s been portrayed so many different ways, from medieval literature to today, and she’s such a flexible and enigmatic character. I love her, but she’s also really freaking hard for me to write
  • She’s just such a powerful character when she’s written well.
  • Anyway, if anyone knows of any good Mordred/Guinevere fanfics or novels, let me know.

Merlin

  • I will admit, I have NO idea why Merlin is as popular as he is. He assisted in a rape and just screwed everyone over. I get a fairly unhealthy vibe from his relationship with Arthur, which is only cemented by the fact that Merlin convinced him to attempt to murder Arthur’s own infant son. Why do people stan?

Lancelot

  • He’s a disaster bi and no one can make me change my mind
  • I took a quiz once for ‘which Arthurian character are you’ and I got Lancelot. I guess it makes sense. I’m also a disaster over-achiever who is probably going to end up accidentally betraying king and country one of these days. (I am, however, much less good at time management than Lancelot apparently is, so I am not very good at fighting things or other useful talents.) I think I’m more like Gawain, tho
  • I think almost everybody interprets Lancelot as a Type A over-achiever and I like it.
  • One thing I wish more people would explore is Lancelot’s relationship with the Lady of the Lake. Didn’t she raise him?
  • You know, Lancelot and Guinevere is okay, sure, but you know what’s better? Lancelot in basically any slash ship. Lancelot/Galehaut is AMAZING, okay? (Galehaut is not at ALL to be confused with Galahad. Galehaut, if you don’t know, is some guy who waged a war against Arthur until he found out that Lancelot was super cute and called it off. That really happened.) And I love Lancelot/Gawain possibly even more, because apparently there was a scene in some medieval story–I think it was in the Vulgate Cycle–where Gawain told Lancelot that he wished that he were a beautiful girl, under the condition that Lancelot would love him more than any other. ADORABLE.
  • Basically, literally everyone in Camelot is wildly in love with Lancelot, and that’s not my opinion, that’s fact.
  • Some Arthuriana fans tend to hate/strongly dislike Lancelot for some reason, but I don’t. He’s definitely done a lot of bad things, some of which don’t get called out because of the genre conventions or the social outlooks of the time, but I think he also has potential to be a really, really morally complex and interesting and noble character. Just because not everyone writes the character well doesn’t mean that he’s a bad character.
  • We love and support Lancelot in this house (along with Guinevere, and Mordred, and Gawain, and pretty much everyone except Pelleas he can choke)

Mordred

  • MY BOY. The character who got me into Arthurian legends. Just.
  • I am completely not interested in Pure Evil versions of this character, outside of the actual legends of course. You’ve been given so much tragic villain potential and you are NOT going to waste this. I just think Mordred works so much better as a tragic villain.
  • Morded is kind of…an inverse chosen one. Yes, he’s the center of some important prophecy, but the prophecy is that he’s going to destroy a kingdom. (Anakin, basically. He’s Anakin.) And I highkey love that twist on the trope.
  • I think I’m just drawn to characters like this, I’m sorry. I love Loki, Anakin, Seonho, and Mordred. I definitely have a Type.
  • You’d kind of expect Mordred to have a bigger role in Le Morte D’Arthur, but from what I remember, he’s kind of a background character until the end. It’s kind of an odd structure.
  • I find Mordred’s friendship with his brother Agravaine kind of cute, and I think any retelling from Mordred’s point of view is obligated to feature this.
  • In fact, I just love all the Orkney brothers. They are all collectively my favorite and no one can change my mind.
  • Anyway, I just love characters who plot with queens and topple dynasties

Gawain

  • Like Lancelot, Gawain is also a disaster bi! Aside from that whole bit with Lancelot I talked about up there, Gawain also has this whole long poem that’s all about the story of how he got to make out with the Green Knight. And also about how he learned the true meaning of honor I guess, but we all know what the important part of the poem is. I haven’t read Gawain and the Green Knight yet, but I want to.
  • My sister, who has actually read the poem, claims that the important part of the poem is how he learned the true meaning of honor but I think she’s lying
  • He also has a really cute marriage with this woman named Ragnelle, and I swear I’ll cover that eventually in its own post because it’s an amazing story (no seriously I almost have the post written up I just need to finish it).
  • I think Gawain is the sort of person who loves animals, which is confirmed by the fact that he once tried to kill a man for mistreating a dog.
  • Doesn’t he also love his horse Gringolet? Gawain’s just adorable okay
  • He also stuck up for Guinevere when she was accused of adultery.
  • YES he may be an idiot who kills people but a) so is Lancelot and ninety percent of the rest of Camelot and b) aside from that, he’s really nice! Stop being mean to him, French authors
  • In all seriousness, though, I think I might be the only person who is fine with both more redneck/slightly trashy portrayals of Gawain and the paragon of knighthood portrayals of Gawain. I like both, okay? I’m not down for anything that completely makes Gawain into a jerk, but I’m okay with Gawain screwing up and being an idiot occasionally.
  • There’s this whole segment in one of Chretien’s stories where Gawain makes out with this girl only to find out that I think he killed her father or something and the girl’s fine with it, but her brother tries to kill him and then Gawain and the lady end up having to fight their way out with a chess set. This is the idiot content I subscribed for.
  • I love Gawain. So much. He and Lancelot are both such lovable idiots and I ship them. I don’t really want to pick a favorite Arthurian character, but if I had to, I’d say it tends to shift between Gawain, Guinevere, and Mordred?

So please do tell me your Arthurian headcanons, favorite ships, favorite retellings/fanfics, etc., and I’m sorry for making you sit through all this. I’m still writing it and posting it anyway. 😉 I may make a part two of this, but I already feel cringy enough posting this one post. I do want to cover the rest of the Orkney brothers, though. So I guess we’ll see.

Stupid Favorite Fairy Tale Ships

Annd, here it is! My list of my very favorite stupidest fairy tale ships. Along with a couple ones that I hate, just because. I feel like I’ve been needing to write this post for a while now, anyway. I love! Talking about this! I love it much more than you love listening to me! But I will never shut up. Ever.

  • Ivan and the Princess Blue-Eyes

I have not been able to find a copy of this fairy tale anywhere except here, but oh boy is it amazing. “Don’t take my armour off, dear princess, don’t pierce my white flesh with your sword!” he pleads. “Kiss me on the lips instead.” –an actual quote

Yeah, so she was just about to kill him and I’m pretty sure she blinded someone–no, wait, she blinded his dad, but we don’t care about that because his dad is a jerk. HUSH SHE’S PERFECT. She’s very bloodthirsty, but very perfect. It’s an enemies-to-lovers relationship, which is my absolute favourite trope when done right and my absolute most hated trope when done wrong (and it’s SO HARD to find it done right). Does this one deliver for me? Yes it does.

  • The prince and princess from ‘The Prince and the Three Fates’

Ahh an actual healthy relationship on this list what is this

Anyway, the prince is prophesied to die from either a snake, a crocodile, or a dog. The princess hears that and decides she is having none of it, so she decides she will save her husband no matter what. And I’m still waiting on a retelling, Disney. Maybe you could get to work on that rather than remaking all your old stuff for the umpteenth time. Just saying.

It’s an Egyptian fairy tale, too (ancient Egyptian, actually, though I’m fairly sure the ending was added by Andrew Lang). I’m not necessarily against all the live-action remakes, but it does get to me that Disney could be using their time to spotlight lesser known fairy tales, especially non-European ones that have a harder time getting exposure over here, and they’re not. But oh well.

I need to post about this fairy tale. Good heavens.

  • Gareth and Lynet

OKAY SO THIS ONE ISN’T CANON BUT IT SHOULD BE.

Also, is it really a surprise to anyone that I’m talking about Arthuriana again? No. No it is not.

So, Gareth (who is Gawain’s brother) sneaks into Camelot as a kitchen boy for…some reason. Lynet asks the knights to save her sister from a man besieging her castle, but refuses to tell them her name for…some reason. No one decides to help her except our boy Gareth because plot convenience. They argue a lot, and Lynet can be pretty dang classist, but it’s the time period it is and she has a learning curve, so I forgive her. And frankly, she’s depending on a kitchen boy who (for all she knows) has no idea how to fight, and her sister is in danger. I don’t really blame her for reacting badly.

Oh, and also? She’s a enchantress. Although I’m still confused why, if she has magic, she can’t just save her sister herself? Oh well! Plot convenience!

But it was not to be. He ended up with Lyonesse, the sister, instead. And I kind of love Lyonesse, too, but just. WHY WAS IT NOT CANOOONN

(and yeah there’s no Arthurian ‘canon’ really, but my point is it didn’t happen in any medieval stories that I know of.)

  • The couple from ‘My Candlestick’

Another fairy tale I haven’t been able to find anywhere except here! The fairy tale is adorable though. And a little bit sad, but still adorable. The heroine actually reminds me a bit of my own first heroine: cute, a bit of a pathological liar, and sarcastic and fun. And honestly, I haven’t run into a lot of characters like these. We need more. And then there’s the prince; he’s enchanted and he never talks to her directly, but he starts opening up to her more and more and it’s so CUTE, dang it.

  • Mordred and Guinevere–oh look, my Arthurian crack ship

Ahem. Um. So, before you go, ‘Um, she is his father’s (uncle’s?) WIFE? What is wrong with you?’ (Totally acceptable reaction tbh.) Let me just say…It was a thing. Talk to Geoffrey of Monmouth about it.

But I just feel like I’d LOVE SEEING THIS ONSCREEN. Or on page. Whatever. I have a thing for (fictional!) unhealthy relationships, and there is lots of DrAmA potential in unhealthy relationships, and we all know I love stupid drama. These two are pretty much the usurping king and queen of unhealthy relationships and stupid drama. I apologize for nothing.

At first I thought my love for this simply stemmed from my dinosaur brain going, ‘VILLAINOUS GUINEVERE. OH MY GOSH SHE’S TAKING OVER THE THRONE. GO AND SMASH THAT PATRIARCHY, GIRL’. And yeah, that’s a valid reason for why I like it, but also. Drama.

I blame this whole ship on my dinosaur brain.

And it says something about Arthurian legend that I don’t think they’re the unhealthiest relationship in the legends. Especially not if you expand ‘relationship’ to mean romantic and platonic relationships. But I can think of a few unhealthier romantic ones, too.

  • Prunella and Bensiabel, from ‘Prunella’

Another one that’s weird, but still my fave. It’s basically Rapunzel and the prince, except the prince is the witch’s son instead, because all the best twists to a fairy tale have already been thought of. And he does pressure her into kissing him (by which I mean he TAKES ADVANTAGE OF LIFE-THREATENING SITUATIONS), but he always backs off when she tells him no each time, which…helps. I wouldn’t be able to stand this otherwise. But! He helps save her every time his mom tries to kill her (which happens a lot, incidentally), and Prunella doesn’t consider herself obligated to fall head-over-heels for him just because he saved her a couple times. It’s only after they’ve known each other for a while that she considers him at all, and in a world of love at first sight, that’s kind of refreshing.

They’re amazing. Specifically, Pru is amazing. Read the fairy tale, I’m serious.

~~~

And I feel like this list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning a few ships I want to boot to the curb.

  • King Thrushbeard and the princess, from ‘King Thrushbeard’

Thinking about King Thrushbeard still makes me rage to this day, to be honest. The princess insults King Thrushbeard once when he asks her father for her hand in marriage, so then he does all this weird stuff where he disguises himself as a peasant and marries her, and then proceeds to humiliate her, emotionally abuse her, and treat her terribly. But it’s okay, because he’s the ‘hero’.

The scars I carry from reading this are still here.

  • Cliges and Fenice

Uh. Another lesser-known couple from Arthuriana! And I don’t exactly regret reading this story, because Alexander is truly amazing and I love his friendship with Guinevere, but I do regret Cliges existing.

I may have gotten along with him better before that whole thing with him cutting off the squire’s leg. Hmm.

He’s also another character in Arthurian legend who falls in love with his aunt-in-law! Hmm.

(In case you’re wondering, yes. This was one of the unhealthier relationships in Arthuriana I had in mind. I’d also like to add Tristram and Iseult to the list? Yet another where the hero gets together with his aunt-in-law! Why is that a thing! )

  • Griselda and whoever-his-name-was-wipe-him-from-my-memory, from ‘Griselda’

I can’t even talk about this fairy tale because it makes me so angry. I’m serious, if you want to know what it’s about, look it up yourself.

But WHY DID NO ONE SHOVE THAT HERO OFF A CLIFF. If no one else wants to, I volunteer. Ahem. I don’t usually get passionate enough about bad characters to hope they die, but there are always exceptions. And this man? Was an exception.

Anyway, that was all my very rambly and very stupid thoughts on my favorite ships! There are a few more I could probably think of, for both the ones I love and the ones I hate, but I don’t want this getting any longer than it is. Are there any you’d add or remove from either list? I’m honestly really curious.

Mordred and Guinevere

Lancelot and Guinevere reminiscing about her psycho ex. I did this cartoon! I love Guinevere’s cute little face.

Because apparently Mordred and Guinevere’s relationship in the older legends was way more bizarre than I was ever aware of before getting into these stories.

I thought this would be an easy article to write, to be honest, because I’ve been researching these two characters (as much as I can without paying money) for a retelling I’m writing. Five minutes into writing this article and I realize I’ve never bookmarked anything and I’ve forgotten which exact websites I used to find all my old sources (facepalm) Thank God for Wikipedia. I also realized that this was kind of a complicated topic and I probably should have given myself more than a day to write this article. I was actually planning on doing an overview of Mordred himself, but I need to give myself waaay more time before doing a project like that, so it morphed into this. Live and learn.

Guinevere is probably most known for her tragic love affair with Lancelot, but that plotline actually wasn’t a thing in her earliest appearances in the legends. In Geoffrey Monmouth’s Historia Regum Britanniae, the twelfth century pseudo-history that kicked off the medieval King Arthur craze, Lancelot doesn’t even show up (he might not have even existed at that time). He only really comes on the scene when Chretien de Troyes wrote him later in the twelfth century, and it’s possible he was Chretien’s original character. Who was really overpowered. And French, just like Chretien. Make of that what you will. Perhaps an early example of a self-insert OC?

Instead of Lancelot, Guinevere was in love with Mordred, because these stories weren’t a soap opera enough already. He’s mentioned a few times before Geoffrey of Monmouth, but the first full story about Mordred (and really, most of the characters) comes from him, by which point Mordred shows up as a full-fledged villain, dressed in black and ready to steal your girl! Which he does. Because apparently…Guinevere and Mordred were the first villainous Arthurian couple? Before Chretien introduced Lancelot and Guinevere’s relationship, she was into Mordred, because I guess she’ll always be associated with adultery and kingdom-ending relationship drama. I had no idea about any of this before I started writing a retelling, although I admit my knowledge of anything Arthuriana-related was very limited. Geoffrey of Monmouth only said,

What is more, this treacherous tyrant was living adulterously and out of wedlock with Queen Guinevere, who had broken the vows of her earlier marriage. About this matter, most noble Duke, Geoffrey of Monmouth prefers to say nothing.

Yes, Guinevere made her debut onto the scene of Arthurian legend as a villain. God, I need to do an article on her one of these days.

And then there’s the Alliterative Morte Arthur (a fourteenth century poem, not the Le Morte D’Arthur), where Guinevere and Mordred have kids, which is just…WHO WROTE THAT.

Mordred is almost always Arthur’s nephew in these types of stories, rather than his son (I don’t know why that is). In the versions where he is Arthur’s son, it always tends to happen where Mordred falls in love with Guinevere, fakes his dad’s death (YES HE DID THAT), and Guinevere has absolutely none of it. But both versions end with her running away to a convent. In the one where she’s good, she feels really, really guilty about everything that happened with Lancelot. In the one where she’s bad, it’s…a little more unclear, but definitely possible that she thinks Mordred is losing in the war against Arthur?

Enter Chretien de Troyes, a twelfth century writer who wrote lots of stories about Arthurian legend that you should check out because his stories are amazing. He takes one look at Guinevere, goes, “What? King Arthur’s wife trapped in an unhappy marriage? Guys, this is perfect tragic heroine material! Why is she the villain?” And proceeds to write Knight of the Cart, a story where Guinevere gets kidnapped by a knight named Meliagrance, and Lancelot has to save her. And Lancelot and Guinevere have been pretty much an Arthurian staple ever since.

On a total side note, I’m not sure I’d call getting together with your nephew-in-law a thing in Arthuriana, but let’s just say it happened more than once and I have no idea why. Take Cliges and Fenice from Chretien de Troyes’ romance, for instance. Cliges was Fenice’s nephew-in-law. Granted, that was a weird one, and I still have no idea if that was supposed to be a deconstruction of courtly love or just played straight and absolutely bizarre. But Tristram and Iseult were pretty much the romantic Arthurian couple, besides Guinevere and Lancelot, of course, and…yes, Tristram was Iseult’s nephew-in-law. Which is something neither medieval writers nor modern day people tend to lay a lot of emphasis on, I’ve noticed. (Although I’ll admit I haven’t researched Tristram and Iseult as much.) People do tend to lay a lot of emphasis on the strangeness of Mordred and Guinevere’s story. I figure it’s probably because (a) Tristram did not try to take over the kingdom, and (b) when you add incest into Mordred’s backstory, it’s just Mordred repeating a family pattern, which adds an extra layer of weirdness to an already weird story.

Anyway, that was possibly one of the weirdest (and definitely the trashiest) relationships in Arthurian legend! I’ll admit to lowkey liking this. I think it’s because the idea of Guinevere the tragic villainess taking over Camelot will always sort of appeal to me. I love tragic villainesses, and I don’t get enough of them, especially not in modern fiction, and the ones I do get hardly ever exactly satisfy me. So yes, screw it, I do like this. Guinevere staring broodingly out windows and killing people and taking over Camelot. Give me more of this, please.

Did you know about these two having a relationship? Do you like either of these two characters? What’s your trashiest ship, mythological or modern?