Author: K.M. Shea
Publisher: Take Out the Trash
Synopsis: (from goodreads) Only a few weeks have passed since Britt—or, as most know her, King Arthur—was outed as a girl. Britt’s relationship with her knights is strained and precarious, Lancelot is mucking up everything from tournaments to questing, and Merlin starts to act strangely when a beautiful girl named Lady Vivien comes to Camelot.
Can Britt reclaim her knights’ loyalty? Will Merlin finally realize how much Britt means to him?
See my earlier review of the first five books in this series. Basically a young woman is pulled back from the 21st century to take the place of a vanished King Arthur and begins to build a unique, and ultimately legendary, kingdom.
Britt’s Round Table is growing up. They’re spending more and more time away from Camelot on quests, and Britt is having some difficulty adjusting to their prolonged absences. Especially since pesky Lancelot insists on hanging around and Britt’s relationship with Merlin is still strained since he learned she has feelings for him. On the (maybe?) upside, the newest knight in Camelot, Sir Mordred, is making himself useful in whatever ways he can manage.
When word comes of a strange stone that can conjure storms and a knight who guards it, Ywain slips off alone to tackle the adventure himself. Britt and Merlin are distracted from pursuing him by the arrival of a new lady at court, Lady Vivien. Her intentions are clearly sinister and she has some command of black magic, and Merlin continues to distance himself from Britt as he investigates. Britt and Mordred, at Merlin’s insistence to get her out of Vivien’s way, set off on a quest for a mysterious shield with Britt taking the alias of “Galahad,” and after she defeats the strange knight who guards it they take the shield (which, incidentally, they agree is a really crappy shield and they’re not sure why it’s so important to anyone).
Eventually word comes that Ywain has been captured by the knight who guards the storm stone, so Britt and a company of knights set off to rescue him. They discover when they arrive that Ywain has killed the stone’s guardian, married his wife, and has become the new guardian. Britt isn’t sure how she feels about this—she’s used to thinking of her knights as untried boys, but now she has to adjust to the idea that they’re mature enough to marry, settle down, and rule their own lands and they won’t be by her side the majority of the time. Complicating matters further, Merlin decides that the best course of action to thwart Vivien—who is more powerful than he anticipated—is to pretend to be in love with her himself so she thinks she has power over him. He wakes Britt up at dawn with the intention of saying goodbye to her before he has to pretend to be in Vivien’s thrall, but ends up revealing more of his own deep feelings than perhaps he wanted and leaves Britt in utter confusion.
Britt Arthurs/King Arthur/Galahad: Still on tentative ground with most of her knights since the reveal of her true gender, though she is slowly winning back their trust. This book reveals exactly how awful her future life is destined to be: Merlin has realized that by pulling her back in time in the manner that he did, he’s essentially made her immortal. She won’t age, the passage of time will have less meaning for her, and she won’t die (I guess unless outright killed—that part still constitutes a potential unexploited loophole). For someone as dependent for emotional support on relationships as Britt is, this is as close to hell as you could probably get, since she will be doomed to watch people she adores grow old and die for eternity. Luckily or unluckily, Merlin hasn’t gotten around to telling her yet. She still has a (she believes) unrequited crush on Merlin, but it doesn’t blind her to his faults. She and Lancelot are being much more open about their distaste for each other, while she and Guinevere are finding a surprising rapport. Britt still finds Guinevere annoying, but seems to be growing fond of her nonetheless. She is also surprised how much she is coming to like Mordred, since in her vague memory of Arthurian legend he was involved somehow in Arthur’s downfall. She’s apparently taking on the additional persona of Galahad as an alter ego, so presumably in the future when she goes out questing it will be as Galahad and not as King Arthur.
Merlin: He really can be dense. In the pursuit of protecting Britt he’s doing a great job alienating her instead, trying to keep secrets instead of sharing his worries about Vivien. Merlin and Britt are cute as a couple, but since Merlin can only seem to manage to get his head out of his ass every once in awhile it’s going to be a long haul. I really hope he gives up this notion of pretending to be madly in love with Vivien before she poisons him. Or traps him in a tree or a crystal cave. Or Britt just chops off his head with Excalibur out of sheer frustration.
Lancelot: Man I want to slap this guy, which I assume was Shea’s intent in writing him this way. He’s annoyingly perfect and pretty openly scheming to use any weakness he finds in Britt for his own gain. I don’t think he wants to replace her as king, he just seems to want as much positive attention from others as he can garner, and Britt’s open dislike is an obstacle to other peoples’ unadulterated admiration. He’s also disturbingly perceptive, accurately deducing that the current problems between Britt and Merlin have their origin in Merlin’s rejection of Britt’s romantic feelings.
Mordred: I still can’t figure this guy out or what Shea’s ultimate plans for him are. He seems to be going out of his way to be supportive when Britt needs it, especially as she starts to realize that all of her closest friends and confidantes are going to be pulling away from her in the near future due to other obligations. Yet he openly admits he won’t say anything about his family or his past, other than vague hints that he’s done a lot of traveling. He does have the traditional Mordred gift of always saying exactly the right thing at the right time. I really want him to actually turn out to be the trustworthy guy he currently appears to be (since in the earliest legends about him he wasn’t Arthur’s betraying bastard son and it would be a cool twist to have Mordred, of all people, as an unequivocal good guy), but there’s enough mystery still surrounding him that I won’t pin any hopes on it.
Ywain: Feeling that Britt is holding him back, Ywain slips out alone when he hears about an adventure. The early part of the Knight of the Lion story begins here, though we mostly find out about his conquest of Esclados (who isn’t named in this version) and his marriage to Laudine in hindsight. There is some potential trouble if he is called away in the future and isn’t around to defend the storm stone—possibly a subplot of a future book if Shea plans on continuing with the Knight of the Lion storyline of Ywain betraying Laudine's trust to return if he leaves.
Guinevere: She’s not exactly a deep thinker, but she’s sweet and her heart is in the right place (except for her bizarre crush on Lancelot). While Britt finds her silly, she also feels somewhat protective of Guinevere and defends her when Vivien tries to bully her.
Vivien: A mysterious lady who comes to court and immediately sets Merlin on edge. Though the daughter of a lord, she has somewhere picked up a knowledge of dark magic and Merlin determines that she has set her sights on forcing King Arthur to marry her. Her spell isn’t working because she doesn’t know “Arthur” is actually female, but that apparently won’t hold her off forever and she is vicious enough to try to murder Guinevere in front of both King Arthur and Merlin. So Merlin decides the best way to protect Britt is to let Vivien think she has him under her control. We’ll see how badly this backfires (since the appearance of Viviane in legend usually=doom for Merlin).
Laudine: She doesn’t get much time onscreen so it’s hard to get a read on her. Her worries about Ywain’s loyalty being to Arthur first and her second aren’t unfounded, because, hello, Ywain has served Britt for two years and he’s known Laudine for less than a week. Of course he’s going to feel more loyalty to Britt/Arthur until he’s spent more time with his wife. I’m surprised nobody makes that point when Britt frets about Laudine asking her never to call Ywain to Camelot, a request that affronts Britt because she doesn’t want to lose Ywain as a close friend. Laudine doesn’t feel secure with her new husband yet, and understandably so, especially since there’s so much at stake with someone from their castle needing to protect the storm stone and she married the dude who killed her first husband a few days ago. She's not exactly in a stable situation here.
Blaise: Briefly shows up at the chapel where the weird shield that Britt quests for is being kept. He advises Britt that Merlin is terrible with figuring out how to deal with feelings and to be patient with him.
Percival: King Pellinore's eldest son and a new knight to Camelot. He seems relatively level-headed, especially when compared to Lancelot and his crowd.
The Orkney brothers, Morgan le Fay, Pellinore, Lot, Calogrenant, Esclados, Nymue, Ector, Kay, Bors, Lionel, Tor and a few others I'm probably forgetting are mentioned or make cameo apperances.
This is a solid entry to the series, though my favorite is still Enlighten. I am enjoying seeing the evolving relationship between Britt and her knights, and the problems that are coming up now that Britt's reign is largely established.