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

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.

In Which I Admit That the Books I Hate Aren’t COMPLETELY Terrible (yes, it was hard)

So, I have a few books that one could call my arch-nemeses. There are books I strongly dislike, and then there are books that came into my house, punched me in the face, and stole my dog. (Actually, I’m just a drama queen.) I’m here to talk about the latter! In a strange way, I kind of love them. I mean, I hate them, but I love them, so why not talk about them? I just want to talk about the good things these books had going for them and why, ultimately, those good things weren’t enough to get me to like them. Poor books.

Sarah came up with this idea, and it was too good for me to pass up. So I stole it.

Six of Crows

That’s right! Because I like to start things off with a bit of spicy controversy, I’m here to bash the book community’s fave.

I mean, say good things. That’s what we’re here for.

I like that Inej was Romani-coded? It’s sad, but I’ve hardly ever seen Romani main characters. They’re usually relegated either to the MyStIcAl side characters or else to the eeeevil vagrant role. Sometimes both, for good measure! So yeah, I liked that this book actually gave Inej a real, major role.

I also liked…

Hold on. Let me think.

Okay, okay, I’ll be fair. I actually liked or at least didn’t mind most of the side characters. Inej, the deuteragonist, was underdeveloped with poorly written trauma, but her basic concept was good. I couldn’t connect with Jesper, but again, I think the basic concept was good, and he wouldn’t need nearly as much fleshing out in order to get me to like him as Inej. I actually genuinely liked Wylan and Matthias! I’ll always (sometimes) have a hankering for the cute, soft characters, so Wylan was nice, and Matthias was the one character I would say was genuinely fleshed-out and complex. I legit loved Matthias! He was cool! And yeah, he did a lot of stupid things and had kind of violent tendencies, but I think it definitely made sense in context with his backstory. I like characters who go through some kind of conflict. Especially characters who realize they’re on the wrong side and slowly realize they have to leave behind everything they were taught. Just…God, I will always love that kind of arc.

(As a side note, it’s been a while since I read this, but I cannot remember one personality trait Nina had? Did she have any??)

Anyway, I don’t think I’d hate this book at all if it weren’t for the fact that I wanted to punt the smirking edgelord of a hero across the Pacific the whole time I was reading. (Did Kaz smirk? He seems like the sort of guy who would smirk.) Now, I don’t think I would have liked it even without Kaz–I personally didn’t find a lot of depth to the story–but Kaz did a LOT to tip my feelings over the edge.

Also, I just love gratuitous glorified torture scenes!! 😍 We stan complex handlings of violence. (And the anti-Asian racism–I’m SORRY I know I’m supposed to be saying good things.)

In conclusion, I stan Matthias and kind-of Wylan and would ditch everyone else.

The Cruel Prince

Madoc. Madoc was the only good part of this book and I stand by what I said. The book kept trying to tell me he was sooo violent and unmanageable but he was actually the most reasonable and intelligent character in the book? I still agree with what I said in my review about how he should have been the protagonist of the story. Also, he’s the only character who actually, you know…does stuff?

I also like the premise of this story! Human girl takes over fairy kingdom is not a bad plot at all. I just wish there were more actually-taking-over-the-kingdom parts and less vaguely rapey parts.

Red Riding Hood

Actually, you know what, there were no good parts of this book. Throw the whole thing away.

I reviewed it, sort of

Snow Like Ashes

Oh God.

I hated this one for the girl-hate and the dissing of sewists. And also Meira was a brat and the soldiers fighting for the villain were demonized even though they were literally magically brainwashed?? Apparently? I guess? And the plot was the most cliche high-fantasy plot you can come across 😷

I read this when I was young, so it has been a while, but I thought the concept of dividing kingdoms into seasons was very cool. Like sure, it’s not actually possible if you apply logic to it, but fantasy doesn’t always work off of logical assumptions! Also, I liked how the people from Winter had white hair and were immune to the cold, especially because I would also like to be immune to the weather.

Also, THERON OR THEON OR WHATEVER HIGH-FANTASY NAME HE HAD. HE WAS THE BEST. I stan my poet prince! He literally was so unproblematic and just wanted to help people, and was so good at connecting with people on an individual level 💙 But of course Meira went for the cardboard one instead.

The Belles

The fat queer character got killed off in a really graphic and unnecessary way, but I mostly just disliked it because every character (aside from the fat queer character who died) was flat. And the worldbuilding wasn’t that developed, either?

But! I don’t really have strong feelings about this book one way or the other. I mean, I didn’t like it, but there wasn’t a lot I hated, either. I do think that, while the world was underdeveloped, the story definitely created a strong atmosphere? I liked that. Also, it was nice to have a black mc in a fantasy novel! (Do I capitalize the words black and white when referring to ethnicity? Google keeps giving me conflicting answers and I’m so confused.) Having a black main character in a fantasy shouldn’t be something that’s unusual, but unfortunately I feel like black mcs in fantasy can be a little hard to come across. (They’re definitely there, though!) Either that or else I’m looking in the wrong places.

I don’t even hate this book, I just dislike it. So it shouldn’t even be on this list, but I needed a way to pad out that word count somehow ❤

Strange the Dreamer & Muse of Nightmares

I said on Goodreads that this duology felt like a fever dream, and I stand by what I said! It was long-winded and just sooo problematic >.< The handling of slavery and sexual assault was low-key abysmal? I mean, Eril-Fane was okay, but Ruby being implied to assault slaves was not as quirky as the story thought it was! And Lazlo was such a Mary Sue, my God. Anyway, this and The Cruel Prince are my favorite books to hate! (I have favorite books to hate because I’m an incredibly hateful person.)

I think some of the concepts set up in this book were very, very cool. I still love the idea of the ghost bird, and I love the idea of someone who can manipulate dreams! I’d kind of like to write a character with dream powers myself someday. Also, I loved the library and I kind of wish the whole book could have taken place there!

Eril-Fane is the king of character development and you cannot tell me otherwise. He deserved a better book. He deserved to be the protagonist. I love him! (And frankly, I’m kind of salty over the fact that the narrative kept dragging him over the coals for killing those kids. Which sounds like an absolutely RIDICULOUS thing to say out of context, but seriously, he had no reason to believe that the kids wouldn’t be super-powered montrous spawns of Satan. His decision definitely made sense in context with both what Eril-Fane knew at the time and with everything he had been through, and he was just trying to prevent his country’s people from going through systematic mass rape and murder again. In fact, you know what? The kids we saw were spawns of Satan. I say Eril-Fane should have killed more kids and we should all respect his right to kill kids–is that a mob with pitchforks and torches I see outside my window?)

And the way science/alchemy (kind of the same thing in this world) was portrayed in this was beautiful and amazing and it should have!! been the focus of the book!! The science was waay more interesting than any magic systems the book had. But really, I think the author honestly got the magical, wonderful nature of science that a lot of people miss. (Including me. I FAILED at science.)

I loved Thyon, but I have no idea if I would have latched onto him if there were other good characters who had screen-time. (My king Eril-Fane deserved SO much more screen-time *cries*) There were…a lot of things that went wrong, to say the least, but his arc was so compelling! But yeah, I liked him because he was mentally ill and queer thank GOD I have Wei Wuxian to fill that need now he was a fairly unique take on a character type I love! Give me all the cold-hearted characters who realize they have feelings, okay? Some of his scenes were really emotional, especially in the second book? I wish the whole book could have been like the best Thyon scenes.

Anyway, there’s a lot I like about this book, which is why I hate it so much. There’s nothing I hate more than something I wish I could like. What was it Cardan said? ‘I hate you so much all I can think of is you?’ ‘I hate you so much I can barely breathe?’ Something like that? But I have a simple plan to fix this book, and all disaster can be averted! Except not, because it’s already published. But oh well!

anyway, I think the story should have been a trashy, problematic gay romance between Lazlo and Thyon. That, cutting most of the purple prose, and adding in some adventure would have made this one of my favorites. As well as cutting the weird parts with the sexual assault, the unhandled xenophobia and internalized homophobia (seriously, a word of advice to people out there, if you aren’t going to handle important topics and devote time to them please do not put them in your story), and the weirdly ableist bits. Then we would have the perfect story.

Or, you know, it could have just been a tasteful novel about Eril-Fane and Azareen and that would have been great.

Anyway, while you guys are absolutely not allowed to read my Strange the Dreamer review because it was my first review and it was TERRIBLE, here’s my Muse of Nightmares review

The Guinevere Deception

This isn’t a book I hate, more one that I have strongly mixed feelings about, but I put this here so I can say one thing:

MORDRED.

That is all.

Many thanks to Sarah for letting me borrow her idea! I literally had so much fun with this. I feel like this was more of a roast than actually saying good things about the stories, but oh well.

The Identity Crisis Book Tag

Sophie (I love her name, btw) did a book tag this week, and while she didn’t tag anyone, I loved the tag so much? I had to do it. 🙂 It’s not like I have anything better to do then take a lot of quizzes, anyway. A plague is happening! I might as well have a bit of fun.

So, basically, I have to take a bunch of book quizzes and find out which characters I’m most like! I’m excited.

The Rules

  1. Take all the quizzes down below and record your answers somehow. I decided to just copy the text from each quiz and paste it into my post, but screenshots work too! Whatever floats your goat (Yes goat. I SAID WHAT I SAID).
  2. NO CHEATING. You get one shot to take each quiz my friends. I’m watching you. ∗Suspicious squinty eyes∗
  3. Use this post to give credit to the creator Loretta @ The Laughing Listener or tag me on twitter @LaughnListener so I can see everyone’s answers!!
  4. Tag some friends to spread the fun

(Sophie added a couple of quizzes and changed some of them, I think, so it’s a little different then how it was originally. Also, the quiz answers are in italics)

Shadowhunters

I barely remember this book. I think I read it when I was like…eleven? I thought it was dumb, but I was like eleven, lol. I’m not rereading it to find out, though!

(I chose Riverdale for the tv show and spite as my motivation lmao) (I don’t watch Riverdale but the clips I’ve seen of it were hilarious in the worst way possible and I loved them)

Jem Carstairs and Alec Lightwood!

You’re selfless yet guarded, protective and romantic. You value those around you more than yourself, and sometimes you need to be reminded to take a moment for yourself! You’re the friend that everyone loves to have around, even if you doubt it sometimes.

JEM?? I haven’t read the book he’s in. From what I heard, isn’t he the cute, sweet guy who’s always picking up the pieces after Tessa and Will’s toxic relationship? And he’s like, been poisoned or something? And Alec is the queer character, right?

I’ve never read the Infernal Devices and it’s been a really long time since I’ve read City of Bones, so I apologize if I got something wrong, but anyway, I couldn’t be happier with this result! Jem sounded like the best character in the book.

Throne of Glass

I know nothing about this book!

Chaol Westfall

You’re Chaol Westfall, Captain of the Guard: you’re loyal and dependable to the death, with a mind as sharp as the swords you wield. But watch that your sardonic sense of humour doesn’t come across as plain old sarcastic, and lighten up from time to time – who wants to be seen as a grump?

I…I guess? I don’t know who this is. Fun quiz though!

The Hunger Games

Katniss Everdeen

You are strong-willed, enduring, determined, and sacrificing. You are not afraid to speak your mind and there is no use in trying to change it, because you’re here to get down to business and to protect your loved ones, no matter who stands in the way.

As surprised as I am by this–I kind of thought I’d get Peeta–this makes a lot of sense. I think I am the most like Katniss. We’re both pretty guarded and we have a sharp, sarcastic sense of humor, I think.

Harry Potter

I legitimately have no idea which Harry Potter character I’m most like. Buzzfeed, inform me!

Neville Longbottom!!!

You’re awkward and clumsy and hate being the center of attention. But you’re brave and big-hearted and people can always trust you to help them out in a bad situation.

I mean, this does not describe me at all and Buzzfeed is wrong, but I still feel so lucky! I love Neville.

A Court of Thorns and Roses

I know nothing about this book other than what Cindy said about it! (From the youtube channel Read with Cindy. She’s hilarious. I feel like I have a good idea of what the book is about just from her.)

Amren

You are Amren. You can come of as vain, cunning, and temperamental, but under all that you can be caring. You prefer being by yourself. Nearly everyone is terrified of you and don’t want to get on your bad side, because you would make there life worse than hell. You only have a small group of friends and you would do anything for them, and them for you.

Okay, I have no idea who this is, but I feel like I’m getting a lot of the mean characters here and it’s starting to be kind of funny. In case you’re wondering, yes, most online quizzes have told me I’m a Slytherin.

The Raven Cycle

If I don’t get Gansey the quiz is wrong

Update: I got Richard Gansey!!

Ah, Gansey. You really know how to get people together and you probably have no idea how important that skill is. You’re likely invested in one particular subject or task, or you have a great interest in finding what someone might call “the meaning of your life”. Like Gansey, you’re a natural mediator. You have an almost supernatural trait which allows you to easily communicate with different kinds of people. A trait that makes you very likable amongst your peers and surroundings. Though, be careful not to hide your feelings under all that politeness. People are not made of plastic.

So, I’m not sure if the description fits me, because I’m not sure if I’m good at talking to people or not, but I definitely am a lot like Gansey in general. I love history and folklore, and I would drag my friends off on a silly quest to wake a sleeping, centuries-old king regardless of the consequences! (If I had friends, that is. XD ) But seriously, I’ve always really related to Gansey. I’m probably a mixture of Gansey and Ronan, because I like learning things but I’m also really angry a lot

Twilight

This book is such a guilty pleasure for me.

Jasper…Hale?!!!

Hey, Jasper. Howdy there! You’re quite reserved, but we know there’s a whole lot of personality underneath that icy undead skin of yours. People look to you for leadership in times of conflict — no one’s better at strategizing than you. Just remember: It’s OK to smile every once in a while.

So I am, apparently, the Confederate soldier who wants to eat people. Yay!

I’m even from the South. The quiz knew. *sobs* I’m so sorry, everyone. Is it bad that I find this hilarious?

The Cruel Prince

I hated this book lmao

I’m going to say I’m most like Madoc, though! I related to him most, at least

Jude.

You are strong and once you make a decision, you won’t back down. Your resilience is both admirable and terrifying at the same time.

Oh.

Whatever. I’m most like Madoc.

Lunar Chronicles

Fun fact! I have never read any of these books.

Winter

Step-daughter of Queen Levana. She regarded as the most beautiful person on Luna, even with three scars across her face, which are rumored to have been caused by a jealous Levana. She refuses to use her Lunar gift of glamouring and manipulation and has slowly been driven crazy as a result.

She sounds cool!

Percy Jackson

If I don’t get Nico it’s the quiz’s fault, not mine! I have related to that kid since I was a wee eleven-year-old.

Magnus Chase

You’re super resourceful and self-reliant, although this can encourage your loner instincts. But when you make friends, you stick up for them. You just do this in your own clever, funny way, avoiding conflict unless absolutely necessary. But hey, we know you’re not averse to mixing it up if you have to. The fact that you can make it all look so easy, all while focusing on diet and fitness? Teach us your ways, Einherji.

What? I don’t even know who this is. Whatever.

An Ember in the Ashes

I loved this book a lot

Elias

Like Elias, who doesn’t want the violent life of a soldier that’s been carved out for him and is fighting for his soul, you value freedom above all else.

I knew I’d get this cinnamon bun! I love this boy.

Six of Crows

I didn’t really like this book either…*hides* *I’m sorry it’s my fault* I hope I get Wylan or Inej, though. They were both really cool.

Kaz…

Okay, before I post the description, I have to say, WHAT? I’m so mad.

You are most like Kaz, a criminal prodigy and rising star among Ketterdam’s gangs. Cunning, quick-witted, and a born leader, you are a planner who leaves nothing to chance. But beware: though you excel at trickery, you’re dangerously good at fooling yourself.

Okay, okay, maybe the ‘dangerously good at fooling yourself’ part MIGHT be true, under certain circumstances. I’ll be right back, I have to become a seventeen-year-old Gary Stu mob boss and pull off a heist. (I’m eighteen, though. This is already going to be hard.)

I would like to apologize to everyone’s problematic faves I insulted! I love YA, but I love bashing YA more. This was such a hilarious and fun thing to do (I still can’t believe I got JASPER of all people, that was probably the funniest one to me).

Okay, and before I forget (because I’ve been forgetting for about a month), I am now on Goodreads! Or something. I still can’t figure out how Goodreads works, and I’ve accidentally posted a review before I was ready twice now, so that’s fun!

Anyway, I’m not tagging anyone, but if you want to do this, feel free. 😉

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.

Allow me to say that I don’t think this author is scared of powerful women, as her heroine in her other book, Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein, is possibly one of my favorites. I’m just talking about this phenomenon in general.

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, and you have no idea how much it pains me to call the heroine of a novel stupid. It’s a very overused complaint for female characters that is sometimes rooted in sexism, but I can’t help how I feel, I’m sorry. 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.

But I think my reaction to the love square in this book is kind of the same as my reaction to the ships in the actual legends. Mordred/Guinevere is chaotic and interesting. Lancelot/Guinevere is very nice and wonderful (if somewhat unhealthy at times, in the legends that is), but not quite as appealing to me personally. Arthur is…not the best fairy tale boyfriend. Not the worst, certainly! But definitely not as good as some.

(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.

Muse of Nightmares; a review, in which bad decisions Were Made (by me, I made all the bad decisions here)

Trigger warning for brief discussion of sexual assault and harassment

This book was…rather infuriating.

There, I said it. I am aware that this is entirely my fault. No, I should not have read this. Yes, I should have known better. Yes, I am an idiot and tried to read it anyway.

*sobs* Why am I so stupid, I honestly thought this book would be better than the first one and have better pacing and writing and stuff I’m a MORON

Anyway. Anyway, even though I am a moron, please do allow me to discuss this book, because I have Thoughts. OH MAN do I have thoughts. But before I write this review, I kind of want to talk about a few things I would change in my review of the previous book insofar as my wording, because…no, that wasn’t a very good review. Allow me to list two things:

  • I hope it didn’t come across like this, but I really didn’t mean to imply that the thing that’s unrealistic about Lazlo is that he’s poor and accomplished, or that he’s been abused and is a nice person. I absolutely don’t think either of those things would have been unrealistic. My main problem is that Lazlo is so young and has no training, and we’ve never seen him discuss how he learned these skills or what set him on the path to become a historian/philologist, but he has accomplished so, so much. That is what broke my suspension of disbelief. Likewise, I didn’t understand how Lazlo could be abused and show so very few signs of trauma. He never even mentioned mental health as a thing he had to work through. The abuse kind of felt tacked on for tragedy points (though I’m sure the author didn’t mean to do that).
  • Secondly, in my review of Strange the Dreamer, I said Ruby was ‘making out’ with the ghost slaves without their consent, but I’m pretty sure she was raping them. I was scared to say it back then just in case I had misinterpreted what was being said, but from everything I remember, it was rape. Someone else mentioned this too, and man is the quote creepier than I remembered. I think I actually flinched when I read that.

Yeah, I haven’t even started the review yet and I’m already going on and on. I am longwinded, but I am also bitter and have sat through this long book just so I could write this review, so I think some longwindedness is deserved. And yes, my bitterness is absolutely my fault! I should not have tricked myself into thinking that I liked the first book, and I should not have tricked myself into thinking that the second would be better. It…certainly was not better. In fact, I liked it much less.

Anyway, onto the review.

I honestly gave Thyon waay too much credit in my review of the previous book. Why did I fall for the classist jerk? He’s kind of a moron. Also, HE DIDN’T NEED TO STEAL LAZLO’S BOOKS. HE COULD HAVE ASKED FOR THE FREAKING PRIMARY SOURCES, WHICH PROBABLY WOULD HAVE BEEN EASIER TO SIFT THROUGH THAN SOME COLLEGE STUDENT’S DERANGED SCRIBBLINGS. Anyway, I was way too nice to h–

Strange, a god? Through all his musing, Thyon had not allowed those words to scrape against each other. “That’s absurd,” he said tightly.

Calixte agreed, though for a different reason. Thyon objected to the notion that Lazlo could be divine, powerful.

Oh. OH. I remember why I love him now. It also really doesn’t help that he’s the only character who gets called out for his bad behavior. The others, who sometimes do horrific things, do not. Yeah, it’s possible I wouldn’t have liked him in a better book, but I like him in comparison to the others. Okay. Yeah, we’re already getting off to a good start, book.

There were still a couple of things I liked. Eril-Fane was definitely the high point of this story. He’s a person who has suffered, but who is still going to step up and do the right thing, even if he doesn’t always know the right thing is. He’s such a brave person, and he should have been the main character. He was ten times more interesting than everyone else combined. There, I said it. He’s amazing. I do have a problem with his character arc, though, specifically in regards to how the arc handles trauma-induced fear of touching people. Why does fiction treat this like some deal-breaking thing in a relationship? I have a huge problem with Azareen saying that he’s not exactly her husband. HE LITERALLY KILLED A GOD FOR YOU, AZAREEN. I’M PRETTY SURE HE LOVES YOU. Sometimes your husband goes through horrible trauma and can’t touch you anymore, and you have to live with them and love them anyway. It happens. Aside from that, I’m pretty happy with Eril-Fane’s arc, though. That was an annoying note, but the rest of his arc was really good.

I thought the pacing in this book was better! That’s not saying much, though, considering the pacing of the first book, and there were still parts in this that dragged. But stuff happened, and the periods of time where stuff did not happen were not as common as before. I think the writing was also better; the placement of adjectives was more careful, and there weren’t nearly as many places where I had to slow down to try to figure out what the author was trying to say. In fact, there were scenes in this that really gripped me. I LOVED the scenes with Nova. Nova was amazing and also would have been a better contender for the role of main character than Lazlo Strange.

(In fact, I have a list of characters who would have made better main characters than Lazlo Strange. I’ll let you guess everyone on that list. I think I’ve made my opinions clear.)

Lazlo and Sarai, as in the previous book, were incredibly boring. It certainly didn’t change in this book. I don’t understand why on earth anyone would fall for someone just because he has nice dreams. I have nice dreams sometimes, Sarai. Are you going to make a value judgement on me based off of that? The foundation of their relationship is incredibly flimsy, so when Lazlo considers risking an entire city for her, it’s painful to watch. Especially since they’ve only known each other for what, three weeks? Also, don’t…Please don’t make out in the room where Sarai’s mother raped people for two hundred years. That’s like making out in fantasy Auschwitz.* It’s gross.

*Do note that I do not lightly compare things to Auschwitz. I just can’t think of another place with as bad a connotation as the room in the story would have in the setting.

And Thyon’s character arc. Oh my goodness. It kind of felt like…Like I guess if the author tried to make me a cake, but she didn’t know which kind of cake I liked, so then she made me a coconut cake and coconut cake makes me gag. So now I’m left with a cake I can’t eat and a feeling of vague discomfort.

Tell me if this sounds like a good idea, okay? Let’s take a character. He’ll be a rich aristocrat and the vehicle we use to talk about classism, xenophobia, and sexism. But wait! He’ll also be gay, mentally ill, and an abuse survivor! There’s no way this can go wrong!

Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that cute romantic bickering should never, ever consist of Ruza telling Thyon, ‘Hey, last time we spoke you seemed vaguely xenophobic, and why are you cutting yourself, lol that’s so weird.’ It makes both Ruza and Thyon look terrible. The whole scene seems so ableist! It is bad, bad writing. Also? Also, if Ruza lists several very good reasons as to why he dislikes Thyon and follows it up with, ‘and he’s so pretty he doesn’t look real, what a loser,’* it’s not cute, okay? It gives off the impression that Ruza is only into Thyon for Thyon’s looks (which was the impression I was getting throughout the novel, tbh, because I can’t think why else Ruza would be into him). And I don’t actually care if you’re deriding someone for being too ugly or too pretty. Negative comments on someone’s personal appearance ain’t cute, Ruza. Don’t do it.

*All dialogue in this paragraph is paraphrased. Obviously.

(Also, allow me to say that if Ruza really loved Thyon, he would have gotten him gloves when they worked with rope. True love doesn’t bandage your hands after the fact. True love gets you gloves.)

Oh, and remember how I liked Calixte in the last book? Yeah, I don’t…Why on earth did she ask Thyon if he was a virgin and if he was gay? Actually, I know why. She did it in order to get under his skin. That’s scummy. It’s especially unforgivable to me since Thyon comes from a homophobic society. I just…don’t like how Calixte handled any of this, and she never had a moment where she sat down and realized that she might have been unkind. Ruza also never sat down and discussed Thyon cutting himself and apologized for not taking it more seriously. Come to think of it, I’m not sure if Thyon apologized for how he treated Ruza, either?? At least the narrative treated Thyon’s wrongdoings as horrible, though, and he had actual consequences. Ruza and Calixte never got even that.

Also, I just…do not remember any of Thyon’s alleged xenophobia from the previous book? It’s possible I just missed it. It was a long book and I tended to ignore out-of-character actions anyway. I don’t have a copy on hand, so I can’t check, but if it was not mentioned in the previous book, then just…Yeah. Okay. Racism is a wonderful trait to give a character last minute, especially right before you get him together with the brown character. And I certainly never noticed Thyon being weird to Ruza in this book (please correct me if I was an idiot and missed something), so…why was this in there? The only thing the ableism and racism do for the story is to make the romance uncomfortable and awkward. Both characters deserve better.

I also love how Sarai criticizes Thyon for having nightmares. He probably has nightmares because he has PTSD, Sarai. Why on earth would you…I don’t know anymore. I don’t know why someone would be like this. She’s seen the effects of PTSD before! She has no right to judge someone for having nightmares! I guess if the trauma isn’t caused by her parents, it doesn’t matter? I don’t know. It’s a bad book.

Yeah, I don’t…I don’t really like Sarai. Is she just mad at Thyon because he interrupted her makeout scene with Lazlo in the last book? That’s the only thing that makes sense. I love Thyon for that, by the way. He may be a problematic fave, but he’s my problematic fave who saved me from the terrible makeout session.

I HATED that Minya was given a redemption arc. She’s an abuser and a slaver. She gaslights Sarai, she took away Sarai’s medicine in the first book, and she threatens to kill Sarai for good. And she’s literally enslaved hundreds of people. This isn’t a character you redeem. There’s a reason why some villains are only redeemed in death, okay? The things they have done are so awful that the narrative CAN’T let them live. They can’t feasibly make their way back into society. Also, was it just me, or did the narrative extend more sympathy to her than to Thyon? You…You know, the mentally ill queer abuse survivor who has not enslaved anyone? It was…uncomfortable.

Ruby and Feral were AWFUL, as they were in the previous book. Ruby gets upset at Feral at one point for not spying on her in the bath without her consent. Ruby also spies on Feral without his consent and Feral claims to be…happy about it. That wasn’t creepy at all. (It was that point when I knew I was never DNFing this book. I was going to see this to the bitter end so I could scream my rage into the void that was the internet.) Ruby and Feral are…fifteen. Honestly, Ruby is so weird that I’d almost think that it’s intentionally set up to show that Ruby has no morals and has been raised by wolves, basically. That would have been fine. The problem is that people from the outside do not seem to view her general behavior as odd. That is a big problem.

Apart from the creepy consent issues (and that’s a pretty big thing to ignore), I just…don’t really want to read about a fifteen-year-old exploring her sexuality? I’m pretty sure most fifteen-year-olds don’t want to read that, either? Am I wrong?

Also, just something personal that bothered me: Why are a bunch of characters in what I assume is a vaguely pan-West Asian setting referencing purgatory? Isn’t that a very specifically Catholic concept?

As for the stuff I liked…Well, as mentioned, I loved Eril-Fane and Nova, and I thought the scenes we saw from Thyon’s point of view were interesting, even though I hated how some of the issues were handled. Honestly, some of Thyon’s thought patterns got me. The way his anxiety was portrayed was realistic, even though I didn’t like how the other characters reacted to it. I think I would have liked it a lot better if Thyon could have come to his own personal realizations away from the main friend group, both for his sake and for Ruza’s. I did think that the scenes where Thyon learned humility were really powerful, despite my issues with the arc. And there were moments where I got lost in the story! Some scenes, particularly the ones with Nova, were enthralling. Overall, though, I think a lot of this story could have been better thought through, and a lot of it could have been made more interesting. I get why other people like it. I just…couldn’t get behind it.

You know what infuriates me the most, though? When I first started Strange the Dreamer, I thought Lazlo/Thyon was going to be a thing. Thyon really was introduced like a love interest! But as I kept reading, it soon became clear that Lazlo/Thyon was not, in fact, going to be a thing. Essentially, I was cheated out of two Renaissance era gay scholars–an alchemist and a historian–teaming up to save an ancient city in the enemies-to-lovers romance of the century. I was CHEATED of that, and no, I am not over this. I will never be over this.

[Edit: My sister was reading aloud a Lazlo/Sarai makeout scene and laughing at it, and apparently…Sarai’s…hearts and veins…started glowing? Anyway, I leave you with this:

(Source)
You know, if Sarai had actually been some Eldritch abomination, I would have liked it a lot better.

]

[Edit no. 2: Can I just say the way slavery was handled in this was HORRIBLE? Minya’s slaves were such an afterthought. Only three of Minya’s slaves were named. One had no lines, and the other two were villainized. Sarai briefly mentions that they really ought to free the slaves, and Lazlo hastens to reassure her that the slavery is not her fault. However, I never noticed her fighting very hard for the slaves’ freedom in either book, and she certainly wasn’t willing to sacrifice herself for them. I also notice that Nova, the woman who has freed many slaves, is villainized, while Sarai and her friends, who own slaves, are not. Essentially, what with Minya’s slavery and Ruby’s sexual assault, both characters are doing the same thing their parents did while everyone else looks the other way. It is GROSS.]

Please do note that I do not blame the author for any of the stuff that bugged me. I don’t think anyone sets out to write a mentally ill queer character or a brown character with the intention of portraying them in an offensive or off-putting way (except for a few people, but let’s not go there). I don’t know the author personally, and it’s possible she’s a perfectly lovely person who just wrote something that annoyed me. It’s also certainly possible that some mentally ill queer people out there did enjoy the book! I just had problems with it, but my problems are with the book, not her.

I did get some fanfic out of this endeavour, because I did lowkey like the first book, so reading this duology wasn’t entirely pointless! Overall, though, it wasn’t really for me, and I should have known.

(As an addendum, since Eril-Fane is kind of a King Arthur figure–both characters are war heroes who killed thirty babies, and I’m pretty sure that was an intentional reference–can you IMAGINE how amazing Sarai would have been as a Mordred figure? I want Sarai who is an actual antiheroine instead of being ‘sympathetic’ and vaguely unpleasant. Also, I refuse to acknowledge Minya as a nod to Mordred, even though that’s a possibility, because for all Mordred’s flaws, he never enslaved anyone. Mordred is a good boy. Minya is not.)

Also, I am living in fear of the day the author announces that it was not, in fact, a duology and she’s writing a third book and then my stupid brain won’t let me leave the series unfinished, but hopefully that won’t happen (sorry, fans of this book)

Goodbye, 2019 (I didn’t think I would miss you, but I guess I kind of do)

I refuse to believe it’s 2020. I feel like, in some part of my brain, it’s still 1215 and we’re still talking about the Magna Carta and King Arthur and whatever it was we all talked about in 1215, I don’t know. But anyway, I decided to write a yearly recap of 2019 or somesuch. God knows why, because no one could be less interested in what I did this year than I am.

Or is that true? It’s true that, as of the past two months, things have been looking up. I’ve been writing far more. I’ve been (astonishingly) learning lots of things. I’ve found books I love, and have been, in general, interacting with my life more. It figures that I only start liking the year once it’s almost over.

Life

Nah, I don’t really want to talk about this.

Okay, I turned eighteen this year! And I also did decently on my SATs. That’s…Is that all I did? I feel like I spent most of this year in hiding.

But hey, I started a blog! That’s something.

Reading

You know, sometimes I see people say, ‘so, I’ve hit such a massive reading slump lately. I’ve only read 5401 books this month,’ and I’m just…No! You people are doing fine, don’t beat yourselves up over it! Sometimes I only read two books a year!

Shockingly, I did not only read two books this year. Let’s see if I can get these in order (I may miss some):

This one was very good. This book is so delightfully quirky while still getting quite dark in places, and can I say that dark fantasy that doesn’t take itself too seriously is my favorite thing? I also loved the bi rep so, so much, and it came at a time when I needed it, too. I’ll admit I was a bit scared when I (accidentally) read a spoiler about Adam and Ronan, because I just couldn’t see how they would work well together? But Adam got a lot of character development in this book, and I actually like him now, and something about Ronan and him really do just click. I will admit that I do think their relationship could have been built up over the previous two books, but it still works.

And also like…the plot was good and whatever other boring stuff you want me to talk about, but we all know I’m really here for the ships.

I will say one thing, though: More could have and should have been done with Gwenllian. You can’t just drop a magical character from the 14th century there in your story and then leave her to her own devices.

Eh. The Raven King was okay, and the writing was still gorgeous as usual. But I can’t help but feel like the ending was pretty anticlimactic. I remember feeling, right after I finished it, that I wish the author had written a historical fantasy about Glendower instead. I don’t know why. (I guess it is kind of an unfair complaint to say, ‘I liked this book, but I wish the author had written a completely different book in a different genre.’) I think the history behind all the worldbuilding was the really, really fascinating thing about all this, and it’s the part of the story that is consistently underplayed.

Also, did Ronan…Did Ronan really make a racist joke behind his Asian friend’s back, or did I misread that? And Blue, who gets so up-in-arms about other stuff, was willing to just laugh it off? I hope I misread that. (I don’t have a copy on hand right now, so I can’t say for sure. It did jump out at me when I was reading it, though. I know someone else mentioned it too, so I assume I didn’t misinterpret because tired or something.) I mean, it’s definitely not unrealistic for a white boy from the south, but it is a bit…disappointing.

Yeah. It was an okay book. Definitely not perfect. I still love the other three books, though.

This was just a three star read. Maybe a two? I don’t know. It wasn’t the worst book ever, but I didn’t love it at all. I liked parts of it (the setting, a couple of the characters, how alchemy was portrayed), and I hated other parts (the fact that most of the cast was underdeveloped, among other things). I wrote a review of this, which was actually my very first book review? I’m unreasonably proud of the post, considering it’s terrible, but the review still does make me laugh, so that’s good.

On the bright side, I did write some fanfic for this, and the book got me to look up some stuff about chemistry and alchemy, so that’s excellent. Did you know that the science of chemistry actually comes out of alchemy? Darn it, now I wish I’d actually learned some more chemistry. I want to be an alchemist, too.

I actually did pick up the second book at the library, and so far it’s way worse than the first one. My plan is to power through on the sheer force of my own salt so I can write a review, but I may DNF it.

In case you’re wondering, the English title is Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation

So, objectively, this is a terrible book. Or, more accurately, there are very large peaks and dips in the quality. The plotting is excellent, and it can actually get very suspenseful and creepy sometimes. The romance is freaking cringey. Like, it’s probably a Shatter Me on the levels of books that I like, as in, this got a LOT of emotions out of me at five in the morning, but is it good? Would I read it again? Nah.

But this is also the first book I’ve ever read with a bi main character. And I know it’s kind of stupid to look for representation in a Boy’s Love novel, from everything I’ve heard about the genre, but–I don’t think it was terrible? It wasn’t the best ever, but I don’t think it was terrible. And the characters honestly seem to love each other and have a lot of chemistry and they don’t die at the end. So I think that was what caused my unreasonably happy reaction over this book.

(Note that I am not averse to queer main characters dying at the end, as long as it’s because they’re going up against the evil empire and there was no way out of that alive, and not because one character dies of AIDS and the other jumps off a cliff because something something homophobia. Just like…don’t make it tacky. But it’s still incredibly nice when queer characters don’t die.)

I will say that I think the denouement is the weakest part of the book. Sex scenes are nearly impossible to get right, and kinky sex scenes are not really my preferred thing to read–no shame to you if you like them, of course (I should note that I skimmed the sex scene hard after about a quarter of the way through it, so I can’t tell you much about the quality, except…it is difficult to make a sex scene appealing to me and this wasn’t any different). And I also skimmed through a couple of the post-credits short stories and it seemed like they were kinda shit, so I didn’t read them ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ But I’m reviewing the novel here, not the short stories.

I also honestly cannot tell you if any parts of this novel were problematic, because I read this at five in the morning and my brain can not tell what’s problematic and what isn’t at five in the morning. Sorry.

Overall, I liked the book, but I’m not sure I’d read it again, just in case those happy memories were a lie.

A really excellent book overall, but I won’t say much here because I actually wrote a review and have yet to post it.

I LOVE THIS BOOK. Easily my favorite book of 2019. I do plan on writing a review, but just in case I don’t get it up, read this for demon butlers, stubborn librarians, and absentminded sorcerers. And also, the story has a Howl’s Moving Castle feel, and it’s just really amazing in general. Go read it.

I think that was all the fiction I read this year? I could have read more and forgotten, but I don’t know.

Writing

I barely wrote anything at the start of the year, but I’m starting to get back into the flow of things. I’ve actually started writing fanfiction, which I used to never write, and so far it’s really fun. I also put four short stories onto my blog! I was going to link them in this post, but then I realized I have a little page with their links up there at the top of this website. So you can check them out if you want to.

In case you were wondering about my opinion on them, which you probably weren’t, I think ‘Bran and the Bear’ and ‘The Skeleton Harp’ are the best written, technically speaking, but ‘Sepideh and the Jinni’ and ‘The King and the Courtier’ are my personal favorites. My opinion could change completely by next week.

I also finally learned how to actually plot things this year, I think. And I think my writing may be beginning to hold together better? Hopefully? Anyway, I love writing, and even though it tried to the best of its ability, 2019 did not get to change that.

Blogging

Obviously, I started a blog. I also posted some things on the blog, and I can’t really pick a favorite or even list my top favorites because I’m just that self-absorbed and like all of them, but I liked all my fairy tale and fairy tale-related stuff and also I reread my Cruel Prince review every time I want a laugh.

When I started this blog, I expected to consistently cringe over my posts a month after I put them out, but I actually don’t? It feels kind of nice to put my most badly-written self out on the internet. I mean, sure, my first couple of posts are objectively cringy, but ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ And some of them aren’t as bad as I thought they would be. I thought my post on Mordred and Guinevere’s relationship was terrible when I first put it out, but when I reread it a couple months ago, I didn’t think it was too bad. (Now, I could be completely delusional on this matter.) (Also, man did I used to overuse italics.)

I was thinking about listing my favorite bloggers like El did (with permission to take her idea, of course), but then I realized I’d have to list literally everyone I follow, so maybe not. You’re all great, seriously.

Anyway, screw it, despite the hard stuff, it has been a great year, and I’m so happy to make it to the end of it with you guys. Thank you for supporting me this year, and happy New Year!