Book Reviews

Young King Arthur and the Round Table Knights (King Arthur Series 1) by Siryn Sueng at Deep Hearts YA

Genre Gay / Fantasy / High Fantasy / Magic / Royalty/Nobility / Warriors/Soldiers / Wizards & Witches / Young Adult / Action/Adventure
Reviewed by ParisDude on 18-September-2020

Book Blurb

There was no reason for Arthur to think he would ever become king.

A peasant and son of a baker, Arthur grew up in the castle town of Camelot. When he attended the Choosing Ceremony, it was merely to see who would draw the Holy Sword, Excalibur—to see who would inherit the throne of the recently departed King Uther. He never expected the sword would choose him…

But it did.

Now, at the young age of fourteen, he has become King Arthur, and for all the power he has gained, he has made just as many enemies. Surrounded by the Knights of the Round Table, and led by the mysterious mage, Merlin, Arthur is grateful for his allies, though he would just as soon return to his old life. Surely, someone more worthy should be chosen as king.

Arthur is in the middle of chaos, a world where everyone wants more than they let on, where many hate the idea of a young boy with no noble background being crowned king; where cold stares and whispered words are just as sharp as an assassin’s blade.

As Arthur fends for his life, he must draw on the strength of his knights, especially fifteen-year-old Mordred, who becomes closer to him than the mere bounds of duty. He must become king, not just in name, but in his heart.

And he must do it quickly, because his enemies want more than just his crown…

 

Book Review

Siryn Sueng offers a new take on the story of the legendary King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table, focusing in this first book of her series on the king’s coming to the throne and the first, troublesome months of his rule. In Sueng’s book Arthur, fourteen-year-old son of a bakerwoman, is living in the castle town of Camelot when King Uther Pendragon dies. At once, the Choosing of the new king begins. The late king’s mystical-magical sword Excalibur is thrust into an anvil, the knights of the realm asked to try to remove it; only if the sword chooses no one amongst them may the commons have a got at it, too. Arthur, standing in the crowd, notices his cousin Illian, disguised as a knight, queuing up with the other nobles. Knowing that it is a crime punishable by death to impersonate a knight, Arthur tries to prevent Illian from touching the sword… trips over his own feet, grabs the sword, and pulls it out of the anvil. Excalibur has chosen him—the fourteen-year-old commoner.

 

The late king’s mighty main counselor Merlin the mage immediately whisks Arthur off to the castle, where he has to find a way to fit into this new and unexpected role. King of a powerful realm! Leader of the Knights of the Round Table (including all the usual suspects - Lancelot, Percival, Gawain, Galahad, Tristan, and Mordred)! Arthur has a hard time coming to terms with this new reality. Luckily, he has his young page Elias, about his age, who helps him digest the news; Merlin turns out to be a gentle and reassuring presence, too. But almost at once, Arthur is attacked in his own room and only barely manages to survive. From then on, it’s assassination attempt upon assassination attempt, by means of a snake, by direct attack, by poison, by magic even… Who is his enemy? Who wants Arthur dead? Can it be Morgause, the ruler of Tintagenel? Her creepy son? One of the other, disdainful and untrusting lords? An unknown druid? Morgan Le Fey, ruthless and powerful sorceress? As if all that weren’t hard enough, Arthur discovers that between him and handsome Mordred there might be much more than the mere loyalty between a king and his knight. The fanciful Choosing of the new king becomes a fight for his life and fight for his love…

 

I admit I was quite excited when I received this book even if I feared it might look pale compared to Marion Zimmer Bradley’s fantasy classic “The Mists of Avalon”, one of my most favorite books ever. Alas, yes, “Young King Arthur and the Round Table Knights”, while having its sweet moments, showed some weaknesses. The worldbuilding, so powerful in Zimmer Bradley’s take on this legend, was almost absent. I was hardly able to build a vivid image of the castle layout, the surroundings, let alone the times the story is set in. Anachronistic wordings didn’t help; for instance, Elias, the page, asked Arthur at one moment of self-doubt, “Did you want to talk about it?” like a concerned friend might do today. Or Gawain said to Illian (imprisoned for his attempt of impersonating a knight), “I wouldn’t be surprised if he [i.e. Arthur] throws you under the guillotine…” The gibbet, I might have accepted; the guillotine (the term is derived from Joseph-Ignace Guillotin, who lived in France… in the 18th century!), no, sorry. Add to that that there were other clumsily written passages (“the more they talked, the more insecure the tension […] grew”—either the talkers grew insecure, or the tension grew; both together don’t make much sense; or, “their voices were high-pitched as they gasped”—how is that even possible?). Add to that the implausible fact that after Arthur’s Choosing, the realm was supposed to be ruled by a bunch of teenagers (the Knights of the Round Table, to my utter surprise, were between fourteen and nineteen years old), unaided by any elder statesman or senior counselor (Merlin seems to be in his twenties, too). Add to that the fact that the romantic tension between Arthur and Mordred arose because one is king and the other man his knight—not, as I had expected, because a gay love story would have been frowned upon back then (“frowned upon” being a weak way to say both would probably have been killed instantly)…

 

And yet. I had my niggles throughout the read, I had my reservations as to the plot, I didn’t get as much worldbuilding as I would have liked, but not once did it occur to me that I could simply close the book in midread. Worse, I realized I really wanted to know what would happen next, and then the chapter after, and then… I have to say I was drawn in by the sweet blooming of love between Arthur and Mordred. By the young king desperately trying to grow into his crushing role as ruler and leader of a kingdom. By the fierce loyalty some of the knights showed from the start (personally, I would rather have fallen in love with Lancelot or olive-skinned Percival than Mordred, but to each one his taste…). By how Arthur managed to win over the more reluctant ones. By Merlin wielding magic left, right, and center—those who know me are aware I’m a big fan of fantasy books where magical activity is shown. In fact, when all is said and done, I swept through the book in no time and noticed that, despite the faults I found, I was enjoying the read, feeling highly entertained. And that, I guess, is better than the highest praise.

 

 

 

 

DISCLAIMER: Books reviewed on this site were usually provided at no cost by the author. This book has been provided by Deep Hearts YA for the purpose of a review.

 

Additional Information

Format ebook and print
Length Novel, 210 pages
Heat Level
Publication Date 18-September-2020
Price $4.99 ebook, $12.99 paperback
Buy Link https://www.amazon.com/Young-Arthur-Round-Table-Knights-ebook/dp/B08GFPRFF8