Book Review – Perilous Times

First up for my revived blog of book reviews is Perilous Times, the debut novel by Thomas D. Lee. I was given a copy of this book from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review. Read on for my thoughts on this mash-up of climate fiction and Arthurian legend.

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Here is the blurb:

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.

Being reborn as an immortal defender of the realm gets awfully damn 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 fought at Hastings, and at Waterloo, and in both World Wars. After a thousand years, he thought he was used to dealing with a crisis. But now he finds himself in a strange new world where oceans have risen, armies have been privatized, and half of Britain’s been sold to the Chinese. The dragon that’s running amok, that he can handle. The rest? He’s not so sure.

Mariam’s devoted her life to 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, a figure straight out of legend, she dares to hope that the world’s finally found the savior it needs.

As the two quest through this strange land swarming with gangs, mercenaries, and talking squirrels, they realize that other ancient evils are afoot. Lancelot is back too–at the beck and call of immortal beings with a sinister agenda. And if their plans can’t be stopped, a dragon will be the least of the planet’s worries.

In perilous times like these, the realm doesn’t just need a knight. It needs a true leader.

Luckily, Excalibur lies within reach–and Kay’s starting to suspect that the hero fit to carry it is close at hand.

I had a hard time initially getting into this book because I think I was distracted by reading too many books at once, and not through any fault of the story or the writing. Once I made a commitment to this book, it was actually quite good, with a unique premise and themes of feminism, environmentalism, capitalism, and murky scientific ethics.

The two main characters, Kay and Mariam, cover most of the viewpoint chapters, and both are interesting. Kay is out of place, but is very self-aware of this, since he has woken up in different times every time England is in “peril”. Mariam takes all of the bizarre events in and accepts them pretty quickly (although it is hard to deny a dragon). They play off each other well and I was worried when they were separated at one point. But in the end, some secrets are revealed and this stand-alone novel wraps up with a satisfactory conclusion.

One other theme that I enjoyed that was woven into this book was that of what defines a hero. Kay is the “hero” from legend, but has tired of that role, while the true hero in the tale doesn’t see themself as doing anything beyond what any reasonable person should be doing.

Are you a fan of alternate Arthurian legend stories? Let me know in the comments (above)!

Find more of my reviews here.

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