Erec and Enide; a recap, in which yet another lady from mythology needs her husband thrown in a LAKE–part 1

Lancelot is the only one who actually ended up in a lake and he didn’t even do anything wrong, smh*

*In case you didn’t know, Lancelot grew up in a lake with his cool enchantress adoptive mom, Nimue

So I miiiight do a series in which I recap Chretien de Troyes’ stories? Excepting Cliges, because that one is insane. But I don’t make any promises, either, because hello? ADHD and commitments? They do not mix. And also I am so sorry about that one post on Irish fairies that I said I would do a part two of and never got around to doing. I will do it one of these days! Just maybe…sometime later.

One day, King Arthur decides that he will go on a hunt for a certain white stag. Traditionally, the person who catches the stag gets to kiss the most beautiful woman in the court, so…mistletoe, but with extra steps? Gawain, being for once the only smart person in this story, tells Arthur that this is a TERRIBLE idea, actually, because everyone is a drama queen and why would you invite this on yourself. Do not get people started on who is the prettiest person or the best fighter. It never ends well. Being someone who gives actually good advice, Gawain is promptly ignored. This is what happens when you ignore the person giving good advice, people. They go insane and bring down a kingdom or something.

Guinevere falls behind during the hunting party, riding with an unnamed maiden and Erec, the titular hero of this story. Erec, in an uncharacteristically sweet moment, tells Guinevere that he only came along in order to keep her company. Just a warning, this is the one of the few moments in this story when he doesn’t act like a prick. Negative character development from here on out.

Guinevere and Erec happen upon a strange knight in the forest, riding with a maiden and a dwarf. Guinevere first asks her maiden to go up and bring them over, but the knight doesn’t respond very well to that, and the dwarf strikes the maiden’s arm with a whip. Not very polite people, this group. So Guinevere, rightfully furious, commands Erec to go over to them instead. Erec, however, gets the same treatment. At least they’re equal opportunity jerks and they don’t just go after women, I guess?

Erec is so upset that he decides to chase this knight down with no armor, reasoning that in the time it would take him to go get armor, the knight might have already gotten away, and he can borrow armor anyway! I’d kind of admire his tenacity if not for his actions later in the story. Guinevere is in full support of kicking this guy’s ass. Have I mentioned yet today that I love Guinevere? Because I love Guinevere and I just wanted to let you guys know.

The story briefly wraps up the subplot with the magical stag. The court, as Gawain predicted, gets very angry at the implication that their girlfriends are not the prettiest and people almost comes to blows with each other. Their girlfriends’ reactions are not mentioned, and I like to imagine their girlfriends in the corner asking them to stop. Fortunately, Guinevere saves the day by convincing Arthur to put off the problem until later, telling him to wait until Erec comes back.

Erec rides until he comes to a town. He cannot find lodging, but he finds out where the knight has been staying, and then he finally finds lodging with an impoverished nobleman. The nobleman’s wife and daughter come out from their workshop to meet him (Chretien writes ‘I do not know what work they were doing there,’ which…you’re the writer??). Erec notices that the daughter is beautiful–and I mean very beautiful, this goes on for like a paragraph–though she only wears an old, worn white dress. She has ‘a face fairer and brighter than a lily flower,’ eyes like stars (his words, not mine), and apparently is more beautiful than Iseult or something?? I don’t know, it goes on for longer, but I’ll spare you.

Anyway, she takes his horse to the stable and shows Erec upstairs, where Erec and the family have a meal. Erec asks the father why the daughter’s dress is so shabby, which seems a bit impolite to me, but what do I know. The father explains that he spent so much time at war that he lost his land. He says that the girl’s uncle, a count who lives in the area, was willing to help her, but he doesn’t want to accept. Presumably because he doesn’t want to be a burden on the guy I guess? The father still has hopes that he can marry his daughter off to a rich man, since she is so beautiful and wise. (Pardon me for being cynical, but I’m not sure it works this way in real life.) He also talks about how much he loves his daughter, which aww.

Erec asks why the inns were all full when he came into the town, and finds out that there’s going to be a beauty contest! No, really. Each knight has to present a beautiful lady, and the one with the most beautiful lady gets to take home a cute sparrowhawk! Erec also makes sure to ask who the knight he’d been following was, and the man answers that the knight’s girlfriend has won the beauty contest two years in a row, without anyone fighting with the knight over it. Erec then asks the man for a suit of armor, and what luck! The nobleman just so happens to have a brand new hauberk, greaves, and helmet, despite being poor! Erec then asks if he can take the daughter, Enide, to the beauty contest. He tells the man that he is Erec, son of King Lac, of King Arthur’s court. (Has he not told the guy his name yet? He’s spent all this time at the guy’s house and he’s only just now telling the guy his name?) The father agrees, and Enide is very happy about this, both because she likes Erec and because this means she will be a queen eventually. I am fully supportive of her liking him both for personal and mercenary reasons, by the way.

Also, Enide helps Erec get into his armor the next morning. I just wanted y’all to know that.

At the beauty contest, everyone pretty much agrees that Enide is the most beautiful, but Erec waits for the knight that he hates to go up to the perch first. The knight’s maiden is right about to take the sparrow-hawk when Erec stops her and asks Enide to take the sparrowhawk instead. The other knight, instead of settling this with words, decides to settle it with a duel instead. Murder really is everyone’s first resort in these stories, isn’t it?

The fight goes on for two pages, but I’ll summarize it with: Erec wins! Yay! After the fight, the knight, whose name is Yder (son of Nut), asks why Erec seems to hate him so much. Erec reminds him of that time that the dwarf with him attacked the queen’s maiden, and orders Yder to deliver himself to the queen and tell her that Erec will come back to court the next day along with a beautiful maiden. Yder does so, and the queen tells him that she will let him off easy since he surrendered himself to her, but she wants him to become a member of the court. This is the hiring process in Arthurian legend, I guess. Why can’t I get a job by showing up to my future workplace, being a dick to everyone in sight, and then getting beaten up by someone hot?? Why can’t I do that?? I want to get a job because Gawain kicked my ass once! I think I should be allowed to have that in these dark times!

Anyway, back to Erec, people are fangirling over him! The count, Enide’s uncle, offers to let him stay at his place since Erec is the son of a king, but Erec decides to continue staying with Enide and her father, instead. Sorry, but he is NOT leaving the hot girl.

When Erec gets to Enide’s home, he tells her father that he wishes to take Enide to King Arthur’s court and marry her after. He tells her father that he will give him two fine castles, called Roadan and Montreval, and that he will give the man and his wife gold, silver, vair and miniver (which I think are types of furs??), and expensive silk. Enide’s cousin, described as a ‘prudent, sensible, and worthy maiden,’ points out that Enide should probably be given a new gown before taking her to see the queen, but Erec replies that he wishes for Queen Guinevere to give her a fine silk gown. The damsel relents, so instead, she gives Enide her dapple-grey palfrey (which is another word for a small horse that a lady might ride).

The next day, Erec leaves for the court. Enide says goodbye to her parents, and there is a lot of crying. Luckily, Enide has a hot guy to comfort her! During the ride to Camelot, she and Erec cannot stop staring at each other and making out. I feel like an uncomfortable third party reading this.

Anyway, Erec and Enide finally come to the castle of Cardigan, where King Arthur is staying. Everyone is delighted to see them back, and King Arthur himself helps Enide down from her horse and, taking her hand, leads her inside. Erec explains a little bit of Enide’s family history to Queen Guinevere, and then asks her to give Enide a gown. Guinevere agrees, and gives Enide a dress and a green brocade mantle. The gown is lined with ermine, and gold and jewels are sewn in around the cuffs and the neckline. Two women braid Enide’s hair with golden thread, but her hair was even brighter than the thread or whatever, because she’s that perfect.

Wait, hold on, they also give her jewelry and stuff, but I just got distracted by something: Chretien de Troyes claims that Erec is a better knight than Lancelot?? LIES. EREC CAN’T HOLD A CANDLE TO–ahem. Anyway.

Erec and Enide go out into the hall, and Enide is seated next to the king. Guinevere tells the king that the matter of the white stag can finally be resolved, because no one could argue that there is any woman alive more beautiful than Enide. I mean, I think someone could actually still argue about that if they really liked arguing, which all of the Round Table does, but! For once, everyone decides to get along, and they all agree that Enide is the prettiest. King Arthur kisses her, and the matter of the white stag is resolved.

“Well, Erec seems like a pretty fine person?” you may be asking at this point. “Why do you keep dunking on him so much?” Well, that is a question that will be answered in part two, I think, because this post is starting to get a little long and I realize I probably need to split this up into two parts before this gets out of hand. This seems like a good stopping point!

Btw, if I forget to post part two, feel free to bully me in the comments lmao

The Excalibur Curse; a review, in which I discuss the curious feelings that stem from being both queerbaited and straightbaited, because this book couldn’t handle any type of relationship

Why isn’t Guinevere’s crown shaded? Like I’m not sure if you can tell in this photo but in person it looks really weird

So, I promised myself I wasn’t going to read the third book, because I knew it was going to be very, very bad after reading some spoilers, but then I realized my library had it. And Arthuriana is my special interest, so I couldn’t bring myself to stay away. Hey, at least I’m getting a review out of it!

My review for the second book may be found here. My review of the first book is here, but I will warn you it isn’t very good because I wrote it a very long time ago. I feel like I accidentally made it sound like Guinevere dating Mordred would be feminist praxis (which, for the record, I DON’T believe, I was just bad at writing back then), and it was all so very cringy. Nostalgic, because I believe it was one of my first reviews–I want to say it was the third review I wrote, but I could be wrong on that?–but still deeply cringy. (For the record, there ARE some things in that review that I still stand by, mainly about how female characters who are outcasts get portrayed, and also that Guinevere is a shallowly written character and Arthur really should have been called out more. Other stuff is just. What the FUCK was I on. So yeah, it’s a mixed bag!)

Also, this review is so on point and said it better than I could???

**THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS**

Okay, so let me get this rant out of the way. This book DARES to call itself feminist while portraying its witch trials allegory as maybe not such a bad thing?? Like you’re really going to do that??? “Oh, maybe Arthur is justified in driving out magic, because look at all the harm it causes!” says Guinevere at one point in the book. Yeah, well, you can also find a lot of tools to cause harm in a smithy, but you wouldn’t ban metalwork, Guinevere. Also fuck you. The women who these laws affect are just trying to live their lives, you fucking prick. They aren’t anywhere near on the same level as Merlin or Morgana or the Dark Queen. They’re just using the tools they have to make their lives easier, just like anyone would do with a hammer or a shovel or a knife. All those things can be used to kill, if you want to, but they’re also important tools that make people’s lives easier. For the record? Mordred was 100% right about everything, aside from resurrecting the evil queen in the first book. The system was broken, Mordred was the only one interested in fixing it, and I’m supposed to believe he’s SUCH a bad guy just because he tried to make a difference I guess. The witch trials were bad, this fictional portrayal of them was bad, and you should feel very bad, Guinevere.

This trilogy’s relationship with magic was honestly so weird? It’s one thing to build your magic system so that magic is an inherently evil thing, but it’s another to…not do that and then treat magic as something that needs to be expunged from the realm for reasons, I guess. And then it’s implied that magic no longer exists in the realm by the end of the trilogy, because Guinevere’s magic was one of the few interesting things about her, so we had to get rid of it. Plus, we’ve gotta drive that civilization vs. nature theme into the ground!

Also, you’re really going to come out completely on the side of civilization in 2022? I’d say with global warming, pollution, and habitat destruction, it’s so clear to me that we need BOTH civilization and nature. If we only have one, humans won’t even exist. I mean, it’d be clear to me at any point that we need both civilization and nature, but! Especially in 2022!

Okay, so with all that out of the way, allow me to rant about plot and characters. (I’ll save the ships for last, lmao.)

THEY WERE SO BAD. Okay, Mordred was still great. He took a couple of chapters to really pull me in again, but once he did, he was a DELIGHT. Just. He gets most of the funny lines in this book, and most of the lines with the most pathos, and characters who can give me both are almost always guaranteed to be my favorite. He deserved so, so much better. Also he was literally the one of the only characters who called things like they were? Aside from the fact that I hate Guinevere in this book and he doesn’t, our thoughts on the situations in the book are basically the same.

And Arthur is plotting against her, and my mother is plotting against Merlin, and doubtless Merlin saw all this and has his own plots that were put in motion seventy years ago and will somehow ruin whatever my mother is trying to do, while Arthur sweeps in with his damnable sword and cuts through the magic of my grandmother, who will retreat and plot anew, while Arthur goes and does Arthur things and my mother plots and Merlin interferes from afar. They are all a terrible river crashing down a hill. Nothing will stop them. Nothing will alter their course. If we remove ourselves from it, all we have done to affect the outcome is claim our own selves and our own happiness as more important than being drowned by their conflict.

Thank you, Mordred, please keep spitting facts like this forever.

Brangien and Dindrane were still great, too, and I loved Fina, the new character in this book, but the side characters barely got screen time in this. It was honestly so upsetting, because the cast of side characters was one of the trilogy’s main strengths (okay, only the female side characters + Mordred, I don’t even want to speak about what was going on with the male side characters, but I will because this whole review is me talking at length).

However, the main characters, aside from Mordred, were so bad. I think this is probably the result of the second book meandering so much? Like you literally could have cut the second book from this trilogy and things would have basically been the same aside from Isolde not being rescued (and Guinevere not getting kidnapped, but you get my point). And then the first book didn’t wrap up much with the plot and character stuff either. So then you get the Star Wars Sequel Trilogy Problem of having to wrap up SO many things in the finale, and it just feels incoherent.

Like Guinevere’s whole identity crisis that takes up way too much time that we didn’t have, even though it does make sense that she’d feel very bad about the…plot twist and would try to do something about it. (I would rant about that plot twist SO much, but I’m saving the plot twists rant for later.) But as it is, it just feels so frustrating and pretty boring. It’s so clear to me that this reveal and the ensuing crisis should have been moved to the second book. I mean, if you were going to do that reveal at all, but I digress.

Honestly, same for Mordred and Guinevere’s relationship, and Lancelot’s relationship with Guinevere? I think that the relationships would have had more time to develop if this drama had started playing out in the second book, and if they had more time, I think the abrupt cutoff where Guinevere stops dating Mordred could potentially have made sense! Guinevere not being who she thought she was COULD be a big enough thing to drastically change her relationships with her loved ones. And maybe Lancelot could be the one to talk her through her feelings about the reveal, and that’s how they fall in love! Or SOMETHING. Because good Lord, nothing about those relationship developments made any sense.

After ignoring all of Arthur’s bad behavior from the previous two books, this book takes a hard left turn and starts hitting me over the head with how VERY BAD ARTHUR IS. I think I actually would have loved how Arthur from the first book was handled, actually, as long as his behavior was treated as bad? Or at least implied to be bad? But the bad behavior in the first book was subtle, for the most part, and the subtlety could have been so, so good if the book had felt self-aware. But in this book, I feel like I missed a book’s worth of character development? Like if the second book hadn’t been wasted, we could have seen him have to make progressively harder decisions, and his flaws gradually get worse and worse under the stress, until he becomes the kind of person who would threaten Lancelot in order to stop Guinevere from doing something drastic. Because as bad as Arthur in the first book was, I’m not completely convinced that he was THAT bad. And also, there’s this one really poignant scene in this where he and Guinevere are talking, and they both realize that they spent so long waiting in their relationship that they’ve grown past each other and aren’t what the other one needs anymore, and it’s SO GOOD, except that it feels like the climactic scene in a very long character arc that wasn’t there.

But yeah, Arthur basically spends the whole book being awful, and it is so, so stupid to me that Guinevere sees all his bad behavior, goes “what the fuck, was he always like this” and then! Then, at the very end, she decides that Arthur must not be so bad after all and literally does nothing to fix the situation she’s in aside from deciding to stand up to him occasionally, and I’m just…Okay?? Oh, also, as a side note, she tries to both-sides Arthur conquering people. It made me uncomfortable. An English king coming in and conquering the surrounding nations and justifying it because he’s bringing civilization and order is. It’s uh. It’s a lot?

Also, the author heard my complaints about how feminism was handled–or rather, not handled, Guinevere just licks the boots of the patriarchy–in the first book, and decided to overcompensate by shoving the feminist messages into my face every three seconds. I GET IT, okay? You don’t have to slap me upside the head with the messaging. And all the male side characters are either dumb, evil, or given no screentime whatsoever? You’re really telling me that all the men in this story world are horrible, no good, very bad people? All of them? Including PERCIVAL for some reason??? (And Blanchefleur, because this is a feminist book that doesn’t believe in demonizing strong women from mythology for no reason! /s) And the ending was so upsetting for me, where after Guinevere figures out that Camelot does not want her unless she is stifled and silent, she just…goes back to stay. And she’s so convinced that she’ll be able to make a change for other women there, even though everyone BARELY listens to her aside from her close circle of friends. I feel like she’ll just get shoved right back into her role of staying loyal and silent, and that’s just depressing to me. Anyway, you know what? You know what, maybe living in a cottage with Mordred IS feminist praxis. It’s certainly more feminist praxis than this. I just wanted her to put her own needs first for once, dammit, and then she never did.

(Oh also this is completely off-topic but Morgana literally had so much potential for a villain but then she just straight up dies halfway through the book. It was deeply annoying.)

*long, long sigh* Okay, I can’t avoid the topic anymore. GUINEVERE. She never was allowed to be the brightest bulb in the basket in this trilogy, but in this book I literally wanted to shake her multiple times while I was reading. She tries to solve all her problems by turning to evil wizards. ALL of them.

Guinevere: *runs into a crisis*

Guinevere, five seconds later: So do I trust Morgana, Nimue, Merlin, or the Dark Queen to solve this problem for me?

AND NO. THOSE ARE ALL REAL EXAMPLES OF PEOPLE SHE TRUSTS TO SOLVE HER PROBLEMS. She was so. so. STUPID.

She literally needs everything spelled out for her? Like she gets the grand revelation that Merlin may have enchanted her to be afraid of water because Morgana tells her soldiers to keep her away from water. And just. Girl? I have been waiting for you to try jumping into a lake to find out what will happen for the past two books. And she discovers that Arthur actually views her as more of a possession because Morgana and Guinevere both end up looking through his thoughts briefly. Again! I have been yelling this to her for the past two books, but nooo, we can’t make a decision unless Morgana makes it for us, apparently. Guinevere. Guinevere, you don’t even like Morgana. Maybe figure things out on your own for once.

AND THE REVEAL ABOUT HER BACKSTORY IS SO, SO PAINFULLY INCOHERENT. Get this, okay? Merlin fused the original Guinevere’s soul with the Lady of the Lake so that he could send the Lady of the Lake to protect Arthur, only it didn’t quite go well, and he ended up with an entirely brand-new girl. Because that makes a lot of sense! I have watched a Xianxia drama, Love and Redemption, that had almost this exact plot twist and the Xianxia drama handled it SO much better, not least because it actually fit into the worldbuilding in the drama! It was something that the audience might feasibly expect! But also because the drama seemed way more interested in delving into the trauma and the consequences that stem from being brainwashed?? (Also, Sifeng is a bisexual king and I literally feel more represented by Sifeng then I do by Guinevere in this book and the show isn’t even allowed to call him bisexual because of censorship, so that’s where we are right now.)

Oh, by the way, this reveal makes it so that Guinevere has half the soul of Lancelot’s adopted mom, btw, and then she falls in love with Lancelot. While having half the soul of Lancelot’s adopted mom. It’s not actual incest, and you might call me hypocritical for complaining about somewhat weird relationships while shipping Mordred/Guinevere, but Mordred/Guinevere is a thing in some of the legends, so I don’t mind stories exploring that! I like Mordred/Guinevere from the legends! LANCELOT/NIMUE IS CERTAINLY NOT A THING, SO I DON’T UNDERSTAND WHY THIS WAS IN THERE.

[Edit: Btw I’m still not over this. I think about ‘the author got Lancelot together with the girl who has Lancelot’s mom’s soul inside of her’ at least once per day since I finished this. It haunts me ❤ Please keep me in your thoughts and prayers as I go through this struggle]

Honestly, the five pages or so we got of the original Guinevere were more interesting than Guinevere had been this entire book (possibly the entire trilogy). I really liked her. Why couldn’t we have had a book about her, instead?

Guinevere is so wishy-washy in this book?? “Arthur is bad and I’m done with him! Oh, wait, maybe he’s actually good. I still love him! I love Mordred so MUCH. Oh wait, he’s not the right guy for me for reasons. I think I might love Lancelot? I’m going to flounder about this for pages while wailing about how much I just love all my love interests, but my author won’t let me commit to honest-to-God polyamory. My life is so hard.”

Yeah. Yeah, it was dumb.

Okay, so. The ships. Yeah it was all so very dumb and also gave me a lot of whiplash because Guinevere just couldn’t commit? She and Mordred were very sweet! Sometimes when a heroine talks about how much her love interest just gets her, you’re tempted to roll your eyes, but here, I honestly believed it. They have things in common that help them to understand each other, since they’re both magic users who’ve had to hide and suppress themselves in order to fit in. They got along so well together, and all the jokes they made about them living in a cottage together are very much tempting me to write the shippy cottagecore fanfic lmao. I loved that. (Also, I made a dumb joke about them living in a cottage together in my review of book two. I was genuinely spooked there for a second and about to start making theories about how I am clairvoyant actually, but–actually, no, you know what, I still am)

And then the author threw that relationship away for some reason halfway through the book with no justification? Oh! Suddenly we’re in love with Lancelot now! She’s suddenly talking about how much Lancelot gets her, and how much she loves Lancelot, and at one point she says that Lancelot is the one who knows her best, and I just…Really? Oh, that one? The one you’ve barely talked to? It’s not Brangien, your friend who spends almost all of her time with you?

The reason why she leaves Mordred in the first place is so dumb to me? Like after the big reveal that she’s inhabiting the original Guinevere’s body, she has this really brief conversation with Mordred about how she wants to erase herself so that the original Guinevere can live. Mordred agrees to help but she senses that he’s not quite telling the truth. Keep in mind that this was a really brief conversation, and also, I find Mordred’s reaction very understandable actually? This isn’t ‘taking away her choice,’ this is not wanting your girlfriend to die?? Anyway, next morning, instead of talking about it with him further and actually communicating, she decides to take her chances with MORGANA LE FEY AND THE DARK QUEEN. Of course everyone almost dies. Who could have possibly seen that coming?? And later in the book, when Arthur threatens Lancelot to try to get Guinevere to not kill herself so Original Guinevere can live, she compares Mordred to Arthur and thinks about how similar they are???? Because telling a lie when you’re panicking is just the same as threatening your wife’s best friend I guess??????

Anyway, now that I’ve gotten that rant out of my system, Lancelot was just really disappointing to me. I usually LOVE the trope of the bodyguard who falls in love with the person they protect (especially when it’s the minion and the villain falling for each other, okay? I love that so MUCH). And I love Lancelot from the legends, he’s amazing. Best boi. But Lancelot wasn’t developed at all in this trilogy , and I honestly can’t really think of any traits that she had aside from ‘good fighter’ and ‘loyal to Guinevere.’ And the whole romance REALLY felt like it came out of nowhere?? It wasn’t insta-love, because she and Lancelot had the entirety of book two to get to know each other, but it sure felt like insta-love, because Guinevere barely indicated platonic feelings for Lancelot in the second book, and now she’s talking about how what she and Lancelot have is TRUE LOVE, dammit. I said in a conversation on Goodreads that she and Lancelot felt like coworkers who get along with each other in the second book, and…yeah. I wasn’t getting ‘deep and eternal love’ from that, sorry. Also, she kisses Arthur and has a full on makeout session and maybe more with Mordred, but she doesn’t do anything physically affectionate with Lancelot beyond a hug and a handhold. Really questionable. And she and Lancelot aren’t even really together at the end?? They never have a conversation about what their relationship is and what they want from it. I’ve seen people say that it ends with a polyamorous relationship between Guinevere, Arthur, and Lancelot, but I wouldn’t even call it that? I mean, it COULD have been, but it felt more like this book was desperately trying to leave the love square openended so that readers wouldn’t get frustrated with it, only for it to leave me more frustrated than ever. I really don’t count that as polyamory, more as bad writing.

So yeah! Before I read the book, I thought the reviews on Goodreads that talked about feeling queerbaited were deeply silly, because I’d read spoilers and Guinevere DOES get with Lancelot at the end–only to find out that no, I get what they were saying, this is all deeply weird. But then the straight relationships are handled terribly, too, so equality I guess…? Anyway, I did not have fun!

Oh well, I’m just going to pretend very hard that this book ended with Mordred and Guinevere running away to enact their cottagecore fantasies together. This book was honestly just terrible, though? At least it did inspire me to write fanfic! That’s something! Anyway, #MordredDeservedBetter

Half Sick of Shadows; a review, in which I am half sick of this book (okay, more than half)

This book does not deserve this great cover

I forced myself to finish this. I honestly don’t know why.

**This review contains spoilers**

God. God I hated this so much.

Okay, so here’s the setup: Elaine is an oracle (cool). Elaine is being emotionally abused by her evil depressed mother, who is the only mentally ill character in this book (somewhat less cool). Elaine then goes to Avalon, where everyone is liberated and wears skimpy clothing and is neo-pagan in sixth century fantasy Britain for some reason! (GO BACK GO BACK I WANT TO GO BACK) Yeah, suffice to say that this book impressed me with an interesting first scene and then took a swan dive off a cliff. At least my expectations weren’t that high? …Still though, I was foolish enough to at least have some expectations!

Clearly, I need to stop doing that with modern Arthuriana.

I’ll get into all the ugly stuff later, but let me start off by saying that I was super confused about the plot for most of the book? Elaine’s visions led me to believe that this was going to cover all of Arthur’s reign from his rise to his fall, because she kept having visions about the arthurpocalypse and How It All Fell Apart (ooh). And then I was at the middle of the book and Arthur hadn’t even married Guinevere yet? I honestly had to rack my brains to remember if this was really a standalone. Anyway, yeah, I could have done with a few less visions! Or at least put something in the blurb to make it clear that this is about Arthur’s rise to power? Maybe?

So yeah, the plot was really boring and I honestly don’t know why I was supposed to care. Oh no, Merlin is supporting Mordred, who is now Arthur’s half-brother for some reason and also in love with Morgause because this book decided to devote its existence to making me want to throw up! Why is Merlin doing this (especially when supporting Mordred goes against everything he stood for in the legends)? I don’t know! Elaine wants to stop this, because Mordred will run the kingdom into the ground! At least in an unspecified vision Elaine had, anyway. Why couldn’t we have seen that vision? It would have given such a better sense of the stakes if we could have seen what would have happened to Albion. Elaine is all-in for Arthur for…reasons I guess! I don’t know why! Why can’t she grab power for herself and be queen if she can literally see the future? She’d do a better job of it than either of those two schmucks.

I couldn’t help but compare this to Nirvana in Fire as I read this, not because it was anywhere NEAR as good as Nirvana in Fire, but because both stories had a protagonist who puts their life on hold to get some other guy on the throne. But Mei Changsu had a clear reason for wanting the current emperor off the throne, because the emperor was responsible for the death of his family. I get why that would drive you to do really extreme things! And I also understand why he would think Prince Jing was the best guy to be on the throne. Prince Jing is a guy who REALLY cares about justice, and the corrupt royal court doesn’t have a lot of guys like that. I just…wasn’t convinced about Arthur? It’s not that he’s bad, it’s just that I don’t understand why he’s good, let alone the best guy to be on the throne. I don’t know why Elaine cares so much about this guy, other than that Nimue told her he would bring some vague ‘golden age’ or whatever. Sure, I…guess he’s better than Mordred? Were there no other options? Why are my only two options ‘evil weasel’ and ‘stale chunk of white bread?’

Also, like…Nihuang was more of a girl power icon than any of the women in these books will ever be.

Speaking of girl power! The way feminism was handled in this book was so simplistic, heavy-handed, and sometimes…just plain dumb? Probably the most egregious scene was with Morgana and the tapestry. Okay, okay, get this. Morgana walks into the room, points to the unicorn on the tapestry and asks Elaine if she knows what the unicorn represents. Elaine answers that it represents virtue, and Morgana responds that it represents virginity, and the men don’t want to tell her that because they don’t want to seem too interested in what goes on between a girl’s legs (her words, not mine). I…

POLICING WOMEN’S SEXUALITY IS THE WHOLE POINT FOR THESE PEOPLE AND THAT ABSOLUTELY EXTENDS TO HOW THEY TREAT TEENAGERS. Oh boy, I wish this were how the world worked! I sure WISH that men would pretend not to care too much about a teenage girl’s sexuality! Someone take me to this fantasy world, please! *bangs head against a wall* I have literally read an article in which a girl’s parents pulled her out of the swim team at age TEN because the swimsuit she had to wear was too tight (fitted swimsuits are required for competitive swimming)! I have heard of young teenage girls getting lectured for being a ‘stumbling block’ to the older men in their church because the young girl wore a shirt that was too tight or something. Please explain to me again how these types of men will act so bashfully around young women that they don’t even want to mention virginity in front of them.

Anyway, this was all a lead-in to Morgana’s sex joke, because of course it was. Arthur is RIDING the unicorn? Get it??? *waggles eyebrows* If your sex joke has to be explained that much in order for it to make sense, it isn’t a very good joke. Kill me now.

And then Morgana proceeds to burn the tapestry #ForTheLols, which makes me want to kill her. Embroidery is so hard and those girls worked on the tapestry so much. Just because Elaine hates the tapestry doesn’t mean all the girls who worked on it do. It must have been some of those girls’ pride and joy. That was the moment I decided I hated Morgana.

The feminism would swing between being about historical issues no modern woman would have to face and modern issues no historical woman would likely face. And sometimes issues NO woman would face, ever (see the tapestry). The corset represents female oppression!!! Get it, because the boning in a corset is like a cage?? Sort of like how real women are in a metaphorical cage?? DO YOU GET THE SYMBOLISM??? And the pooooooor women, not being able to practice archery and having to wear corsets and all that. Because medieval women absolutely wore corsets and didn’t practice archery.

A medieval woman hunting with a bow and arrow in a cute pink dress

…Okay, look here. Medieval noblewomen practiced archery because oh, look at that! They went hunting! They absolutely didn’t wear corsets. My God. The author just lifted a bunch of stereotypes about the 19th century in order to write her book. At one point the heroine wears a dress that has cap sleeves, which. I’m pretty sure would not have been done in the medieval period? All the women in paintings that I’ve seen have their arms covered up to their wrists, which would have been a pretty nice thing to mention if you want to talk about modesty! Oh, and at one point, Elaine literally says ‘not all men,’ to which Guinevere replies, ‘not all men, Elaine……but enough of them,’ and I’m sorry, did I stumble onto a twitter conversation somehow? Because I would like to get off. Like. Are you writing about 19th century–oh, I’m sorry, medieval oppression of women, or are you making commentary on how they’re oppressed in the present day? Or are you going to look at the ways in which the treatment of women stays the same throughout history, discussing how while times change, some of the ways in which people treat women remain the same, and–oh, you just steamrolled past that option. Didn’t even notice it. Never mind, I’m not sure what else I expected.

You know what, I give up. I’m going to have Mordred say “yes all men” and shove a guy out a window. If Laura Sebastian can do it, so can I.

(A quick note: I don’t think Arthuriana has to be historically accurate at all! It’s basically impossible to write historically accurate Arthuriana, if you want to get down to it. But my personal preference is for the world to feel more medieval than this? And I really just don’t understand why we’re segueing into 19th century women’s issues.)

I also think the feminism in this book doesn’t address a lot of women out there? The liberation in this book is found in wildness. Avalon, with its sexy sexy bonfires and women who wear skimpy clothing, is liberated. THEIR women do stuff. They can do magic and be fighters. Lyonesse is liberated. Their women are werewolves and they wear short skirts and kill people! They’re wild and they run and fight! Camelot’s women…

…Um, they’re just not mentioned? Elaine’s mom is mentioned. She’s evil and abusive. Morgause is mentioned. She’s evil because she wants power for herself, unlike good and sweet Elaine who wants power for a man. And worse, Morgause is too feminine, unlike the heroine, who is just the right amount of feminine! Morgause cares about her appearance and stuff, which makes her an evul harpy who is evul! Seriously, Morgause is such a negative female stereotype. I do not understand why you would pretend to write a feminist novel and then treat your female villains this way?

To be fair, Elaine is from Camelot, but she spends most of her teenage years on Avalon, and she has Avalon’s values. I’m not counting her. Even though she is more ‘normal’ than her friends, she still seems like an exceptional woman to me, with her powers as a seeress that allows her to influence the rise and fall of kings. What of the normal women? The women who aren’t werewolves, or sorceresses, or kingmakers?

Anyway, we never hear about the women who do fit in and what they go through. We also never hear about the women who don’t fit in in different ways from Elaine and co. The feminism is just not very intersectional. There are a few women of color, but they’re either relegated to relatively minor roles, or, uh…We’ll get to that later. The closest thing we get to queer rep is Guinevere and Elaine jokingly flirting, but don’t worry, folks! They’re very straight, they’re just flirting because they’re not homophobic and women flirting is funny or…something? I guess? Seriously, they had more chemistry in that one scene than either of them EVER do with their trash boyfriends. We never hear about any disabled or mentally ill women. Oh wait, I almost forgot! We do hear about one mentally ill woman, who is mentally ill and abusive. Can’t forget Elaine’s mom.

Look, I don’t mind mentally ill abusive characters. In fact, I think there’s absolutely a place for them. Not all mentally ill people are good, that’s stupid. We’re people, not just an identity, and sometimes people are very bad. And I do think that since mental illness affects all parts of your life (or it can, anyway), it makes sense that someone’s toxic or abusive behavior would be influenced by their mental illness. But does she have to be the only mentally ill character in the story? Does Morgana have to say “She’s touched in the head” and imply that that is the reason why Elaine should leave her? I know the author said she had depression, and I respect that she probably had a reason for portraying depression in that way, but I also have depression, and personally? It didn’t sit right with me, and I’m just a little bitter. Why can’t Elaine have depression and struggle to get out of bed and leave her tower sometimes? Why can’t Lancelot draw her out–not cure her, but make things a little better–and convince her to brave the dangers of the real world, a place that’s confusing and sometimes harsh and not at all as simple as her tapestries? Why is that not the heroine the 21st century needs or whatever?

(Like…giving her depression would have given her a connection to the Tennyson poem that she absolutely did not have lmao.)

There are a few women of color, but I don’t think they were handled well? Nimue is Black, and I don’t have too many problems with her–sure, she’s not that interesting, but it’s not like she stands out for that in that cast. Morgana and Morgause, though?? They’re both described as having ‘bronze skin,’ and the way it’s written, is, uh…

She was beautiful in a cruel way, with luminous bronze skin, long, wavy hair the color of jet, a hawklike nose, and a wide mouth painted red as blood.

I just! I don’t like how she’s described as ‘beautiful in a cruel way’ and then it goes on to describe her bronze skin and aquiline nose! This rubs me the wrong way! I hate this so much!

Oh, and Mordred has a ‘hooked nose?’ And, if I remember correctly, Morgause does, too? I…*slowly slides into the dirt* If you’re wondering why this upsets me, hooked noses are something Jewish people are often stereotyped as having. (TW for discussions of antisemitism in the link.) I’m not trying to cancel the author and I’m not trying to argue that she’s a bad person, but I wish she or her editor had googled ‘antisemitic coding’ before publishing this.

Random little things that annoyed me:

-There were places where the writing just…did not make sense? “Relief falls over Arthur’s expression like a velvet curtain.” WHAT DOES THAT MEAN.

-Mordred has ‘sand-colored’ hair in one scene and black hair in another. I refuse to believe this book was edited.

-Everyone in this book swears using the words ‘Maiden, Mother, and Crone,’ which, while I’m pretty sure it comes from beliefs about Hecate, is still a very modern phrasing? Honestly, though, the fact that half the characters in this book practiced a modern religion is the least bad thing about this book. (Nothing against neo-pagans or anything like that! I just don’t understand why the characters happen to believe the exact same thing as neo-pagans in the 21st century when they supposedly aren’t time travelers lmao?)

-The magic in this book is SO hokey. At one point Morgana literally pulls down the moon from the sky and threatens to destroy it. Okay Admiral Zhao. Admiral Zhao did it better, tbh. What even was this book.

-Morgana has purple eyes?????

-The worst thing? LANCELOT KEPT CALLING ELAINE ‘SHALOTT.’ THAT IS LIKE IF SOMEONE KEPT CALLING ME BY THE NAME OF MY HOMETOWN. WHAT PARALLEL UNIVERSE HAVE I ENTERED INTO THAT THIS BOOK EXISTS. I WANT OUT.

The ONE thing about this book that I liked is that the heroine understands the need for propaganda, and in general, the political intrigue wasn’t awful. That was the one thing. Everything else? Throw it away. Preferably somewhere far away from me, please.

Anyway, this was an awful experience! I possibly enjoyed reading Yu Wu more, and I didn’t even finish that one because the hero was a burning dumpster fire full of toxic waste. A burning dumpster fire full of toxic waste is still better than watching paint dry, though, which was what reading this felt like.

The Camelot Betrayal; a review, in which I finally accept that this series is not going to get better

I realized I wrote a (very long) review on The Guinevere Deception and then forgot to post a review of the sequel to the blog. Oops. I kept meaning to get around to cross-posting my review from Goodreads and then I kept forgetting, but whatever, it’s done now.

The Camelot Betrayal was both…a better and a worse reading experience than the first one in the series. It was better because my expectations were way lowered after that small disaster of a first book, but. I mean, less Mordred? Mordred’s the best character, why is he barely in this. Even though the first book was kinda sorta aggressively mediocre (sorry), I still think the author really could have turned it around in the second book! As it is, though, the trilogy didn’t get worse, but it also very much did not get better.

**This review contains spoilers! And also a little bit of cursing, just in case you’re uncomfortable with that**

I probably spelled some of the names differently from how they’re spelled in the book, because Arthurian names tend to have ten different variants each and I didn’t want to look up each character lmao

I feel like I should knock off a star for making Morgan Mordred’s mom and whatever the fuck this trilogy did to the Pendragon family tree, but you know what? I will put aside my pettiness for today.

(BERTILAK IS GAWAIN’S BOYFRIEND. NOT MORDRED’S DAD. WHAT THE FUCK. LOT IS A CHARACTER THAT EXISTS, HE’S MORDRED’S DAD IN QUITE A FEW VERSIONS OF THE LEGENDS, IT WOULD HAVE BEEN FINE. MAKING BERTILAK MORDRED’S DAD INSTEAD OF GAWAIN’S BOYFRIEND IS HOMOPHOBIA. SEND HELP.)

After thinking about it for awhile, I realized my problem with this book is that it has no fucking plot. (Okay, I also have problems with Arthur and Gwen’s missing personalities, but that’s a rant for another time.) Yeah, sure, there’s some stuff about the Dark Queen–love of my life and I want to kiss her–but she’s a distant threat at best. Arthur occasionally rides off to the cursed lands to do…I don’t know what he does, actually. Guinevere occasionally ties knots. Everyone is concerned, but no one’s really doing anything about the villain? And the villain doesn’t really do anything to them? Villains who aren’t active in their own stories CAN work, but usually only when there’s another, more prominent villain to do their dirty work. Imagine Star Wars without Darth Vader, LOTR without the Ringwraiths and the orc generals. And before you ask, no, Mordred does not fulfill the role of the more active villain. In fact, let me make a list of the things Mordred does:

  1. Convinces Guinevere he doesn’t, actually, want to kill her (this is not a trick to gain her trust and then betray her, in case you were wondering)
  2. Makes out with Guinevere in a dream sequence/vision (was this really him though? Should I count this?)
  3. Helps out Rhoslyn and her girls
  4. Helps Guinevere out when she wanted to leave Camelot at the end [Edit: Okay wow you can really tell I read this in a depression-induced haze because I thought that Guinevere agreed to go with Mordred and Morgana at the end in order to find out the truth about her origins? Okay yeah I started the third book and apparently she left Camelot to find out about her origins and THEN got kidnapped by Mordred and Morgana lmao. It’s really too bad that the first time she tries to make an active decision to further the plot, she immediately gets kidnapped. But anyway! I have no reading comprehension, but my point about there not being an active villain in this book still holds. A character doing one bad thing at the end of a book isn’t enough to make them an active villain]

THAT’S IT. He’s not evil, okay? Yes, he may have committed a small act of eco-terrorism at the end of the last book, but if you’re not going to keep up those villainous acts in the second one, my memory of why I’m supposed to feel conflicted about this guy is going to fade real fast. Besides, as mentioned above, the Dark Queen is the love of my life and I want to kiss her. In my eyes, he did me a favor. Mordred just wants to resurrect grandma and then kick back in a cottage in the woods with his cute not-girlfriend Guinevere and you can’t convince me otherwise.

None of the subplots feel naturally woven into the main plots, because there is no main plot to really weave into. It’s just…Oh hey! I should save that dragon! Oh hey! I should save Iseult now! The story jumps around SO bad. Guinevere doesn’t do anything! Sure, she saves Iseult, but as far as for the main plot? What does she do?? Mordred doesn’t do anything! Arthur might do some things, but he sure as hell won’t tell Guinevere anything about that, because this is a Healthy Relationship in a Feminist Book! A feminist book that lowkey defends persecuting witches, I guess. (Yes, I’m still mad about this! ‘Oh, persecuting witches is bad, but also we aren’t going to call Arthur out for this, because that might make him feel bad.’ Cry me a river.)

Pardon me for assuming that a book with Gwenhwyfach in it might flesh out Lancelot and Guinevere’s relationship with each other a little. I was expecting Gwenhwyfach to trick Arthur into betraying Guinevere and then Lancelot would save her and Guinevere would have to deal with the fact that Arthur doesn’t actually trust her, and she would realize that she’s currently falling for Lancelot and it would be very cute and gay and–I’m getting carried away. Just. Anything but Gwenhwyfach being the annoying little sister who likes party-planning. (I mean, points for not villainizing her, though, I was getting tired of the girl hate.) Guinevere and Lancelot hardly ever have any in-depth conversations, and they don’t really seem to be on the same wavelength. I never have any idea of what they mean to each other. This isn’t even a developed friendship, let alone a romantic relationship.

I realize I accidentally make it sound like Lancelot and Guinevere have a romantic relationship in this book. They don’t. I don’t really know what they feel for each other in this book, tbh? I do think their relationship should have been WAY more fleshed out, whatever it is.

And what is up with how the story portrays Blanchefleur? She does literally nothing wrong in the legend that she’s in, from what I remember. Why is this story so bent on portraying her as an evil harpy? I believe I said this in my reading updates on Goodreads, and I’ll say it again: it’s not very feminist to turn a perfectly fine woman into a misogynist stereotype. I’ll admit I never paid Blanchefleur much mind before, but I love her now. I’m contractually obligated to love every mythological woman who gets portrayed in a shitty way for no reason.

Also, while I do definitely appreciate Brangien and Iseult’s relationship, I can’t help but feel like the story didn’t explore as many opportunities for diversity as it could have. Which is to say, STOP WRITING PALOMIDES OUT OF THE TRISTRAM AND ISEULT STORIES, DAMN IT. If Iseult can have a relationship with Brangien, why can’t Tristram have a relationship with Palomides? That’d be cute. I ship it. Palomides is suspiciously missing from a lot of retellings of Tristram and Iseult, despite the fact that he plays a prominent role in their story in the legends. He’s a Middle Eastern character, and I can’t help but wonder if that has something to do with him hardly ever showing up in retellings. Idk, it just doesn’t sit right with me.
And Gawain’s potential bisexuality hardly ever seems to get explored in mainstream retellings, either. This man made out with a faery knight. I’ve heard that at one point in the Lancelot-Grail cycle, he literally told Lancelot that he wished he were a pretty girl so that Lancelot would fall in love with him. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think he’s straight. I wanted MORE from this character, but alas! He was doomed to be a bit-part role in this book. (For the record, I don’t think Lancelot’s straight in the legends, either. He and the half-giant knight Galehaut definitely had something going on)

(This is COMPLETELY off-topic, but speaking of queer retellings, I want someone to write the Guinevere/Iseult epic one of these days. They were such bros in Le Morte D’Arthur ❤ I have SO many ideas for Arthurian retellings that I’m never going to write. It’s getting worrying.)

And also?? Enby Lancelot seemed to be hinted at at some point in the first book (it’s been a while, but I remember she expressed discomfort with women’s clothing, and I seem to recall that Mordred referred to her as being in a grey area gender-wise), but it’s NEVER mentioned again in this one.

I’ll keep this part brief, because this review is already getting long, but the prose was pretty inconsistent. There were some parts that were legitimately really good, and a lot that…wasn’t. There was a LOT of telling instead of showing, and not in a particularly effective way. I also wish the worldbuilding had been better? I was super confused on how much fantasy!England diverged from real England. The setting never ended up feeling that real.

I know I’m complaining a lot, but I will say that the story was very cute. It was an entertaining read if I turned my brain off! I do like reading about Guinevere and the girls going on adventures! Mordred was also very cute and kept me from DNF-ing ❤ He’s the light of my life and the only reason I rated this more than two stars.

Something that a lot of medieval literature gets and a lot of modern retellings don’t: It’s actually kind of hard to make Arthur the most interesting character and if you can’t do that, PLEASE don’t make everything in the story revolve around him. Like I recently read a retelling from the point of view of freaking Elaine of Astolat that had her revolve around Arthur. Why would you do that. Why. (And when I say ‘read’, I mean read part of and didn’t finish. I’m going to try to finish it so I can review it on the blog, though.)

The Camelot Betrayal might be the one that finally gets me to sit down and finish a fanfic. Mordred and Guinevere were done so dirty by these books.

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.

Fairy Tale OTP Challenge Tag

Arielle made a blog tag! And it’s all about fairy tale OTPs, and there’s also a version for your writing! It’s beautiful!

Not all of the fairy tale couples I answer are ones I hardcore ship, although some of them certainly are. A few of the couples are ones I barely ship but I answered them anyway because they were the only ones I could think of for the category ^.^

(And yes, I know I’ve talked about this topic of ships before, but I hope you’ll be forbearing and allow me to talk about it again. :- D Some of them will probably be ones I’ve talked about many times before, and some of them are new ones.)

1. The first fairy tale OTP you shipped

Beauty and the Beast, of course! Say what you will about Stockholm Syndrome, but I love this story. It’s about loving someone for their personality, which can be kind of a rare message in fairy tales (people fall in love at first sight a LOT and I’m not complaining but it’s still nice to see the other kind of love every now and then).

The Beast is monstrous and inhuman. He truly is frightening at first. But Belle is very good at seeing past appearances. She spends time with him and gets to know him. He isn’t handsome, and he’s not even necessarily as intelligent as everyone else–at least not in the traditional way (I fully believe that there’s more than one way to be intelligent). But Belle falls in love with him anyway, because Belle can see that he is kind and good. Belle loves him for who he is. Belle is human enough to love a monster, and I love that element of the story.

2. The cliché fairy tale OTP that everyone ships but you still love

See above! Beauty and the Beast is probably one of the most popular fairy tales. 😉

3. Your favorite hate-to-love fairy tale OTP

Probably either Prunella or Ivan and the Princess Blue-Eyes. This will come as a shock to no one, of course. 😉 Prunella and Bensiabel are both very sweet characters, and Ivan and the Princess Blue-Eyes is just… a perfect fairy tale. You really have to read it for yourselves. The princess is very murderous. She’s one of my favorite characters of anything ever.

I also like Hades and Persephone so much–though it can probably be argued that it’s not exactly an enemies-to-lovers relationship, because did she actually fall in love with him? Ovid focuses more on Demeter’s thoughts and feelings rather than Persephone, from what I can remember. But I prefer to think that Persephone did love Hades, eventually. (I also prefer to think that Persephone knew exactly what she was doing when she ate that pomegranate, even though I’m not sure if that’s backed up by mythology at all.) Either way, though, Persephone is a deadly, powerful woman, and I love her a lot.

4. The fairy tale OTP with the craziest relationship

Can I answer Ivan and the Princess Blue-Eyes again? There are so many crazy relationships though! How am I supposed to choose!

Oh! And I almost forgot Tam Lin! Janet and Tam Lin are insane but they love each other, so it’s okay. (We only ship them from the version where everything is consensual though, of course. The Tam Lin from the other version can go die.)

Oh, and of course Scheherazade and her husband. That was…something else. Stop murdering people, hero!

Literally no one in Arthuriana has a normal relationship, so I would like to enter all Arthurian ships ever for this category. But more seriously, from everything I remember about Tristram and Iseult, they are…insane. TRISTRAM HAS NO CHILL, PEOPLE. I don’t hardcore ship Tristram and Iseult (I’ll gladly ship Iseult with…literally anyone else, actually. Brangienne. Guinevere. Palomides. Anyone), but they’re crazy enough where I feel obligated to put them here anyway.

5. The best-dressed fairy tale OTP

Probably from…Allerleirauh. I can not spell that. The heroine has a dress as golden as the sun, a dress as silver as the moon, and a dress as shining as the stars. I’d say you can’t get much more best-dressed than that!

I will give East of the Sun, West of the Moon an honorable mention though, just because I had a picture book of that fairy tale when I was young and the heroine’s clothes in that were SO BEAUTIFUL. I think the drawings were Persian-influenced, from what I remember.

(I’m not willing to die for Allerleirauh. I am willing to die for East of the Sun, West of the Moon.)

6. Star-crossed love: the forbidden love fairy tale OTP

I’ll go with the obvious one and answer Rapunzel! It’s not necessarily my favorite fairy tale, but I think it has the potential to be very cute, and I think it deserves more retellings 🙂 The themes in this fairy tale are very interesting as well, and I do like this fairy tale, even if it isn’t my favorite.

The hero and heroine certainly go through a lot for each other, and they definitely deserve their happy ending.

7. The funniest fairy tale OTP

I’m going to have to go with the couple from My Candlestick here. The heroine is hilarious, and I happen to love the pairing of ‘chaotic and slightly bad girl and a guy who barely talks (but both are equally losers).’* Just a weird thing I noticed about my ships.

*NOT AT ALL to be confused with a manic pixie dream girl/stuffed shirt. Those relationships are boring, imo. Or at the very least, most of them are.

Actually…I just realized that Wei Wuxian and Lan Zhan (not from a fairy tale, from a TV show called The Untamed) have that exact same relationship, so apparently it doesn’t even have to be a girl and a guy.

8. The fairy tale OTP with the most growth in their relationship

See Scheherazade. The husband going from ‘serial killer’ to ‘not a serial killer’ was some pretty good character growth.

But more seriously, Ywain and Laudine! From what I remember, Ywain’s whole character arc is about learning to prioritize his wife over tournaments and being a knight and hanging out with his bros, and I think that’s a nice lesson. (I’ll admit I can’t really remember if the lesson is as emphasized in the actual story, or if it was more in a retelling I read when I was little. I’ll also admit that I just found out that I have switched between spelling the name ‘Yvain’ and ‘Ywain’ on this blog and I’m mildly embarrassed. But I’ll probably switch again.)

9. The sweetest, most adorable fairy tale OTP

Kate Crackernuts and her hero? ADORABLE. I loves them. They’re just…so sweet.

The couple from a Chinese fairy tale called The Red Pearls is so CUTE and I love them very much. Liu Hai is such a good husband.

This isn’t a fairy tale (the story is apparently from a very long Indian epic called the Mahabharata that I have not read yet even though I probably should eventually), but I read about Savitri and Satyavan, and Savitri saves her husband and outwits the god of Death and it’s just…They’re so cute! There’s a holiday centered around this story in some parts of India, apparently. This couple just seems…so pure. So unproblematic. Unlike other characters I’ve given love and attention to on this cursed site. So, yeah, it’s not a fairy tale–I think it’s a story from Hindu religion, from what I can tell–but it’s still a very cool story.

Also, can we talk about how cool Savitri’s name is

Also, may we have a very respectful, very artistic, very wonderful Disney movie that doesn’t ruin any part of this

OH, and we can’t forget Lancelot/Galehaut. Lancelot and Galehaut are just…💙💙💙 Galehaut is the lord of the Distant Isles, and he’s the son of a giantess and a knight named Brunor–and apparently, according to Wikipedia, Tristram killed his parents?! Tristram, you small disaster child. Anyway, Galehaut waged a war against Arthur until he realized that Arthur had a knight named Lancelot who just so happened to be extremely cute. Lancelot and Galehaut become best friends and possibly more than friends. 😉 From my understanding, there is much mutual pining between the two. OTP material. (Also, they–*sobs*–ACCORDING TO WIKIPEDIA THEY GET BURIED NEXT TO EACH OTHER)

This story is in the Vulgate Cycle, I think. Galehaut barely shows up in Le Morte D’Arthur, which is probably why we don’t have tons of angsty retellings. But we need some!

Again, we need our Disney movie but we aren’t going to get one for obvious reasons (Disney is a COWARD afraid of true love and also parts of Arthuriana are probably too weird for Disney to attempt anyway, so I doubt we’re likely to get an in-depth retelling outside of cute Sword and the Stone antics)

10. The OTP who snuck up on you, the one you didn’t expect to love

Robin Hood and Maid Marian. While I like Robin Hood, I’ve never gotten too deeply into the legends. But I read a story about Marian here and I love the idea of Marian fighting Robin Hood and falling in love with him. I think it’s based on an actual legend, from what I know? Which is very cool. I henceforth command that every Robin Hood retelling feature Robin Hood and Marian getting into a duel.

Anyway, I like couples who get into sword fights, so I’ll admit I lowkey ship it now. It’s not a ship I’ll die for, but I still like it!

11. The moodiest fairy tale OTP

The fairy tale definitely isn’t perfect, but I love Michael and Lina from a version of The Twelve Dancing Princesses collected by Andrew Lang. I honestly like this version more than the Grimm version, and I’d be very interested in reading a retelling of this one!

Anyway, it is very moody and dramatic. The princesses keep cursing young men to dance in their enchanted castle forevermore. Lina almost puts a curse on Michael. These two have no chill, and I like it.

12. The class-crossed fairy tale OTP

The Laird’s Lass and the Gobha’s Son, a Scottish fairy tale about a girl who falls in love with a blacksmith and then turns herself into a dog in order to force her stubborn father’s hand. This story is so WHOLESOME, and I love it.

13. The obscure fairy tale OTP who isn’t shipped by many people (or anyone)

I’ll probably have to go with one of my Arthurian ships for this one. Although it might be argued that most of the OTPs I’ve mentioned here are at least somewhat obscure?

I don’t think Lancelot/Gawain is very widely shipped, from what I know, but if you’ve read some of my other blog posts, you’ll know I kind of ship it. They’re both characters I like a lot.

14. Your very favorite fairy tale OTP you’ll love for the rest of your days

Heh. Probably Mordred/Guinevere. (I could have put this one for the obscure category, because the fics on AO3 are shamefully few, but I decided not to.) I genuinely love them a lot. I like the idea of Guinevere actively assisting in the fall of Camelot rather than just ending up with a lot of survivor’s guilt and blamed by scholars everywhere (not that I mind Guinevere in those versions, not at all, but PEOPLE NEED TO STOP BLAMING HER FOR THIS and also it’s kind of depressing). I think I’m also attracted to the idea of Mordred attempting the whole courtly love roleplay thing and failing miserably because mate you weren’t supposed to take over the kingdom that’s taking things a little too far. I also just love the inherent drama this ship entails–I love sexy dramatic ships where one or both halves of the couple are perpetually covered in artistic, aesthetic blood.

Also, this ship is actually canon in some versions of the legends, in case you didn’t know. The relationship was by all accounts consensual, she ends up surviving and going to a convent because to hell with these weirdos, she’s getting out, and then Mordred and Arthur, of course, end up killing each other in the pointless battle of the century. But then there’s also the other version where Guinevere goes, “no thank you, I am not, in fact, interested in bigamy. Now if you excuse me, I am off to the Tower of London. Goodbye.”

Anyways, this is a disaster ship on so many levels, but it’s my problematic fave, as they say.

*Chants* D i s n e y m o v i e no I’m kidding it’s probably darker than Disney is willing to go, unfortunately

There weren’t any instructions for tagging, so I won’t do it, but certainly feel free to grab the tag if you wish! Talk to me about fairy tale and Arthuriana related ships in the comments!

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.

A very un-put-together writing update; also, being a slow writer is valid

I wasn’t actually going to post anything today, because my mental health decided to take up extreme sports and go cliff diving (and also I didn’t have a post written up anyway), but then I realized I wanted to post something. So here it is.

(Oh, also my computer broke. And I mean straight-up disintegrated. I can still turn it on and stuff, but it’s not looking good. Thankfully, my sister is letting me use her old laptop. It’s a little bit finicky, but other than that it works fine, so I’m able to still write and stuff. Just…that’s my go-to excuse if I miss any posts now. 😉 )

I haven’t written very much at all this year month, and that’s okay. Honestly. I’m pretty impressed that I managed to get all the stuff done that I did. 4k words written this month! Whoo! (1k of that was spent working on my fanfic, 3k on my novel.) I’m not sure I’ll continue with NaNoWriMo, though, because as I said, mental health, but it has been pretty fun.

It’s okay to write slower than everyone else. I kind of wish I could be a fast writer–I’d like to be able to get all my project ideas completed in a reasonable time. I like working on different stories! But writing slowly means I’ll be able to spend a lot of time with the current projects that I love. And frankly, I’m only *checks* 8606 words into this novel, but I’m already dreading having to end this project, like the sentimental freak I am. Be proud of how much you’ve written, even if you’ve only written a sentence.

Hold up, I’m 8606 words in? Twenty-nine pages?! I’m further in than I thought!

Does anyone else get it where if they go three days without writing or something they immediately start feeling like they aren’t even a writer anymore and they get really ashamed? Because I do that, and it’s a bit ridiculous.

Maybe I fall into a trap of needing to make a wordcount in order to feel like I’ve achieved anything?

I was having trouble getting through this one chapter in my novel, and I promised myself that when I was done with this I would post snippets. That did not help me break through the writer’s block, and I’m not even done with this chapter yet, but I still want to post snippets from this chapter. (Incidentally, I broke the writer’s block by including a scene in between the two chapters from another character’s point of view–Guinevere’s, in case you’re interested–but also getting a certain little word counter thingy called NaNoWriMo helped too. Sometimes all you need to push you through is to break up your rhythm a little.)

But now I need to find snippets that aren’t trash.

Or maybe I’ll post trashy snippets! Why should I only show the semi-decent aspects of myself!

I tried my very best to smile. She grinned back at me. She looked more like a tiger baring her teeth. But she did not look unhandsome.

Written at twelve in the morning and…I do not?? know where this came from?? WHY IS THIS HERE.

By the way, as you can tell, I have finally beat the desire to go back and edit. every. scene as soon as I’m done. I’m fine with editing by the chapter, but if I edit by the scene it’s waaay too easy for me to just decide ‘this whole thing is trash and isn’t going anywhere’ and toss it. For me personally I need to wait until I’ve at least got a chapter down.

NOT THAT YOU CAN TELL THAT I EDIT MY CHAPTERS EITHER.

“Your condolences are appreciated,” I said drily. The corners of her mouth tilted up.

Okay, I kind of like this.

A smile grew over her face that we both knew she did not mean at all. It was not that it was unconvincing. It was only that we both knew. “I am Queen Guinevere,” she murmured, leaning forward. She looked as if she were admitting something mildly embarrassing.

I really like this.

Her hand jerked, the light flickering as it moved, and she stared at me with an intensity that made me uncomfortable. “Really?” she said. “Gawain’s little brother?” I had never thought of myself as ‘Gawain’s little brother’ in my life.

I don’t know why, but one of my absolute favorite things is having characters in an extremely dysfunctional/otherwise bad situation and then just have them treat it like it’s completely normal. I don’t know why.

She was a tall woman, taller than me, and her brown skin was dry and the skin on her hands were cracked. But it was her eyes I couldn’t look away from. Her eyes were endless and ancient and dead. There were dark hollows underneath them like she hadn’t slept in weeks.

Does someone want to crown me queen of sexy character descriptions or what? That is sarcasm, by the way. Literally no one should want to crown me queen of sexy character descriptions.

But I’m kind of sick of sexy character descriptions anyway. Screw your emerald eyes, Warner! (Okay sorry jk we love your emerald/jade/whatever eyes. Even though they’re ridiculous. NO ONE ELSE GETS A PASS THOUGH.)

Does anyone else type their characters to things way too much? Hogwarts house, colour, whatever that weird personality-type-thing-of-debatable-scientific-accuracy was (MBTI. It was MBTI), etc. I don’t know why I like doing it, I just do.

Mordred’s a Slytherin with a dash of Hufflepuff, I think. Agravaine is…I don’t know, but it’s not Slytherin. BRB gonna go waste my time doing some stupid quiz again. (According to the knockoff Pottermore quiz I took, he’s a tie between Gryffindor and…Hufflepuff?! Nah I’m not buying this I think he’s just outside the Harry Potter house system. He has no house. Gryffindor might be a fit, though.) Guinevere is certainly Slythern. Just in case anyone was interested, which you weren’t.

On a complete and total side note, why on earth are Ravenclaw and Slytherin separate houses? Sure, there is a difference between cunning and general intelligence, but…if you’re intelligent, don’t you also have the capacity to strategize? And you might say that it’s the difference between intelligence for its own sake and intelligence for the sake of ambition–to get you a job, to help you succeed–but those often go hand in hand. I, for one, love writing for its own sake, but I would also very much like to be published and make money one of these days. I don’t know, I just don’t understand.

Oh, weird thing I realized the other day about my story: I tend to imagine my characters with the same accent as me, as if any sixth century British character would ever have the same accent as a fairly accentless American, but you know, Mordred and his brothers are, technically, from Scotland I guess. So I finally looked up what a Scottish accent sounded like, and now I…I can’t get the accent out of my head? I’m thinking in a Scottish accent? Send help?

Also. I studiously avoid writing dialect because I just have this sense that giving the characters a way of speaking exactly like my own is still less offensive than butchering whatever the characters’ dialects are. (And I mean dialect as in speaking patterns, not dialect as in doing bizarre things with your spelling. No one should butcher any spelling here, and you’re probably getting it wrong anyway, 19th century authors. Whoops, did this just turn into a callout post?) Has anyone had to research these sorts of things, and how did you do it? How do you fight the fear that you’re butchering everything that is sacred and you now have an army of angry…Scottish people in this case I guess at your door? I don’t want an army of angry Scottish people at my door! England already tried that!

And hey, I still probably wouldn’t bother with ‘accurate’ speech patterns in this case, because hello it is historical and if I were to be truly accurate no one would be able to understand me. Let us translate this novel from ancient Welsh.

Oh! I also started a fanfic for a show you’ve probably never heard of (unless you read my last blog post), but I’m going to tell you about the fanfic anyway! So there’s Seonho, who is an extremely ridiculous character, from this Korean drama called My Country, which is an extremely ridiculous show. I love it, of course. Anyway, the show (spoilers if you’re actually interested in watching it, just warning you) fridged the hero’s sister, which kind of annoys me, considering I liked the sister very much. So now I’m just over here writing a Seonho/Yeon AU. Where, you know, they escape from evil dad and everything. And I have no idea what direction this is going to take, but I have lots of extremely stupid ideas. But hey! At least I can’t outdo the show in stupidity!

(If I ever do outdo the show in stupidity, please send me help. And also maybe kill me, because that’s a state I don’t want to be in.)

I’ve got five pages of fanfic so far! Yay!

So, uh…snippets?

“Of course,” he said. His smile grew still more uneven. He always had that nervous smile whenever he lied to her. “I always make it out alive, don’t I?” He looked to the side, the smile beginning to slip off his face.

I’ll admit, I kind of love these morons.

She used to have nightmares about losing Seonho.

She would wander and wander through the house and the courtyard, but the rooms would be empty. The house was abandoned. Except for Nam Jeon. She never saw him, but Nam Jeon would always be there.

She’d wake up terrified each time, but Seonho was always there in the morning, a tired smile on his face. She never knew about the future, though. She would never know about that.

Idk if it’s any good I guess you decide

She ran ahead to keep up. “You’re injured.”

“It’s very thoughtful of you to care,” he said kindly, inclining his head. She rolled her eyes.

“We’re likely to get caught if you collapse, orabeoni,” she said, nudging his shoulder without thinking about it. He hissed in a breath. “I’m sorry,” she said.

I really hate how WordPress formats my quotes? It looks ugly, and I can’t figure out how to change it. Does anyone have any advice for this? I also can’t figure out how to change the color of a few words without changing the entire paragraph. Am I technology-clueless or is WordPress?

But anyway, let’s be proud of our writing. 💙 And I’m sorry that this post is way too long for what it is. It’s not a very good post, but that’s sort of the point. Stuff straight from our brains doesn’t necessarily make a very good post, but they’re certainly satisfying to write. I’ll try to get out a more polished post next Saturday, but I certainly make no promises.

Know the Novel: Introduction; in which I participate in a linkup last minute

I’m doing Christine‘s linkup! I’ve been thinking of maybe participating in Nanowrimo after my SAT. I don’t expect to ‘win’ Nano, but it would be nice to have something motivating me to write every day. But whether I participate or not, I really wanted to do Christine’s linkup she hosted! Because the questions looked amazing.

I’m sorry, because I feel like the quality of this post is a bit all over the place, but I’m just dropping this in between study sessions, so that’s why. 🙂

1. What first sparked the idea for this novel?

The idea started with a series that was a childhood favorite. I was rereading it in the car one day, and suddenly I got the idea to do an Arthurian retelling from Mordred’s POV. I cautiously brought the idea of an Arthurian retelling up to my older sister, and since she apparently can read my mind or something, she wanted me to do it from Mordred’s point of view. (She cannot read my mind. We simply have very similar tastes in trashy villains.)

Reactions from my family varied, from my older sister’s “Oh my God, do it,” to my mother and little sister’s “So you’re writing a trashy villain story AGAIN.”

Ideas gotten from stories can be of varying quality–sometimes they’re much too similar to their source–but in this case, it was extremely different. ❤

2. Share a blurb!

NOOOO

Some people make this look so easy. I cannot.

3. Where does the story take place? What are some of your favorite aspects about the setting?

Medieval England. It’s kind of more of a High Medieval-ish Arthurian story than a more historical 6th century one. Specifically, it’s kind of 12th century-ish, because I read Chretien de Troyes (you should too) and got influenced. But it’s not very historically accurate at ALL.

My favorite thing about this setting is all the things I learn while researching! (I feel like that’s the same with most of my settings, tbh.) I had kind of a stereotyped idea of what the middle ages were like before researching for this. But it’s actually a very complex time period with a lot of interesting stories, just like other time periods. I feel like kind of an idiot for not guessing that before, but at least now I’ve learned a nice lesson about not believing everything people tell you. 🙂

4. Tell us about your protagonist(s).

And here is where I forget each and every one of my characters’ personality traits. What is a personality trait? What is personality? What is thought?

Okay, we have Mordred, who is really tired and needs a nap. He faints like a Gothic heroine, because apparently too much Emily St. Aubert influence. (I need to finish Udolpho. Somebody make me finish that book.) He’s quiet. He’s pretty stubborn. He’s very loyal to a very few people. He has very bad social skills (which is absolutely NOT a trait I share with him, what are you talking about).

And then there are a bunch of other important characters and stuff, but WRITING THAT ABOVE PARAGRAPH WAS HARD ENOUGH, I TELL YOU.

Incidentally, this is the largest cast I’ve ever written? Usually I can count my cast on one hand. This is so hard. How do you people who always write large casts do it?

5. Who (or what) is the antagonist?

Look, I don’t know anymore, okay? Who is the villain? Is Mordred a villain? Is it Arthur? I don’t know.

I feel like most of my stories don’t have clear-cut villains. There might be characters who are bad, but I’m pretty sure I can count my actual villains on one hand. I honestly find that kind of strange, now that I think about it. Maybe it’s because my stories tend to focus more on internal conflict? Idk.

6. What excites you the most about this novel?

Firstly, this got me into Arthurian legends! I always used to avoid it for some reason, but I got into it as a result of this story, and I love it so much! Arthurian legends are like a soap opera that then got a bunch of fanfic written about it, and then the fanfic got accepted as canon for some reason. It’s such a mess, and I love it.

Secondly, I like a lot of the themes in this, I love the characters, and I love the drama. These morons are so over-dramatic.

7. Is this going to be a series? standalone? something else?

Probably a standalone. Most of my stories are. This venture did spawn several other story ideas, but who even knows.

8. Are you plotting? pantsing? plansting?

I guess plantsing? My notes are spread out and scattered across a dozen different documents. I have a basic outline, but it’s mostly in my head. I think that would be plantsing.

9. Name a few things that makes this story unique.

You accuse me of originality, linkup? Do you know me?

Okay, I’m kidding. I do genuinely feel that this story is at least different from the things I’ve read, but it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what. I asked my sister, and she said that the characters are more comfortable with the family dysfunction than in most stories, and that the family dysfunction isn’t as sensationalized, so there’s that.

10. Share a fun “extra” of the story (a song or full playlist, some aesthetics, a collage, a Pinterest board, a map you’ve made, a special theme you’re going to incorporate, ANYTHING you want to share!).

My sister made me a playlist, which aww.

I also made a Pinterest board, of course.

Also, I reread a scene that I’d written a couple months ago, and even though technically I’m not sure if it actually makes sense as far as plot and backstory, it kept me engaged and entertained. Which is really nice.

So, I’m off to go study some more, as I should. My SATs are in a week.

ヽ(゚Д゚)ノ

Jabbering About a Retelling | Language of Worlds Linkup

So, I turned eighteen this month. NO I WASN’T READY THANK YOU FOR ASKING, LIFE. But anyway, I figured it’d be a nice birthday present to myself to allow me to jabber about my novel here for a bit! Because I don’t think I’ve actually done that much on this blog. I’m just sort of private about my writing, which explains why I made a whole blog to document my writing process. But talking about my writing sort of motivates me, and I need motivation, because I have not been writing in this summer heat. Or doing anything much, tbh. I cannot wait for summer to be over.

Anyway, I discovered a writing linkup called Language of Worlds that gives out several questions for you to answer about your novel every two months, and I figured this was the perfect opportunity to talk about it!

The story is an Arthurian retelling from Mordred’s point of view, and it’s sort of hard to write and I’m not very far in yet, but I love writing it. Mordred has a pretty strong voice, I understand most of the characters, and I enjoy writing politics even though I’ll probably inevitably butcher it. Pro tip: If you want to write court politics, don’t sleep through history class like I did.

1. How long have you been writing this story?

HA HA HA THE QUESTION OF SHAME. Ahem. I think like a year, but I’ve been working pretty intermittently. I’ve been mostly outlining because I’ll put off the actual writing process for as long as I can and YOU CAN’T STOP ME

2. Who’s your favorite character? Why?

No! Don’t make me pick favorites!

Kidding, it’s Mordred. This has could change as I keep writing of course, but I do love the character. Parental issues are so fun to write, and boy does Mordred deliver on parental issues. And he’s a bit paranoid, highly intuitive, and very quiet, and also I gave him bad social skills and an insane sleep schedule so I could relate to him. (Almost all of my main characters have a bad sleep schedule so I can relate to them. I actually made a bad sleep schedule part of my magic system this time around because overkill I guess)

3. Which character do you consider the “goodest of the good”?

Uhh…So, I don’t tend to have a lot of really nice characters in general. I used to feel guilty about having so many antiheroes, especially since I had such a big cast, but then I realized that the characters in Arthurian legend are usually antiheroes. But Lancelot seems pretty sweet so far in my writing. Hopefully he stays that way.

4. Which character is the “baddest of the bad”?

Because they’re all brooding antiheroes and antiheroines, this is also a hard question to answer–who am I kidding, it’s probably Morgause. Just let me live in denial and pretend I did not make the mom the villain (feminism yay). Although I do feel like she’s a likable character if you forget the stuff she did in the backstory? Maybe? Am I delusional? probably

She’s not the main villain at all. I’ve noticed it’s kind of a thing in my writing where I won’t have a clearcut main villain. I have no idea why that is.

5. If you were to have tea (or coffee!) with one character, which one would you pick? Why?

…Probably Guinevere. Or Gareth, or Lancelot, or…Basically, probably one of my chiller characters. Now, I wouldn’t call Guinevere actually chill, but she acts chill, at least.

6. Describe your storyworld.

England, a bit of a mix of time periods, but mostly 12th century because I loved Chretien de Troyes’ stories, Camelot, castles, lots of greenery I think.

7. You’ve fallen into your book! Which place would you be happiest at?

*intense panicking* Just anywhere away from the center of action, please, I do not want to die, but knowing me I always get pushed into the center of action. At least until I decide that I’m out and then lock myself in my room.

Somerset is lovely and I want to go to Somerset irl tho

8. Which place would you like to avoid at all costs? (Or, explore to know its secrets a little bit better?)

Eh, I don’t really care. There are some people I might want to avoid.

9. Share an aesthetic!

So, I don’t know the copyright laws about posting photos that aren’t yours, and I’m a smol moth who doesn’t want to fall afoul of copyright laws and is possibly overthinking this whole thing, but I have a Pinterest board so

10. Share a snippet!

So I have no idea what to put here. But how about this one:

It was just a bad dream. I swayed on my feet, the adrenaline dead and the exhaustion back full force. “I can’t…stand up,” I slurred. Father started toward me. For a moment I saw him like I saw him in my dreams, a bloody king with spear in hand. Bloody just like the house. But then he turned into Mother. “You were right,” I told her. “If I couldn’t stand up, I shouldn’t have tried to ride a horse.” She walked toward me slowly, her eyebrows knitted together in confusion. That was odd. I thought she lifted an eyebrow when she got confused or surprised.

Now I’m panicking and wondering if maybe that was the worst passage I could have possibly shared, but I know it’s not the worst passage I could have possibly shared because there is a LOT of bad writing in this baby draft and I love it.

For some context I…I feel like it’s sort of hard to give context on this, but that’s just because I’m bad at giving context. But basically Mordred a) tends to think he can do things when he’s sick or injured and it doesn’t always work out, and b) Mordred so far is spending most of this book out of it and seeing things. It’s fun (for me).

This is such an awful, awful book and I LOVE IT. I do want to start writing again. I love writing something stupid and trashy. I love this book. I think I am motivated. So mission = accomplished (it’s only really accomplished if I write, though, so we’ll see how it goes on that front).