Today is my stop on the TBR & Beyond Tours for The Witch, The Sword and The Cursed Knights by Alexandria Rogers. Special thanks to Little, Brown Books for Young Readers for providing an ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!
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Goodreads: The Witch, The Sword and The Cursed Knights
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: 08 February 2022
Genre: Middle-Grade Fantasy
Twelve-year-old Ellie can’t help that she’s a witch, the most hated member of society. Determined to prove her worth and eschew her heritage, Ellie applies to the Fairy Godmother Academy—her golden ticket to societal acceptance. But Ellie’s dreams are squashed when she receives the dreaded draft letter to serve as a knight of King Arthur’s legendary Round Table. She can get out of the draft—but only if she saves a lost cause.
Enter Caedmon, a boy from Wisconsin struggling with the death of his best friend. He first dismisses the draft as ridiculous; magic can’t possibly exist. But when Merlin’s ancient magic foretells his family’s death if he doesn’t follow through, he travels to the knights’ castle, where he learns of a wicked curse leeching the knights of their power.
To break the curse, Ellie and Caedmon must pass a series of deathly trials and reforge the lost, shattered sword of Excalibur. And unless Ellie accepts her witch magic and Caedmon rises to become the knight he’s meant to be, they will both fail—and the world will fall to the same darkness that brought King Arthur and Camelot to ruin.
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After receiving her master’s degree at City, University of London for her non-fiction book on the romantic mythology of Paris, she acted, modeled, and wrote in Los Angeles. Eventually, she discovered she preferred drizzly days to eternal sunshine, and that she didn’t want anything to divert her time from writing.
Now the Wisconsin native lives in Edinburgh with her husband and dog, in eternal search of excuses to visit Paris.
- For magical school vibes for knights with fun classes, quirky teachers, and mysterious locations!
- For an action-packed and magic-filled retelling of Arthurian lore
- For all the magical beings and creatures!
- For a story that illustrates the power of friendships (even amongst the most unlikely of friends)
- For a story about young people dealing with grief and loss and about accepting your identity and who you are.
TL;DR: This was a fast-paced and adventure-filled fantasy based on Arthurian lore. I have to admit that I’m not the most familiar with the stories of Camelot, King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table, so while I can’t really speak on how much of a ‘good’ retelling it is, I will say that this was a fun MG fantasy debut and a good start to what I’m assuming will be a new series!
CW/TW: violence, death (on-page), grief/loss
The story is told from Ellie and Caedmon’s perspectives by an omniscient third-person narrative and the narrator’s voice was pretty humorous at times. I liked the use of the occasional footnotes that would include something quippy and give subtle hints about the narrator’s identity. If you enjoy magical schools then you’ll also delight in knowing this one has the trope but instead of a school for any old witch or wizard, it’s a magical school for knights! It’s complete with gigantic dining halls with mouthwateringly delicious food, cool classes like poison resistance and star speaking, witchy forests and abandoned rooms that are ever-changing and rearranging. There are also lots of fascinating magical creatures and beings, such as the skeletal Urokshi who live in underground forest caverns.
What I enjoyed the most were the characters and their journeys. In a world where witches are reviled due to their role in the fall of Camelot, Ellie has had a very lonely childhood ruled by fear. She has the powers of a witch but has been forced to hide her abilities by her mother, who has always belittled her and kept her away. All Ellie wants is to make her mother proud and, more than anything, she wants to attend fairy school to prove once and for all that she rejects every notion of being a witch. When we meet Caedmon, he’s drowning in despair and his grief over losing his best friend so suddenly. He’s from the “New World” (Earth) and has no idea about the magical realm until he’s recruited to join the school of knights. Both Ellie and Caedmon feel abandoned and alone at the beginning but form a fast friendship as they realise they’re kindred spirits who can rely on each other, to be honest, and supportive, and they learn that sometimes “kin” isn’t just your blood but the people you choose to be in your life. I loved how Ellie learns to accept her witch powers and how Caedmon deals with his loss, and it was great to see them both gain confidence in themselves. Their journeys are really just beginning but in this first book, they develop a strong foundation to grow individually but also as a team.
The main issue I had with the story is that I felt that it tried to do too much at once and it became a slightly chaotic jumble with nothing of consequence being resolved by the end. I thought the world-building was a little haphazard and not very intricate, which does it make it good for young readers who are starting off their fantasy reading journeys. I wish we got more details about the school aspect—the classes, the friendships (outside of their duo, and the teacher figures. We briefly meet a number of characters, including Omari and Lorelei who kind of band in with Ellie and Cad, but they’re relatively one-dimensional and we don’t learn much about them. Their search for the curse caster and the hunt for Excalibur took up a lot of their time but I also felt as if we don’t get enough detail about it and at times I found it hard to understand how they’d come to a certain conclusion. And for as much time as they spend searching for the sword, I also found it a little anticlimactic when they actually do.
That said, I do realise that I’m not the target audience for this story. I believe many young readers who want to try fantasy and who want to explore new retellings of different tales will certainly enjoy the magic, the friendship, and the adventure in this debut, with (I’m hoping) much more to come in future books!
Have you read The Witch, The Sword and the Cursed Knights or is it on your TBR?