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 . . .
This book was initially pitched for those who enjoy Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett, and Stuart Turton – and that SOLD ME.
Kay and Lancelot, our immortal knights, are raised from their slumbers each time England faces peril. Set in a future not too distant from our own, the country is now in dire straits as a result of the disregard for our planet. The seas have risen and drowned most areas, the temperature is boiling, the trees and crops are dying, yet those in charge have instead decided to sell of the kingdom to the highest bidder for monetary gain, leaving the residents to suffer on alone.
The first thing that immediately stood out to me was the diversity amongst the cast of characters. From the offset we are presented with characters of colour, varying sexualities, gender identities, abilities and races, meaning there is opportunity for everyone to associate with – hell there are even neo-Nazi’s though I desperately hope nobody relates to those.
One of our main characters is Kay, a knight of the round table, and a man of colour. Throughout the novel Kay alludes to some of the previous hardships he has faced as a result, and things become particularly explosive when he has a run-in with a group of excessively horrible neo-Nazi’s.
Throughout the book, D’Lee dazzles with sometimes satirical yet always disturbingly accurate portrayals of the geo-political system, climate crisis, poverty and racism. Whilst the tone sounds bleak, D’Lee manages to weave together the subject matters with absurdism and satire that makes the entire book a light, enjoyable and adventurous read.
Despite that, it was also my reason for my slightly lower score. I LOVED the political messages, and I’m definitely all for giving a middle finger to the far-right, but I thought in some places the balance tipped from witty to preachy, and I found myself cringing a little or rolling my eyes when the “moral” was being harped a little too strongly.
But, the occasional preachy themes could be forgiven thanks to the wonder that is Sir Lancelot!
From the moment he crawled from his grave demanding an alcoholic drink and a cigarette, whilst considering a facial to help rejuvenate his skin, I knew he would be a character for me! Very much unlike the Lancelot we may have heard about, this character is cool and collected, a bit of an arsehole, and absolutely hilarious. His scenes with Kay were some of my absolute favourites and I kinda wish D’Lee would dedicate a 10-book-series to their endeavours alone because SIGN ME UP.
I also really enjoyed following our female protagonist, Miriam, an unlikely hero who is just trying to save the planet by blowing up one fracking centre at a time (ok, ok, that was an accident!) Whilst she has great character growth, throughout the book she still felt like a real person who incidentally is trying to save the country. She had a lot of self-doubt and anxiety making her incredibly relatable! She’s also a kick-ass feminist, so that’s pretty cool too.
If I had one other gripe it would be with the ending, there was definitely the potential for epic-greatness, but I felt it wrapped up just a little too easily. The problems we were promised throughout didn’t come to fruition enough for me and I felt the moral got in the way of the plot. It was in no way bad, but I personally just wanted a little more.
I’m about to wrap this up because this is FAR TOO LONG. But before I do, special shoutout to Nimue – she only had her small role but I loved the blend of mythical creature with Mancunian messy drunk.
D’Lee really had fun with traditional characters and tropes in this book; I laughed out loud, I rolled my eyes, I cheered when the bad guys got a good telling off, and I couldn’t put it down. There are also talking squirrels and dragons if that cements anything?! It’s incredibly witty, really hits the nail on the head when highlighting our current crisis’, and is a refreshing take on Arthurian legend. This is a book I’m going to be thinking about for a long time and will likely pick up to read again in future.
This book was very kindly sent to me by Orbit and releases on the 23rd May 2023 – it’s available for pre-order now!
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