Kiersten White’s Camelot Rising trilogy has been a fun diversion through other points of the last two rotten years, so I was looking forward to the final book wrapping it all up. The premise thus far has been intriguing, after all: the series focuses on the perspective of Guinevere, newly married to King Arthur and brought to Camelot–except Guinevere is not what she seems, but some sort of fae creature trained by Merlin to aid Arthur in a Britain that is divided between various warring tribes. The real Guinevere, our protagonist thinks, died and she took the girl’s place, in order to safeguard Arthur and the Britain he is ushering into being through the careful use of her magic. There’s just one problem: magic is illegal in Arthur’s Britain, due to his long battle against his sister Morgana and the Dark Queen who is her–grandmother? I think? a faerie entity, at any rate, who is Arthur’s implacable enemy. And Excalibur is the sword that absorbs all magic, etc etc, there you go.
Various things happened in the first two books: we meet our Lancelot, and this Lancelot is a woman; Guinevere develops an intense crush on Mordred, who seems shifty but also seems to understand Guinevere in a way others cannot, given his own connection to magic; Guinevere must learn to navigate court politics, which being raised in a hut in the forest by an enigmatic wizard really didn’t prepare her for (especially for the politics of the women). Also the real Guinevere’s sister shows up at some point.
I knew this was a YA series, so it wasn’t like I was expecting the highest of art from the conclusion to this trilogy. Even so, I found myself frustrated with this one. The narrative changed direction constantly, as if White had too many plot points to cram into the ending; is Guinevere actually the real Guinevere? does she love Mordred or Arthur? did this queer subplot kind of come out of nowhere or did I miss the signaling in the previous book? will Excalibur fix everything? will finding Merlin fix everything? will Guinevere dying fix everything? will killing the Dark Queen fix anything? love these Picts who just appeared but also kind of a late development! Guinevere is kidnapped! Guinevere is back in Camelot! Guinevere runs away! Guinevere comes back again! why do I have this much trouble spelling Excalibur when I’ve done so much work on Arthurian literature?
It felt like a slog to wrap this one up, which was kind of a bummer; it had been fun through the first two books but the focus just dissipated here; either we needed half the plot points, covered with more care, or we needed two books to wrap this all up adequately. Instead, we’ve got this, and a not quite satisfactory wrap to an otherwise entertaining and lively series, though you can absolutely see the glimpses of the stronger novel that could’ve been there.