The Camelot Betrayal by Kiersten White

 The Camelot Betrayal by Kiersten White, Delacorte Press (an imprint of Penguin Random House), 9780525581710, 2020 

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4

Format: Hardcover

Genre: Fantasy

What did you like about the book?  In this second installment of the Camelot Rising  series, we are reintroduced to Guinevere, who may or may not be who she thinks she is. This uncertainty is the source of most of the series’ plot. As you may recall from The Guinevere Deception (2019), the young queen can’t remember her own past; her memory has been muddled by Merlin although her mission is clear: to protect Arthur and by extension, Camelot. This book finds her settling into her royal role and teetering between her chaste sham marriage to Arthur and the attraction she feels for his banished and half-magic nephew Mordred. Guinevere gets to go on a quest of her own in this installment, rescuing the Lady Isolde from the vicious King Mark, and struggles with the arrival of Guinevach, the real Guinevere’s younger sister.  The grafting of a mystery onto fantasy works well, while the main character’s struggle with identity and conflict over shouldering new responsibilities make her a believable teen. Once again, the writing is lush and the action is gut-churning. There’s enough contemporary touches to make this book lively and interesting to teens: a same-sex love between Guinevere’s two ladies’ maids, Sir Lancelot recast as a woman, and the smoldering pull between Team Arthur and Team Mordred. All characters are presumed white, although I seem to remember that the author vaguely hints that Guinevere’s maid Brangien may be non-European.

Anything you didn’t like about it? I have some familiarity with the Arthurian tropes from The Once and Future King, The Mists of Avalon, Le Morte d’Arthur, and even Monty Python and the Holy Grail… I’m not sure how accessible the book would be without that background information. This is a little thing, but the cover art depicts Guinevere as a smoking hot, thin, and conventionally beautiful supermodel. I’d like to have seen a more inclusive cover image. 

To whom would you recommend this book?  Middle school and high school readers who want female characters and high fantasy. Reading the first book is absolutely necessary, so those clamoring for the sequel are a natural audience. The plot is complicated enough to necessitate going back to Deception if it’s been a while. Adults who enjoy YA fantasy will also find this book intriguing and well-written.

Who should buy this book? All libraries serving teen readers. 

Where would you shelve it? YA fiction, fantasy

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No

Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA

Date of review: December 20, 2020

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