The Guinevere Deception // had potential, but didn’t live up to my expectations

Hello friends, I hope you’re doing well! Today, I’m going to be doing my very first review of the year!!

*cue confetti and trumpets*

Seriously, the last proper review I did was in November of last year. I keep making goals to do more reviews, I keep telling myself to do more reviews, and all my books keep judging me silently waiting for me to do reviews, but I just. don’t. do. the. reviews.

I’m fantastic like that.

But don’t worry, today I’m finally going to make good on my self-promise to actually do reviews and give you one today. The book that gets this wonderful honor is The Guinevere Deception by Kiersten White.

I had such high expectations for this novel since I remember it being popular on GoodReads for a while. Now, the curious thing is that I can’t remember if it was popular because everyone was one-starring it or five-starring it. I honestly don’t know, but I know I’ve seen that cover a lot, so I kind of expected it to be really good.

Lesson learned. Next time, I’ll pay attention to whether its popularity stems from good or bad reviews.

This is going to be a longer review than usual, but I know you’re positively dying to hear what I have to say. And don’t worry, all spoilers are in dropdowns, so you can skip them if you’d like.

Now, without further ado, let’s get started!

Cover and synopsis are from Goodreads.

Young Adult, Fantasy, Retelling

The Guinevere Deception
by Kiersten White

There is nothing in the world as magical and terrifying as a girl.

Princess Guinevere has come to Camelot to wed a stranger: the charismatic King Arthur. With magic clawing at the kingdom’s borders, the great wizard Merlin conjured a solution — send in Guinevere to be Arthur’s wife… and his protector from those who want to see the young king’s idyllic city fail. The catch? Guinevere’s real name — and her true identity — is a secret. She is a changeling, a girl who has given up everything to protect Camelot.

To keep Arthur safe, Guinevere must navigate a court in which the old — including Arthur’s own family — demand things continue as they have been, and the new — those drawn by the dream of Camelot — fight for a better way to live. And always, in the green hearts of forests and the black depths of lakes, magic lies in wait to reclaim the land. Arthur’s knights believe they are strong enough to face any threat, but Guinevere knows it will take more than swords to keep Camelot free.

Deadly jousts, duplicitous knights, and forbidden romances are nothing compared to the greatest threat of all: the girl with the long black hair, riding on horseback through the dark woods toward Arthur. Because when your whole existence is a lie, how can you trust even yourself?

trigger warnings: mention of rape, death, some violence*

*This is not an extensive list, just things I noted while reading.

As the title and synopsis suggest, this book is set in Arthur’s world with all the knights, wizards, and magic. I’ll be honest, I never really liked the original Arthur legend. The honor and glory of being a knight isn’t something I care about and that time period in general is kind of boring to me.

I kind of hoped that this book would do some amazing worldbuilding and make Camelot a much cooler, richer, and more exquisite sounding fantasy world, but it fell pretty flat in that aspect. It was just medieval times with magic, and the only thing I was even mildly excited about was the clothes, which we didn’t get a whole ton of.

The first thing that disappointed me was the magic. I wanted to see more of the magical abilities and understand the limitations of each type, but that wasn’t completely explored as much as I wanted. Which makes sense because magic is banned in Camelot, but considering all the magical things happening, I think there could have been more explanations included.

There were also some mentions of how nobody was to see Guinevere before she was married (she wore a veil coming to Camelot), and how scandalous it was for a man to touch her even if he was just helping her, and that Guinevere couldn’t show any skin except for her face in public. All those little tidbits of the culture were pretty cool, and I wanted to know more about the history behind them. It really didn’t have to be anything extensive, like it could have explained the cultural norms as stemming from old wives’ tales or something like that.

The only thing that really defined their world besides the magic was the concept of knights. That was okay; again, that’s not really my thing, but it was pretty cool to see how big of a deal it was for the people of Camelot and to Arthur himself.

Overall, the worldbuilding did disappoint me, but if you’re into knights, you might like it much better.

The plot wasn’t bad, but it’s also not super remarkable. I didn’t love it, and I saw something coming before it happened, so that was really disappointing.

The biggest problem with the plot was the fact that I didn’t really feel like there was a threat against Arthur. Which is the basis of the entire story, so the fact that I didn’t feel like there really was threat undermined everything.

A few poisonings, attempted assassinations, or something of the sort would have added more spice to the story and made it feel real.

The synopsis also made it seem like there would be a lot of intrigue and scheming going on within the court, but nothing kind of happened there? The most court drama Guinevere had to deal with was playing a diplomatic queen and visiting all the court ladies while trying to avoid their petty grudges and jealousy.

I don’t know, maybe I’ve just read too many one-misstep-will-cause-you-to-die kind of court dramas but this was really so. boring. There was no wit or quick-thinking needed and the fate of the world wasn’t hanging in the balance.

One thing that I did like about the plot was the mystery surrounding the Patchwork Knight. That was pretty cool, and I really like how it ended. I can’t really say much more without spoiling the rest of the story.

Click here to see my thoughts on some spoilers

The Patchwork Knight being a girl was actually really neat, and I love how it created a unique spin on Sir Lancelot’s story. To be honest, I don’t know Sir Lancelot’s original story super duper well, but I know he was an important part of Arthur’s circle, so seeing a new twist on it was pretty cool.

The other spoiler I wanted to talk about was that of Merlin and Isolde and the story of how Arthur came to be. I am very confused. Based on how I understood it, Merlin was the one who came to Isolde as her husband and therefore he is technically Arthur’s father? Not the bad king that Arthur overthrew and who everyone thinks is actually Arthur’s father? So that makes Guinevere and Arthur half-siblings??

I feel like I really really understood that wrong, so any clarification would be awesome. And if that’s really how it happened, then…dude. Merlin. You’ve messed up quite royally this time.

Another thing about the plot that wasn’t really explored is who Guinevere was before becoming Guinevere. There’s so many valid questions that Guinevere raised about her lack of a mother, and her lack of any memories of her childhood while Merlin was running around being Arthur’s wizard.

But Guinevere didn’t actually do anything to find answers about that until it was too late. Though the ending is making me think that the Lady of the Lake is her mom and Merlin is her dad (maybe? honestly, Merlin doesn’t strike me as the type to fall in love or be going around and fathering people) and he stole Guinevere away? But why?

So many questions, so few answers.

At the start of the book, I didn’t really know how I felt about Guinevere. She was just “meh, okay” in the beginning.

Arthur though, I instantly liked. He was so in command and acted older for his age, while still being utterly clueless about a lot of things. The funniest part was when Guinevere was trying to discreetly ask how their sleeping arrangement was going to work since they were supposed to be ~married~ and Arthur wasn’t picking up on her discreet references to the situation.

I love those kinds of awkward moments.

Sir Mordred and Brangien were the two other notable characters that were introduced at the start, and I didn’t trust either of them. I was suspicious that Mordred could be the Dark Queen’s spy but I also felt that he could also turn out to be one of Guinevere’s reluctant allies.

As the story progressed though, all those initial feelings reversed course.

I ended up not liking Guinevere at all. She was so childishly single-minded about the potential threat to Arthur and I was metaphorically banging my head on the wall because we weren’t learning anything thanks to her focus on the mysterious Patchwork Knight. The very fact that she was so focused on him made me know that the Patchwork Knight was not the threat and it was killing me how we couldn’t explore any other possibilities since we were stuck in her head.

Sir Mordred and Brangien on the other hand, gained my trust, and I actually ended up liking them a lot better. Mordred specifically seemed to have a fascinating backstory that I wanted to know so badly. But alas, we were stuck in the amazing Guinevere’s mind so we didn’t get to find that out.

Why did I like Mordred when I was so suspicious of him initially? He was funny, and his easy banter with Brangien was a welcome relief at times. He also cared a lot about Guinevere and I appreciated him for not shaming her for her phobia of water and instead helping her save face with the people of Camelot. He also hid her secrets, which made me even more curious about his backstory and at the same time thankful that Guinevere’s identity wasn’t ruined.

Though, in my opinion, Guinevere should have been more curious by that, but I digress.

Click here to see my thoughts on some spoilers

I knew Mordred was going to be the bad guy about 65% into the book. Why? Because Guinevere was too obsessed about the Patchwork Knight and Rhoslyn and there was only a handful of people who could have been the bad guy. And anyway, it’s usually the person that the author makes you trust that ends up being the spy/bad guy, so I figured it would be Mordred or Brangien.

That was also the point where Guinevere disobeyed Arthur and used fire cleansing to save Sir Tristan, and Mordred saw her do it. Yet he didn’t say anything. A few chapters later where it changed to the Dark Queen’s point of view, she said that her wolves hadn’t been able to find Guinevere and the others because of the confusion knots that Guinevere had made, but she’d seen Guinevere use fire. That just confirmed my hunch that Mordred was her spy.

I was so disappointed to find out that I was right.

Brangien likewise was so kind to Guinevere and helped her navigate her new life. She was almost like an older sister, spilling all the palace scandals, ensuring that Guinevere kept up the proper appearance of a queen (not that Brangien knew that Guinevere wasn’t the real Guinevere), and being salty at a lot of people lol. I really wish she’d opened up more so we could have known her better.

Arthur grew kind of bland as the story continued. Considering this was all about protecting Arthur, he was pretty absent for a good portion of the book and when he was there, he was just being King and stuff. He was just really bland.

And of course, I do have to say something about Merlin, because what’s a Camelot retelling without Merlin?

Merlin is the embodiment of every annoying sensei/master/teacher who tells you that you are the special magical prophesized person who can save the world from darkness and evil and when you ask the very important question of how, they proceed to either:

a) say that it’s not their place to tell you/you’ve always been smart, you’ll figure it out

b) give you cryptic words of “advice”/a prophecy

c) disappear

d) do all of the above and disappear

I don’t know why all the wise senseis/masters/teachers have to be so. annoying. and so. cryptic. Life would be SO MUCH EASIER if they just simply spent the same breath with which they do all that drama to explain exactly what you need to do to save the world.

But I guess it’ll end the book before it starts, right? Ugh.

Anyway, that was Merlin: super confusing and super annoying. And he was only present in the book for like three pages, but even that is enough for you to know that that’s the kind of person he is.

I think I’ve read too many dark fantasies where it’s normal for people to die left and right and the entire world is crumbling around everyone. That possibly explains why this felt so tame and boring.

Despite this not living up to my expectations, I am still intrigued by Mordred and I’m willing to give the plot a second chance, so I’ll be continuing with the next book.

Hopefully Book #2 will redeem the series in my eyes.

My questions for you:

  • Have you read a Camelot retelling before?
  • If you’ve read The Guinevere Deception, what did you think of it? Was Guinevere also frustrating to you? Did you find the plot just okay?
  • Do you think the fact that I usually read darker fantasies was the reason why this felt rather meh?
  • Most importantly, did you like this review style?

Share your thoughts in the comments below!

41 thoughts on “The Guinevere Deception // had potential, but didn’t live up to my expectations

  1. I have this book and I have started it but I just didn’t get into it? I’m not far enough in to really pinpoint why but there was just something kind of boring about it. I’ll continue it one day though lol

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Nice review, I can see why this book didn’t work for you though. I admit I hadn’t heard of this one before. I’m a big fan of the Arthurian legend and I’ve been reading a few retellings recently, so I’ll add this to my list.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This was a fun review to read! Yes, I really like the format. I think it really lays out all the main thoughts nicely.
    I have read a few Camelot retellings, the best I can think of being Tracy Deonn’s “Legendborn”. I’ve read “classic” retellings, but that one was my fave. The characters were really very interesting and I liked the critical eye it gave the original legend. Better at least than Mark Twain’s attempt, which was just an anti-medieval rant. 🙄
    I find the “magic = illegal’ thing weird for this. I’m curious to know how that was done, seeing that Merlin was, uh, magical. If witchcraft had been, it would make more sense considering Morgana, but I’m guessing that wasn’t the case?
    The storie’s risks sound pretty low to me too. I didn’t really have interest in reading it, but it did sound to me like there would be an epic adventure-sort. That it is mostly avoiding petty grudges sounds really disapointing. I would have expected more, as it sold itself as being a feminist retelling – I thought girls fighting, not girls fighting girls.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad you liked it, Ele!! I’m definitely going to keep this style in that case.
      I’ve seen Legendborn a lot, but I somehow missed the glaring fact that it’s based on Arthurian legend…I really need to read things more carefully 😂 or get a better memory.

      That’s actually the reason why Guinevere (Merlin’s daughter disguised as Guinevere) was sent in and not Merlin, because he’s been banished/exiled. And that’s what makes Guinevere’s job there harder because she has to make sure nobody catches her doing any magic since it’s forbidden and she’s supposed to be Queen. Morgan is actually not a part of the story at all though she’s mentioned passingly in one instance.

      Yeah, the risks were nonexistent for the most part and there was no epic adventure or quest going on. Just Guinevere being obsessed with the Patchwork Knight and his allies for the most part.
      I don’t think I explained that right; it’s not really petty grudges per se, but Brangien has opinions on some of the ladies of the court. It does get worked out eventually, so it’s not really girls fighting girls (a friendship actually blossoms between them). But I don’t know if I’d say it’s a feminist retelling either 🤷🏾‍♀️

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Yeah, I was really disappointed with this book too! It does have a beautiful cover though. Arthur and Guinevere were so bland 😑

    Oh, and about Merlin (TW rape): It’s been a while since I’ve read the book, but in most versions of Arthurian legend, Merlin uses magic to help Uther disguise himself as Igraine’s husband, Uther rapes Igraine through deception, and then Igraine gives birth to Arthur. I’m pretty sure that’s how it went in this book, too?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ikr, the cover is so pretty and the book just didn’t live up to it.

      Yeah, that was the story that was told, but then I think Mordred said that Merlin had done it not Uther? Or ohhhhh, maybe it was that Merlin had been the one to help Uther with the magic part, because I think before, it wasn’t mentioned how Uther got the magic. Ohh okay, that makes so much more sense, even if it is still sickening.

      Thanks for helping me understand that ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Have you read a Camelot retelling before? I have not but I have heard about this book just on goodreads.

    Do you think the fact that I usually read darker fantasies was the reason why this felt rather meh? I think that might be the reason why. I struggle with dystopian sometimes because I have read so many of them.

    Most importantly, did you like this review style? I did like it a lot! It was very well organized and written very well! If you are looking for a review style, I would def keep this one.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, I think once you’re used to seeing stories in a certain way, it either gets boring to read more of those, or it gets boring to read a tamer/simpler version of a book in the same genre.

      I’m so glad you liked it!! It was really fun to write it in this way too, so I’ll hopefully keep it for future reviews. Thank you ❤✨

      Liked by 1 person

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