Author: K.M. Shea
Publisher: Take Out the Trash
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) The thrilling conclusion to the King Arthurs and Her Knights series!
Britt has finally settled into her life as King Arthur. Her knights know who she really is, her lands are peaceful, and she has friends and family who she loves. But all of this is threatened when Rome, led by Emperor Lucius, invades.
In order to repel the Romans and ascertain Camelot's survival, Britt must achieve Merlin's greatest dream: to unite all of Britain.
The Twist: See my earlier review of the first five books in this series. 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.
The Plot: This book covers a lot of ground. Maleagant returns as predicted and kidnaps Britt, mistaking her for Guinevere (yeah, this dude’s really not that bright). Most of Britt's closest circle (and Lancelot, despite his unfortunate part in the debacle that occurred the last time Britt was kidnapped) set out to search for her. In the ensuing quest, we also get: the conclusion of Ywain and Laudine's love story, the Holy Grail, Pelleas and Ettard, a short humorous jaunt into Tristan and Isuelt, and the Loathly lady (which I had been hoping Shea would do a spin on), before coming to the main conflict of the story, which is Emperor Lucius' invasion. This serves as the final battle for King Arthur, and encompasses both Vivien and Lancelot's respective betrayals. Britt is indeed wounded fatally at the end, though it's Vivien who deals the blow, not Mordred. All of the magic users combine their power to send Britt back to her own time, which Nymue had figured out was possible but had been waiting for Britt to ask to go home. Modern medicine saves Britt, but she is devastated at the loss of all of her friends at Camelot even though it means she gets to see her 21st century friends and family again. Trying desperately to settle back into life as an innocuous young woman instead of a medieval king, she goes to a job interview only to find most of the Round Table has found a way to follow her into the future—they sealed themselves in a cave, similar to Merlin’s end in legend—and are now ready for her to be their leader once again.
It's time to unite not just All of Britain, but the world. I for one bow to our new immortal Arthurian corporate overlords. (yep, they’re all immortal like Britt. Can’t see that causing confusion after they’ve benevolently taken over the world for its own good.)
Britannica Arthurs/King Arthur/Galahad: I’ve long suspected that the solution to “Arthur’s” death would be to send Britt back to the future, as it were. My guess was that Merlin and the other magic workers would put her into some kind of magical stasis, since she’s already functionally immortal and the story goes that Arthur lies sleeping in Avalon to be awakened when he’s most needed, but in this I was incorrect. They just pop her back to the moment she left so that modern medicine can save her from her fatal wound. Britt then rattles around Europe for months as a medieval sword instructor, trying to get past how much she misses everyone from Camelot before deciding that they would want her to live her life to the fullest. To that end she starts applying to nonprofits, figuring she might as well work for a cause she believes in. She gets a job interview with a company she’s never heard of, walks into a boardroom, and finds it filled with most of her closest circle from the Round Table, all in modern clothes. They make her CEO of the company they’d formed, Avalon, and prepare to get started changing the world for the better.
Merlin: Finally gets his head out of his ass and admits to Britt how deeply he loves her, and what a terrible wrong he did by bringing her out of her own time. He and Britt rediscover their old easy closeness. Of course he comes forward in time with everyone to find Britt in the 21st century, where they will presumably pick up a real romance.
Lancelot: Ah, this dude. Still his obnoxious prat self, and I like how Shea cleverly managed to make Britt’s death the fault of his betrayal, but it has nothing to do with Guinevere. He finally works up the courage to have it out with Britt about why she doesn’t like him. She rips into him, accurately accusing him of only doing great deeds for his own glory, not selflessly as her other knights do. Lancelot, his fragile ego hurt and unwilling to admit that he knows she’s right, in a fit of anger tells Vivien about the power of Excalibur’s scabbard to prevent its bearer from getting wounded. Thus Britt not having the scabbard’s protection when Vivien attacks her is entirely his fault, and he willingly takes the blame. This moment is really his turning point, where he sees what his selfish, prideful actions have cost. So he makes the decision to come forward in time with the rest of the Round Table and serve Britt again instead of staying in the past when he was most famous. Britt is touchingly glad to see him at her reunion with her companions. He turns out to have been her earliest riding instructor when she was young.
Mordred: This was one of Shea's best twists to date. Turns out he's the brother of one of Ireland's most powerful kings, sent in secret to scope out Camelot to see if it was worth joining. Mordred found Britt exactly as great as advertised, became one of her biggest supporters, and convinced his brother to join the alliance when it mattered most. When Britt is sent back to the 21st century, he chooses to stay behind and rule Camelot in her place (leading to the legend that he had usurped “King Arthur”). Britt accepting his loss is one of the most bittersweet moments in the series because he was awesome from beginning to end and she held him equal to Gawain in her heart. What a welcome departure from the majority of other Mordred portrayals, where even when his intentions are good he ends up stuck with the Grand Destiny Of Being the Betrayer. I loved that Mordred ended up being one of the most loyal of all, and the one that chose to sacrifice going to the future with the others and the chance to see Britt again in order to continue her dream in the England she left behind. I was so hoping Shea would go in this direction for him, given that from the start except for being evasive about his origins he had every appearance of goodwill.
Ywain: He of course has the expected problem with staying away from Laudine too long. She throws him out, and Britt and the others have to pep talk the overdramatic young man into returning and really listening to Laudine this time. He does eventually acquire a lioness, though the details on that are vague. He stays behind with Laudine and to support King Mordred instead of going to the future.
Gawain: Still the same old loyal sweet Gawain, though a bit oblivious about women despite being the Maiden’s Knight. Of course he comes to the future with the rest of the Round Table.
Ragnelle: In this version, she’s one of Nymue’s handmaidens and has a small amount of her own magic. She is sent to retrieve a magical necklace for her mistress as part of the Pelleas/Ettard plot and develops a crush on Gawain. She tries to trick Gawain into marrying her, but is thwarted by Britt actually figuring out the answer to her traditional riddle. Britt then advises her to try developing a relationship with the oblivious Gawain normally by spending time with him. She is part of the group that comes to the future.
Vivien: In the end it isn’t her black magic that makes her dangerous, it’s sheer malice and desperation. Turns out she’s a spy for the Romans. She tries to steal Excalibur thanks to Lancelot cluing her in to how valuable it is but ends up with just the sheath, which she destroys after managing to evade Merlin’s wrath. She’s the one who shoots Britt in the back with a crossbow after Britt kills Lucius and wins the day.
Kay: The world’s most supportive and protective older brother. He and Morgan are a developing item by the time this book rolls around, which is an unexpected but refreshing pairing. He of course comes to the future to find Britt. Turns out he was her first sword instructor when she was young, and the first person to tell her the tales of King Arthur.
Pelleas: A knight in love with Lady Ettard, a minor landholder. He finds a necklace that actually belongs to Nymue and gives it to his love, not knowing it’s a magic necklace that will make every unattached man fall for her and anyone already in love with her obsessive. So of course when Britt & Co. try to help him win Ettard, he gets insanely jealous when the others also start showing signs of attraction (except for Britt, who is not into girls as we’ve already established thanks to Vivien, Merlin, who is in love with Britt, and Lancelot, who loves no one but himself).
Ettard: I’m not sure what to make of her character. She seems embarrassed by all the attention the enchanted necklace brings, yet at the same time she wears it constantly because she’s afraid she’ll lose Pelleas’ regard if she takes it off. Yet she also seems to find Pelleas fawning over her kind of annoying and is constantly throwing him out. This is an Arthurian legend that doesn’t make much sense, and Shea’s attempts to bring some kind of logic to it are admirable but it seems like it’s a story that doesn’t want to make sense. Love makes fools of us all, right?
Maleagant: His kidnapping of Britt, who in fairness happened to be dressed as a woman at the time, ends up being fortuitous because it turns into an alliance with his much more reasonable father, King Bagdemagus. I enjoyed Britt needling Maleagant immensely.
Nymue and Morgan: Show up to help with the wounded for the final battle. They combine their powers with Merlin to send Britt back to her own time. Morgan joins the group who comes to the future with Britt. Nymue, already immortal, comes through the flow of time naturally.
Guinevere: She and Britt have become good friends, and Guinevere is a willing colluder in the plan to keep everyone outside of the Round Table from realizing that Britt is a woman by posing as ‘Arthur’s’ closest lady friend so that other women don’t try too hard to win ‘him’ for themselves. Somehow in the thousand years of history things got twisted so that Arthur and Guinevere were married. Guinevere in fact ends up falling in love with and marrying Mordred after Britt gets sent back to her own time.
Tor, Bors, Ector, Lanval, Ulfius, Agravain, Gaheris, Gareth, Bodwain, Blaise, and all of the kings like Lot, Pellinore, and Ban who served under Britt in the battle against Lucius remain behind in the past. We don’t hear what happened to Morgause—presumably she also stayed with her husband and remaining three sons.
Percival, Bedivere, Lionel, Griflet and Griflet’s love interest Blanchefleur are part of the group that comes to the future. They also bring Cavall, Britt’s mastiff.
I have enjoyed this series immensely. It rarely went in any direction I expected (my only successful predictions were sending Britt back to the future after the final battle and Mordred turning out to be a good guy), but it did stay true to the adventurous and hopeful spirit of the original legends. It has often been a puzzle to me how, if Arthur really was such a good king, everything fell to pieces so quickly in the end and Camelot faded into legend, in some retellings in less than a generation. Here, Mordred continues the legacy in medieval England, and Britt and her new Round Table can continue it in the future. The characters were super fun and a joy to follow around, even when wanting to punch Lancelot. I always looked forward to the next installment. The image of Mordred talking Lancelot into wearing a dress alone is worth the price of admission for me, and that bit in fact showcases how well Shea knows these characters—Mordred’s gift for reading people and his silver tongue, and Lancelot getting talked into doing outrageous stuff thanks to his massive ego.
I think I could to have done without the whole ‘they’re all immortal’ thing, because living forever comes with its own basket of problems that other sci fi and fantasy authors have explored in great detail. Whenever an author uses this trope as a conclusion to a story, it makes me uncomfortable, imagining all the future scenarios where things could go horribly wrong despite current good intentions. I think I’d have preferred if both Britt and her knights just slipped into the timestream and aged normally once they were out of the cave and (in Britt’s case) in her correct time. But that’s really my only major gripe about the series conclusion.
Five stars for this book.
Four overall for the series.