Author: Marie Phillips
Read Type: ARC
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Sir Humphrey du Val of the Table of Less Valued Knights - Camelot's least prestigious table, with one leg shorter than the others so that it has to be propped up with a folded napkin - doesn't do quests ... until he meets Elaine, a damsel in distress with a secret to hide.
Strong language: Some
Violence: Yes, fighting
Sexual content: Some, implied or description of images
I received a copy of the novel from Random House via Netgalley for free in return for an unbiased review.
This novel was a funny look at Camelot and Arthur's knights. Overall it was light in feel and witty in how it wove in Arthurian legend. But it wasn’t without its deeper moments, such as addressing what it is to be disgraced as a knight, which roped the reader into the story underlying the humour.
We begin in King Arthur's hall with the annual Pentecost party going on, attended by all the knights of the realm: the Round Table, the Table of Errant Companions, and the Table of Less Valued Knights. A party that brings the biggest quest of the year. Whoever completes this is said to get in Arthur's good graces. Soon somebody runs in with a mission, naturally assumed to be the Pentecost one, and the party truly commences.
Fast forward several hours when all the knights are drunk, or have otherwise found their way to a bed, leaving the hall empty–except for one. Humphrey is a knight of the Less Valued Knights table, where all the elderly, injured, or somehow disgraced knights are placed and banned from taking quests. He is shocked to see a distressed maiden fly through the doors, and quickly realises that a mistake has been made: this is the true Pentecost mission. Rather than call one of Arthur’s knights he "forgets" his standing and takes her quest on. They steal away into the night, along with his young giant squire, and the fun begins!
The comedy was interlaced throughout the story, from the story name, the squire, Conrad, and his unusual steed to damsels not-in-so-much-distress, taking Humphrey for a roll in the nearest semi-isolated location. It took little dialogue to tell this tale; instead it was covered with the action and adventure. It felt fitting that people of such different classes, while working together, chose to show appreciation through action, from a clip round the back of the head to an attempt to seduce.
Humphrey’s back story of how he found himself on the Less Valued knights table, was a pause in the humour to tug at our heart strings. By the end of it I really felt for him and had a much better idea of who he was and where everything fit in the story. After this much appreciated break that really allowed the reader to get to know the heart of Sir Humphrey, the story reverted to its comedy roots, as his attempts become increasingly haphazard to complete the quest and prove himself.
Come part two, we switch time streams and characters, to a princess who is about to be crowned queen. This part had a very different, much more slapstick feel, yet harbouring more tension. She has to fight her "destiny" every step of the way, but surrounded by such ethics as a woman should be seen and not heard, she doesn't get far. This woman is far more vocal and independent, even when making huge mistakes and cavorting with magic. She brought much more drama and mystery to the foreground of the story.
The characters were the real glue of this story, whether funny, emotional, or bringing mystery to the group, they all played an integral part–even the character built to be annoying, though he drove me up the wall at times!
In a few places around the middle there were a lot of characters and plot threads to keep track of, however, these were tied up before they became an issue. The ending was very fairytale- and fable-esque; it felt fitting. I would like to see more of the world. I feel the main characters in this story have covered their potential plotlines nicely, however I felt there was a lot more room for growth either in a different timeframe or with other characters we met briefly.
Overall I found this novel to be a fast, funny frolic in a land where anything, can, and did, happen. I would recommend this to anyone looking to lighten their day with a laugh or two and an enjoyable read.