Swords, Magic, Codpieces

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I’m approaching the age when Young Adult novels bore me. I haven’t been a teenager for almost four decades and the thrill of reading about adolescents grappling with acne, popularity, their sexuality, romance and high school is wearing thin.

But none of those struggles apply here. Here we have a young Arthur who’d happily spend his days drinking, carousing, goofing off and cloistered in libraries than being a boy prince. He’s accompanied by Lancelot, a happy-go-lucky gambler, womanizer and prankster, far from being the sanctimonious adulterer we meet in other tales.

However, the story hints at its unusual qualities long before then, when we see the sword in the stone as just another part of the cityscape, an object that’s been there so long that strollers are as likely to urinate on its plinth as try their hand at pulling it. Reduced to being an object of fun by sodden men whose cries are on the level of “Hold my beer and watch this!”, the sword is getting bored. And with this anthropomorphizing of an inanimate object, the stage is set for Arthur as an unlikely unifier of all Britain and the girl imitating her twin brother to be his apprentice wizard.

Emry and Arthur both have something to prove, although Arthur is considerably more reluctant in his role as royalty bound for the throne. Reading about how they’re juggling their individual functions pulled me into this world of Arthurian legend. It’s absorbing, fascinating and occasionally laugh-out-loud funny. There are plenty of other characters, older and younger, that make this more than a YA fantasy bound up in the trouble of moping teenagers.

This is a world on the cusp of change. War is brewing in the background, magic is shown as being beneficial and potentially corruptive and ruling a kingdom comes with dealing with suspicious and oleaginous courtiers as well as scheming ladies of the court. Both Emry and Arthur are playing dangerous games yet a sense of the humorous prevents this from being too disturbing.

I thoroughly liked this YA version of the King Arthur story and am eager to peruse what else lies in store for the deceiving Emry and intrepid Arthur.