Hello, everyone! Today I’m reviewing Perilous Times by Thomas D. Lee. I’ve been looking forward to reading this one for months, ever since I first saw it on NetGalley. I love Arthurian lore and am always looking for cool new takes on the story. So, this one piqued my interest immediately.
An immortal Knight of the Round Table faces his greatest challenge yet—saving the politically polarized, rapidly warming world from itself—in this slyly funny contemporary take on Arthurian legend.
Legends don’t always live up to reality.
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.
Mariam’s spent her life fighting what’s wrong with her country. But she’s just one ordinary person, up against a hopelessly broken system. So when she meets Kay, she dares to hope that the world has finally found the savior it needs.
Yet as the two travel through this bizarre and dangerous land, they discover that a magical plot of apocalyptic proportions is underway. And Kay’s too busy hunting dragons—and exchanging blows with his old enemy Lancelot—to figure out what to do about it.
In perilous times like these, the realm doesn’t just need a knight. It needs a true leader.
Luckily, Excalibur lies within reach.
But who will be fit to wield it?
With a cast that includes Merlin, Morgan le Fay, the Lady of the Lake, and King Arthur himself—all reimagined in joyous, wickedly subversive fashion— Perilous Times is an Arthurian retelling that looks forward as much as it looks back . . . and a rollicking, deadpan-funny, surprisingly touching fantasy adventure.
***Thank you to Ballantine Books for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley. My review contains my honest thoughts about my reading experience.***
I am a sucker for anything and everything Arthurian, and this book was no exception. This one was unique, though. The story was filled with the usual characters, but they were thrust into the near future where the world was rapidly approaching its end due to the climate crisis. Unsurprisingly, the setting and general vibes of the story were bleak AF. The world was burning and drowning simultaneously, and the author did an eerily good job of making this future Earth feel doomed. Despite the gloom, there was a surprising amount of humor in the book. Here’s looking at you mister racist Nazi turned repentant talking squirrel who likes to drink just a bit too much. I guess my point is that this book was a fun time despite (or maybe because of) the bleakness.
The characters in this book could be boiled down to one statement: Don’t meet your heroes. They were all messy as hell and nothing like the old stories made everyone believe. Kay was a burnt out warrior who is understandably tired of all the pointless bloodshed. Although, at least he attempts to do the right thing at times. Lancelot on the other hand was a vain playboy with a drinking problem who blindly followed orders until it was almost too late to make a difference. The rest of the Arthurian characters weren’t quite what you’d expect either, but I think it is best that you learn about them for yourself while reading the book. Mariam, the third POV, was a new character. She was devoted to saving the environment and doing what she could to help make Britain, and the world, a better place. I enjoyed her character arc the most because she learned how to believe in herself and her ability to make a difference.
The themes in this book were quite blatant. It definitely beat the reader over the head with them time and time again, but I was fine with it because it made sense for this story and was entertaining. It was in your face about being anti-oil, anti-capitalist, anti-fascist, and pro-environment. It brilliantly illustrated the problem and likely outcome of letting wealthy corporations do what they want at the expense of the health of the world and people. It also highlighted the futility of war and the ways those in power use petty differences to keep the masses distracted while they pillage all the resources for maximal profit. Most importantly, though, this book taught the lesson that the true power lies with the people if only they would wield it. Instead of waiting for someone to come save them, it is the responsibility of each individual to take action to build a better world. That was a really powerful message that brought a thread of hope to all the doom and gloom.
I enjoyed the plot for the most part. The first half was largely a quest to find Excalibur and defeat a dragon. It introduced most of the characters along the way and set up the main conflict for the second half. Things then became a race against the clock to prevent the literal end of the world. Unfortunately, the end didn’t really work for me. Everyone turned on the corporate overlords just a bit too easily, in my opinion.
Overall, this was an incredibly unique re-imagining of Arthurian lore. I had a lot of fun reading these characters because they were so different from what I’ve come to expect from these typically gallant figures. The ending was a bit of a hiccup, but I still really enjoyed my time with this one. Therefore, I rate this book 4.25 out of 5 stars.