Jane Yolen has written over 200 books and Sword of the Rightful King is proof that one should not do that.
I have so many complaints about this one that I’m going to put them in a list so I don’t need to bother with transitions.
- The story didn’t truly start for at least a hundred pages. Even once it had, she stretched certain parts needlessly. Basically, the book was too long for the story.
- The story may have started a hundred pages in, but it didn’t get interesting until two hundred.
- Yolen spent most of those pages with Gawaine, who all but disappears as soon as he arrives in Camelot. His basically used to introduce his mother, Morgause.
- Morgause is only one of two women who are developed as characters in this story. She’s evil. And the other woman is pretending to be a boy named Gawen and isn’t revealed as a woman until the end (though it is “foreshadowed,” so there’s that I guess).
- One of the “hints” that Gawen is actually Guinevere is a scene were she and Lancelot lock eyes. And then, until the end of the book…NOTHING HAPPENS BETWEEN THEM. I understand it’s part of the original legend, but why introduce it if it’s not a plot point?
- When it is revealed that she’s a woman, Arthur just says, “Oh, you’re actually a girl? Cool. Marry me.” WTF?
- There’s a single hint that he cares for her before that. Otherwise, Yolen keeps telling the reader that Gawen is one of Arthur’s top advisors but doesn’t show her advising him…unless following Merlinnus’s script counts as giving advice. The same is true of Agravaine: we are constantly told that his loyalties have changed, but it’s never very convincing.
- Merlinnus is completely unlikable. “Unlikable” can work for a character if it works for the story but, come on…it’s Merlin!
- In the end, Morgause disappears after one foiled scheme, which seems out of character at best. She does curse Gawen before she goes, but nothing actually comes of that. Merlinnus says he’ll “take care of everything,” but it’s so vague, there’s no confirmation he even knows about the curse, let alone how to stop it. And if he did…why not show us how he does it? Breaking a curse is always interesting!
- This isn’t Yolen’s fault, but…THE BLURB! It’s misleading to start, and then completely spoils the final twist…which would have been the best part if it was set up properly.
After The Bell Jar, I wanted something light and easy to read. I expected the trade-off would be that it wasn’t as satisfying, but I had no idea it would be THIS bad. My advice? Skip this book and watch Merlin if you need a Camelot fix. It’s on Netflix and everyone in it is gorgeous, just fyi.