Review: Lancelot du Lethe by J. Robert King

Lancelot du LetheThis book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Let us return, once again, to the realm of King Arthur. J. Robert King’s dazzling Mad Merlin, published last year, took the story to new and dizzying heights. Lancelot du Lethe returns to Camelot and tells a strange tale of the Round Table’s greatest knight.

Lancelot, raised on Avalon, desires nothing more than knighthood. But his journey to Camelot introduces him to something he desires even more: Guinevere, Arthur’s wife and queen. Thus begins one of literature’s most famous tragic love tales… but there’s far more to this story than readers ever could guess.

As Mad Merlin explored the kingdom of the gods, this novel journeys into the fairy realm, as Lancelot and Guinevere forsake Camelot altogether. Their union can save the Otherworld, but at great cost. For the Otherworld to thrive, Camelot must fall.

Although King’s original foray into Arthurian mythology stunningly re-thought Merlin, Lancelot du Lethe fails to uphold such powerful storytelling. King strays too far from the original. Having Lancelot and Guinevere riding sea creatures and abandoning Arthur simply doesn’t ring true; therefore the novel fails as a possible re-interpretation. A certain amount of creative license is understandable, but moving too far afield makes the characters’ actions unbelieveable.

Even worse is the re-imagining of Lancelot and Guinevere’s bond. In this novel, the two share a soul-deep tie placed there at birth. Once they met, their union is inevitable. Unlike the original tale, which spoke of passion and choice, this story strips the pair of the struggle that defines their characters. Without this conflict, Lancelot and Guinevere lose what made them interesting… and by association, so does the novel.

It’s a shame that a story that started so powerfully in Mad Merlin should fail so badly here. One can only hope that King will redeem himself with subsequent novels; for now, though Lancelot du Lethe won’t satisfy his readers.