Legends don’t always live up to reality.
Being reborn as an immortal defender of the realm gets awfully tiring over the years—or at least that’s what Sir Kay’s thinking as he claws his way up from beneath the earth yet again.
Kay once rode alongside his brother, King Arthur, as a Knight of the Round Table. Since then, he has fought at Hastings and at Waterloo and in both World Wars. But now he finds himself in a strange new world where oceans have risen, the army’s been privatized, and half of Britain’s been sold to foreign powers. The dragon that’s running amok—that he can handle. The rest? He’s not so sure.
Mariam’s spent her life fighting what’s wrong with her country. But she’s just one ordinary person, up against a hopelessly broken system. So when she meets Kay, she dares to hope that the world has finally found the savior it needs.
Yet as the two travel through this bizarre and dangerous land, they discover that a magical plot of apocalyptic proportions is underway. And Kay’s too busy hunting dragons—and exchanging blows with his old enemy Lancelot—to figure out what to do about it.
In perilous times like these, the realm doesn’t just need a knight. It needs a true leader.
Luckily, Excalibur lies within reach.
But who will be fit to wield it?
Perilous Times (Amazon US) (Amazon UK)
I’m a sucker for a King Arthur story. There have been some good ones over the years and some really bad ones, too. I am not one who has to have the stereotypical Arthur and his knights and an ancient Merlin. So I was ready for anything when it came to Perilous Times.
If you don’t believe climate change is real or don’t believe it’s as big of a problem as some say, this book is not for you. If you want your glorious King Arthur shining like a beacon of goodness and all his knights chivalrous and honest (and white), this book is not for you. If you can’t handle LGBTQ as part of the storyline, this book is not for you.
There’s a lot to like about this quirky and humorous fantasy book set in the not distant future. It turns out that Merlin cast a spell on the Knights of the Round Table that they would be resurrected any time Great Britain is in great peril. In modern times, many parts of the cities are flooded due to polar ice caps melting, the sun is burning hotter than ever, and pollution has muddied up streams. Kay, King Arthur’s brother, rises from the ground from an ancient oak tree, and starts searching for the peril; he’s been through this dozens of times before.
He meets Marian, who is fiercely independent and believes in her cause, yet at the same time lacks the self-confidence to take charge and lead the others in her fight. She doesn’t believe he could be a knight because he’s black and has dreadlocks, saying that no one looked like her in all the Arthurian legends she’s heard. Kay convinces her of his story, and they join up together to fight the bad guys, the industrialists who are mining the earth regardless of the environmental impact. Through an accident of Marian’s at a fracking site where she blows up the facility, a dragon is released from the bowels of the earth. Crazy, right? This is a fantasy, after all.
Then Lancelot comes to life. He’s almost immediately met by a man simply known as Marlowe, who can be none other than Christopher Marlowe, who appears to be his handler. He apprises Lancelot of the current situation and lets him know about Kay’s current whereabouts. It seems there’s no love lost between the two, and Marlowe’s assignment for Lancelot is to find Kay and stop him. We learn as the book goes on that the story of Lancelot and Guinevere is just that, and in reality Lancelot is gay and was in love with another knight all those years ago.
The reader follows these three people through all sorts of adventures, with all sorts of twists and turns and surprises along the way. Merlin, Nimue, and Morgan LeFay also make appearances when the ultimate happens: Arthur is brought back to life through witchcraft, and he’s anything besides the benevolent king one grew up reading about. He’s a bloodthirsty tyrant who doesn’t listen to anyone, and I’ve seen other reviewers complain he’s modeled after Trump or Boris Johnson, but I didn’t read that much into it.
Normally I don’t like fantasy books despite trying them from time to time, but the King Arthur hook had me, as well as the humor and ridiculousness of some situations. If you’re looking for something different, give it a try!
I received a copy of this book from NetGalley and Ballantine Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.
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