By: Angie Haddock
Being reborn as an immortal defender of the realm gets awfully tiring over the years—or at least that’s what Sir Kay’s thinking as he claws his way up from beneath the earth yet again.
Kay once rode alongside his brother, King Arthur, as a Knight of the Round Table. Since then, he has fought at Hastings and at Waterloo and in both World Wars. But now he finds himself in a strange new world where oceans have risen, the army’s been privatized, and half of Britain’s been sold to foreign powers. The dragon that’s running amok—that he can handle. The rest? He’s not so sure.
This one came out last week, and I was reading it concurrently with “The Battle Drum.” Yes, two fantasy books that came out the same day… and both, curiously enough, feature a character whose hand has turned into a tree branch?! Wild times.
But the similarities end there. This one takes place in a world not too far gone from our own… but just a little further down the path of climate change. The action is set in the UK, where flooding and food shortages abound.
As the blurb above suggests, certain knights of the Round Table have been given the ability – or duty, really – to come back from the dead when Britain is “in peril.” That’s a little loosely defined, and over the centuries, certain elements of society have learned to manipulate these warriors for their own aims. After sleeping underground for a century or so, they don’t know who’s who in the government, or what the new technologies are capable of – so they’re easy to manipulate.
Sirs Kay and Lancelot are brought back into this near future, where climate change might be the biggest peril? Well, there is also a dragon loose for the first half of the book, but maybe those problems are related.
Kay falls in with FETA – the Feminist Environmentalist Transgressive Alliance. His first encounter with them is when one of their group goes rogue and blows up a fracking site. Lancelot is working for the government, which is more or less on the other side of things. We follow each in their own exploits for some time.
Later in the book more characters from the old days show up, including Merlin and even Arthur himself. If we thought Kay and Lancelot were easily manipulated… wait until you meet Arthur.
One recurring theme here is that everyone is tired of fighting. The knights, the environmentalists, everyone. And they keep hoping that someone else will come along to fix things. This is why multiple parties are more than happy to see knights show up. This is why people are excited to bring Arthur back. Surely someone else will have some better idea than their own, right? But time and again, it goes awry. And each character has to learn that they have to keep doing their part. No one can just “magic” all the problems away – not even characters who can legitimately wield magic.
This book is definitely a satire, and has some great one liners here and there. Fantasy, satire, and environmentalism all in one story? Sounds like a great (albeit hefty) summer read to me!
This one is out now, but I was able to read ahead on Netgalley thanks to Penguin Random House.