Title: The Excalibur Curse
Series: Camelot Rising #3
Author: Kiersten White
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Retellings
Published: December 7th, 2021 (Delacorte Press)
Synopsis: While journeying north toward the Dark Queen, Guinevere falls into the hands of her enemies. Behind her are Lancelot, trapped on the other side of the magical barrier they created to protect Camelot, and Arthur, who has been led away from his kingdom, chasing after false promises. But the greatest danger isn’t what lies ahead of Guinevere – it’s what’s been buried inside her.
Vowing to unravel the truth of her past with or without Merlin’s help, Guinevere joins forces with the sorceress Morgana and her son, Mordred – and faces the confusing, forbidden feelings she still harbors for him. When Guinevere makes an agonizing discovery about who she is and how she came to be, she finds herself with an impossible choice: fix a terrible crime, or help prevent war.
Guinevere is determined to set things right, whatever the cost. To defeat a rising evil. To remake a kingdom. To undo the mistakes of the past…even if it means destroying herself.
Guinevere has been a changeling, a witch, a queen – but what does it mean to be just a girl?
Camelot is safe behind the magical barrier Guinevere has created, but only as long as Lancelot stays inside it. Now a captive of her enemies, and with Arthur lured far away by false information, Guinevere is more determined than ever to find some answers about her past. She teams up with Morgana and Mordred and the truth she discovers leaves her with a terrible decision – to right a heinous wrong that could mean destroying herself, or prevent the brewing war and stop the Dark Queen’s plans.
Considering how much I had been looking forward to this finale, it was very unexpected that I found myself struggling to get through it, largely because of the pacing. Kiersten White’s marvellous writing was what kept me turning the pages however, knowing that the story would take a turn sooner or later. I had so many questions going into this book and the major one of course was the truth about Guinevere, which I thought unfolded perfectly, including her reaction to finding out what exactly Merlin had done to her. Guinevere’s time with the Picts was an interesting addition as it showed her a different viewpoint of Camelot, that of the conquered rather than the conqueror, and how drastically it varied from Arthur’s ideals and vision. Unlike some of the previous side stories, this one does continue on to be important to the plot and weighs in on Guinevere’s later decisions too, a major improvement from the previous book.
It felt like Guinevere had made some progress as a character in book two, but with the revelations about her past, she just took a giant step backwards. Her reaction to the admittedly shocking truth made sense, but her reckless plan to try and fix it did not, not to mention it made her inner dialogue very irritating to read. She does come around eventually, which was a relief, and it was nice to finally see her choosing her path and taking things into her own hands, making her own choices at last. The secondary characters, Guinevere’s friends were the stars of this book in my opinion. They go to great lengths to support her, and despite none of them having a POV, they definitely make their mark in this finale.
The romance continues to be the single most annoying thing in this book. I stick to what I said in my review of The Camelot Betrayal – Guinevere should have run away with Mordred, which would have atleast been more interesting rather than muddling through the painful love…square(?) that took up so much of this story. For a few chapters there, it seemed like this might be a possibility, but no, it all went straight back to Arthur, who along with being entirely boring, seemed determined to ignore every bit of good advice Guinevere tried to give him in this book, which made for some extremely frustrating reading. I was also annoyed that no one bothered to really call out Arthur on his conviction that his way is the right way, the only way, and his overall very black and white thinking that led to so many mistakes. Along with the slow pacing that did not fit the mood of a finale, this was enough for me to rate the book by about the 75% mark and despite the ending turning out to be a rather good one, I could not justify raising it above that.
When things finally did pick up, the plot quickly ramped up into an action-packed climax and a fitting conclusion. I had definitely been leaning towards Mordred for most of this book, so I found the ending a bit disappointing for that reason, but also because it was a deviation from the original story, but I guess that’s the fun of retellings right? All in all, I’ve really enjoyed the Camelot Rising series despite this finale falling a bit flat and I can’t wait to see what Kiersten White’s next book will be!
Have you read this book? Let me know in the comments below!
Other reviews in this series: