The Knights of the Round Table have faced many challenges over the years. They have been victorious more often than not, thanks to brave knights and clever leadership. But now they face a foe like nothing before.
The world is rapidly warming, and the politics around this debate are out of control. How can the knights take decisive action when nobody agrees on what that action should be?
So if there's one thing I've learned from my latest reading stint, I need a break from certain genres/tropes. For example, I need a (long) break from Greek retellings. I also apparently need a bit of a break from Arthurian stories. As such, I probably didn't enjoy Perilous Times as much as I could have or should have. So please take my review with a grain of salt!
The best part of Perilous Times has to be the characters. They're easy to get attached to, with sympathetic and compelling plot arcs. In truth, this is probably the best representation I've seen of these characters in quite some time.
The more modern take on this retelling certainly didn't hurt, either. The idea of the Knights of the Round Table trying to deal with current dilemmas is...interesting, to say the least. It's comical and heartbreaking all in one, and I love Thomas D. Lee for putting that in my brain.
Modern Arthurian Tale
Thanks to Ballantine Books and #NetGalley for making this book available for review. All opinions expressed are my own.
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IN PERILOUS TIMES LIKE THESE, THE REALM DOESN'T JUST NEED A HERO.
IT NEEDS A KNIGHT IN SHINING ARMOUR.
Sir Kay and his fellow knights awake from their mythical slumber whenever Britain has need of them; they fought at Agincourt and at the Somme. But in these perilous modern times, the realm is more divided than ever, a dragon has been seen for the first time in centuries, and Kay is not the only ancient and terrible thing to come crawling up out of the ground . . .
Perilous Times is a fiercely entertaining contemporary take on the myths of Camelot, which asks: what happens when the Knights of the Round Table return to fix the problems of the modern world?
This debut is perfect for fans of Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, Jodi Taylor and Ben Aaronovitch.
AN INSTANT SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER
'If you like Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, you'll enjoy Perilous Times . . . wryly witty, it's an utterly original take on Arthurian myth' The Times
'This audacious, original debut is angry as well as entertaining, and an exciting new take on the Matter of Britain' Guardian
'Funny, weird, wise, lovely, and full of mad sh*t. You've never read anything like it before, and you should bang that order button now' Stuart Turton, author of The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle
'Lee has brought Arthur's legends into these modern, perilous, times' Fantasy Hive
'Like Good Omens with Arthurian knights. I've never read a book that treads so happily the ground between making you think, and making you laugh out loud' Beth Underdown
'I HOWLED my way through this book! Smart, funny, refreshing fantasy. . . Anyone who liked Rivers of London will love this' Natasha Pulley
'Forget the once-and-future-king; this is a once-and-future classic' Jackson Ford
'Lee has a maestro's eye for satire' Richard Swan
'A brilliant collision of ancient mysticism with modern madness' Robert Jackson Bennett
'Relentlessly entertaining, deadpan hilarious and full of heart. Give it five pages and you'll be hooked' Scott Hawkins
'Maintains a steady faith in humanity's ability to bring itself back from the brink' Publishers Weekly
'Perilous Times has knights, mad science, corporate villainy . . . and dragons ready to burn it all down... delightful' Kevin Hearne
'An awesomely accomplished debut' Daily Mail
Goldsboro Books GSFF pick for May 2023. Featuring an exclusive cover, signed, numbered, a digitally printed edge, and hidden foiling on the hardcover.
Cursed (or blessed, depending on how you look at it) with saving Britain from peril, Kay is digging his way out of the earth when he realizes it is different. There is no birdsong, no bugs, and it is uncomfortably warm. He doesn’t understand why he has been summoned to protect Britain again until he meets Miriam. Miriam has been devoted to saving the world from climate change and impending doom. When she meets Kay, she accidentally blows up a fracking rig, blowing toxic fumes into the atmosphere. After accepting Kay’s explanation (after seeing him return to life after being killed), Miriam and Kay start a quest to help Britain. But, also resurrected is Lancelot, and he is working for the enemy. What happens when the unthinkable happens and an ancient leader is resurrected? Will Miriam and Kay be able to help Britain and the environment? Or will Lancelot and the villains succeed in their plans?
I have always been intrigued by the legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. I have prioritized reading anything that mentions King Arthur, the Knights, and the legend. So, when I read the Perilous Times blurb, I knew I wanted to read it. And let me tell you, I am glad that I did because this book was equally funny and heartbreaking.
Perilous Times is a fast to medium-paced book in future England. The book takes a wandering tour through various English cities and eventually ends up in Wales. The pacing suited this book. The author kept the pace fast enough for me to follow (without returning to previous pages to reread) but slowed down during crucial parts.
The plotline of Perilous Times centers around Kay, Miriam, Lancelot, and the plot to bring King Arthur back (and yes, it is a spoiler). This plot meanders all over the place but, at the same time, sticks closely to the main characters. Usually, I wouldn’t like it written like that, but in this case, it worked. It allowed for a good view of dystopian England affected by climate change and other outside influences. The author did a great job of stressing how climate change affected the lower-lying coastal areas, rivers, and other bodies of water. As for the different influences, it wasn’t a stretch to see Britain reduced to a shadow of what it was. No monarchy, Wales and Scotland were independent (honestly, I can picture this in real life), armies were privatized, and other countries bought up parts of England to help pay their debts. Again, I had no issue seeing this happening in real life.
There are trigger warnings in Perilous Times. They are:
- Climate Change: England (and the rest of the world) has been ravaged by climate change. Polar caps have melted, releasing long-dormant diseases. Seas have risen because of the polar caps melting. Trees are almost all gone. Birds, worms, and insects are dying out.
- Eco-Terrorism: Miriam is part of an eco-terrorist group trying their hardest to save the world. They do this through nonviolent protests. But Miriam goes off script and accidentally blows up a fracking complex.
- Racism: Unfortunately, racism is alive and well in dystopian England. Kay, who is black, makes it a point to remember that his skin color wasn’t an issue until more recently (the last two to three hundred years). Kay also takes a rather drastic approach to being talked down too: he slaughters everyone in the group except Barry, who he turns into a squirrel.
- Grief: Kay grieves for his wife and the past. Lancelot grieves for his lover when he discovers what happened to his tree. But Lancelot also turns that grief into a rage and exacts revenge.
If any of these triggers you, I suggest not reading the book.
I liked Kay and understood why he was so tired of being resurrected. All he wanted was to be at peace and see his wife in Heaven. But he knew something was different when he dug out of the earth this time. The world was too warm, too wet. He meets Miriam after the fracking explosion and convinces her to take him to Manchester. But, on the way, they encounter a dragon, and Kay’s quest to get to Manchester gets sidetracked. He gets to Manchester, gets Excalibur, and starts on a quest to find Merlin. While on that quest, a whole bunch of Monty Python-like situations happens. Kay’s storyline kept me on my toes.
I liked Miriam. She was trying her hardest to do her part to save the world. She knew that the Saxon Company (a megacorporation) was behind everything that had happened to England (and the world) but didn’t know how to change things. It wasn’t until she accidentally blew up a fracking site and met Kay that her path became clear. She was a quiet but compelling leader who wasn’t afraid to get stuff done. She convinced her FETA sisters to follow her and Kay. The best part of her storyline was towards the end of the book. What she did was nothing short of amazing. All I can say is, Once and Future Queen?
Lancelot was different from who I thought he would be in Perilous Times. He was not the Lancelot from myth. In this book, Lancelot is at the beck and call of the Saxon Company and a man named Marlowe. He also was gay, which was a surprising turn for me (since he supposedly seduced King Arthur’s wife). His sexuality added extra depth to his character. I didn’t think he was terrible, but he did shady stuff like taking Kay’s wooden staff or helping Marlowe and Morgan resurrect King Arthur. But, once he realized what he did was wrong (and it was very shortly after King Arthur returned), he set about fixing things with Morgan.
As I mentioned above, King Arthur is brought back. I was not too fond of his character, but at the same time, I couldn’t stop reading. The author portrayed him as a jerk and a sexist. He was also too easily led by people and couldn’t see the truth if it was woven in front of his face. In the end, though, he did the right thing; for a secondary character, he was larger than life. He almost overshadowed the main characters at one point in the book.
The author did have Merlin make a brief appearance. Honestly, I was very disappointed in how the author portrayed his character. I thought he would have had more interactions with Kay. But after the bombshell he dropped on Kay, he jetted. I was not OK with that.
There were several other deities/gods/goddesses mentioned in Perilous Times. The fae was brought in a solitary character that sold drugs (now that did make me laugh for a minute). Herne, a Celtic forest god, communicated with Kay and Miriam through dreams. And the Lady of the Lake, Nimue, was a considerable presence towards the end of the book. She reminded me of a cranky old lady who complained about doing things but did them anyways.
The end of Perilous Times was action-packed and very interesting. I will not get more into it than others to say I agreed with how it ended. There was hope for a better future.
I would recommend Perilous Times to anyone over 21. There is language and violence, but no sexual situations. Also, see my trigger warning list.
Many thanks to Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Ballantine Books, NetGalley, and Thomas D. Lee for allowing me to read and review Perilous Times. All opinions stated in this review are mine.