Review: THE EXCALIBUR CURSE by Kiersten White

Publisher: Delacorte Press
Page Count: 368
Release Date: December 7th, 2021
Series: CAMELOT RISING, Book 3
Rating: 3/5 Stars – Liked It

Warning: Possible light spoilers ahead for earlier books in the series. You can read reviews for those books here: THE GUINEVERE DECEPTION, THE CAMELOT BETRAYAL

The Excalibur Curse

Guinevere’s plans to seek out Merlin and demand answers and aid for Camelot have gone horribly awry. Captured by Mordred, his mother Morgana, and their allies from the northern tribes, Guinevere instead finds herself being escorted to the northern throne of the Dark Queen, the fey creature that threatens the entire island. With Arthur leading his forces into an ambush, and Lancelot forced to remain in Camelot to maintain the magical barrier Guinevere left to protect the city, Guinevere is on her own. She doesn’t know why the Dark Queen wants her, but Guinevere knows she must escape and find Merlin if Camelot is to survive. But the secrets Guinevere finally reveals on her journey are devastating and leave her wondering if she’s the right person to save Camelot after all.

THE EXCALIBUR CURSE is a bit of a messy conclusion to a series that has always been a cozy, feminist retelling of the Camelot mythology. It very much leans into into a quieter form of storytelling, with simple language and contemplative pacing, rather than being full of fireballs and nail-biting moments. It’s something I’ve always enjoyed about the series; these books were made to curl up in front of a fireplace with, hot beverage in hand.

What undercut my enjoyment in this outing, however, was unfortunately the character of Guinevere herself. Guinevere has always been an uncertain young woman, trying to find her place in the world, and I don’t begrudge her that coming of age journey. In fact, it was a factor I loved in the first book in particular. But in this final installment, I had hoped that Guinevere would have found her footing, ready to fight battles through more subtle means than her warrior husband Arthur. Instead, an early reveal leaves her adrift for much of the book. For almost half of THE EXCALIBUR CURSE, if not more, Guinevere questions her usefulness and place in the world and is generally on a path of mopey self-destruction. It leaves her fixated on the wrong goals, removing any urgency instilled by the rising Dark Queen.

That said, I continue to applaud the book’s examination of the many kinds of love and friendships that can be found in the world. As Guinevere examines herself, she also examines her relationships, trying to determine if she truly is in love with anyone, from Mordred to Arthur to Lancelot. And as always, the series promotes female friendships and women working together. The finale relies on Guinevere’s collected female friends at court coming together to outmaneuver the men who are determined to fight against a magical foe with nothing but swords.

THE EXCALIBUR CURSE may stumble a bit across the finish line, but I nonetheless have enjoyed my time with this series. While I love a bad-ass woman with a sword, I also enjoy a heroine who finds her own way to be powerful. Guinevere is not a warrior and lives in a society where women are supposed to defer to men, but that doesn’t stop her from fighting to protect her kingdom. Through subtle magics and the simple act of standing up to those who are wrong, she wages her own war. If you find yourself heading out to a cabin this winter and want a tale of magic and dark woods, this might be a series to pack.

Note: I was provided a free ARC by the publisher in exchange for my fair and honest review.

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