Illustrator: Frank Miller
Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers on October 1, 2019
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Source: The Publisher, Blog Tour
My content rating: YA (Nothing more than kissing; Lots of violence)
The Lady of the Lake finds her voice in this cinematic twist on the tale of King Arthur created by Tom Wheeler and legendary artist, producer, and director Frank Miller (300, Batman: The Dark Night Returns, Sin City).
Whosoever wields the Sword of Power shall be the one true King.
But what if the Sword has chosen a Queen?
Nimue grew up an outcast. Her connection to dark magic made her something to be feared in her Druid village, and that made her desperate to leave…
That is, until her entire village is slaughtered by Red Paladins, and Nimue’s fate is forever altered. Charged by her dying mother to reunite an ancient sword with a legendary sorcerer, Nimue is now her people’s only hope. Her mission leaves little room for revenge, but the growing power within her can think of little else.
Nimue teams up with a charming mercenary named Arthur and refugee Fey Folk from across England. She wields a sword meant for the one true king, battling paladins and the armies of a corrupt king. She struggles to unite her people, avenge her family, and discover the truth about her destiny.
But perhaps the one thing that can change Destiny itself is found at the edge of a blade.
Just the pitch for this book told me there was a whole lot to love: an illustrated YA King Arthur retelling from the perspective of Nimue (the Lady in the Lake). First of all, why aren’t more books for older readers illustrated? I didn’t stop loving artwork when I was a little kid, and I think many other people feel similarly, so I would love to see more illustrated books for older readers. But I digress…
I’ll confess that I don’t remember much about the tale of King Arthur beyond the basics: the sword in the stone, King Arthur’s court, Guenivere and Lancelot’s shenanigans. None of that is in this book. This all takes place before you would get to the point of the knights of the round table, so if you go into this book looking for that story you might be disappointed. In fact, I have no idea if any of the events in this book are in the original stories anywhere (you’ll have to look for reviews from people who know more about the original tales for that). I have a feeling, it’s just a more fantastical imagining of how these people ended up
This isn’t just a straight retelling of King Arthur’s story from a new perspective, either. There’s more fantasy to this version (which always makes me happy). It also doesn’t necessarily have that “knight” feel to it, since the story doesn’t focus on the knights (and they aren’t even really knights the way we think about them). Nimue is a Fey. Her people look basically human, but there are other tribes of Fey who have animal characteristics (we get to meet them later in the book). And is considered cursed because of an evil spirit that attacked her when she was a child. Luckily, she has access to the Hidden (sort of elemental spirits, maybe?) that helped her survive. But because of her run-in with evil, she’s never been quite accepted at home. Throughout the book we get lots of revelations about Nimue’s past: her attack, the source and strength of her magic, her family history. I loved all of that. The book focuses on the persecution of the Fey by a group of Christian monks, who basically come in and start burning up villages and killing the “pagans.” Nimue ends up with a powerful magical sword and a mission to bring it to Merlin, but she also has to evade the monks along the way (and maybe take a little revenge). I was fascinated by the sword and its power: Does this sword end up being Excalibur? (I assumed so, but I wasn’t sure.) Is it evil? There are lots of questions that fall into that morally gray area I love.
The book is already optioned for Netflix, and it does read like a screenplay in some ways (which might bother some people): It often flips between short scenes from different perspectives, and the setting is vividly described. Action scenes feel cinematic. I could easily picture how the book would work onscreen (and I’m definitely interested in watching the series). I did feel that this sometimes left a bit to be desired in the character department (for instance, I wasn’t at all interested in the romance element of the book because I just didn’t feel a connection between the characters—but that was a small part of the book overall).
A note about the art: Frank Miller is an ultra-famous comic artist, and he has a very distinct style. If I’m being completely honest, it’s a little too “rough” for me when it’s in black and white, but that’s just my opinion of the style in general (and obviously many people love him). The color illustrations truly shine, though, and made me appreciate the artistry so much more—I am so grateful that Simon & Schuster sent me a finished copy so I could see those color illustrations!!
So, if you’re up for a King Arthur retelling from a new perspective with some unique twists, this book is for you!
***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher via FFBC blog tours in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
About the Author & Illustrator
Thomas Wheeler sold his first screenplay at age twenty-two, to Twentieth Century Fox. He has continued to work on major Hollywood features for the last several years. Wheeler lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Christina, and his son, Luca. The Arcanum was his first novel.
Frank Miller is an award-winning comic book writer, novelist, inker, screenwriter, film director, and producer best known for Daredevil, The Dark Knight Returns, Sin City, and 300, among others. He also created Cursed with Tom Wheeler, which is being adapted as a series for Netflix starring Katherine Langford.
1 Finished copy (USA only)