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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Charming. Refreshing. Engaging. A magical and adventurous tale of two children fighting the tides of their lives, forging a path away from home, and finding a friend in each other. Holding true as a retelling of the Arthurian legend yet building on an originality worthy of praise. Thank you to Little, Brown for the opportunity to read this early!
The Witch, the Sword, and the Cursed Knights is a debut middle-grade fantasy inspired by the Arthurian legend.
Camelot, a symbol of the Arthurian world, has fallen to ruin and the world is now divided into various magical realms and other realms where all memory of magic has vanished. Despite King Arthur gone, children are drafted every year to serve as knights of the Round Table—as the guardians of the realms. Ellie, a twelve-year-old girl with an impressive toad collection, doesn’t want to be selected into the knights’ floating castle since she hopes for her highborn mother’s recognition; and only the path to becoming a fairy godmother can guarantee this respect because Ellie is born with witch’s magic too, and witches are outcasts in Aurelia Realm, her home. So when she instead gets drafted to serve as a knight, Ellie turns to the one way she can get out of this summon: by helping a lost cause.
Caedmon, in another realm, is a twelve-year-old boy who is broken and withdrawn as grief over the inexplicable death of his best friend remains heavy. So it’s only understandable when he ignores those mysterious letters asking him to join some knights, thinking it must be a prank. But fate is written and soon, both Caedmon and Ellie find themselves reporting to Château des Chevaliers as recruits, where the two become friends and learn of a wicked curse draining the knights of their powers. Now, unless Ellie accepts her witchling heritage and Caedmon becomes the knight he’s meant to be—that is, unless both accept who they really are—the looming darkness threatens this world. And so it begins! The two find themselves on a magical adventure to reforge the legendary, shattered sword of Excalibur.
With a plot that keeps a reader guessing and with an astounding world building, this page-turner fantasy stays grounded in the original strongholds of King Arthur’s legend while also innovating storylines adorned with twists and surprises. From various creatures and Arthurian references to the cherishable trope of a young hero and shero, Roger’s debut effortlessly weaves something classic and fresh at the same time.
But what is sure to win the readers’ heart is the characterisation. Ellie’s humour gives life to the pages and her desperation to simply prove herself is impossible to not relate with. For a young girl growing up in a society that views part of her to be evil because of the witchcraft she can perform, her need to earn respect and simply fit in is unmissable. This is exactly what fuels her bravery and it’s a pleasure to witness her arc. Caedmon, in contrast, is completely lost and can’t seem to feel any ounce of happiness in the midst of an overwhelming grief. And for a young soul like him to still take up the task written for him, to rise as his true self, and to courageously do his best while the grief doesn’t leave, is absolutely commendable.
Ultimately, the friendship Ellie and Caedmon share uplifts the entire tone of this middle-grade retelling that otherwise still impresses through an intriguing plot. Both found themselves completely alone at one point and never expected to see support in each other. And that exact hope every young (and old) reader has found simmering within their hearts at some point leaves me delighted. The wish for acceptance in these flawed yet adorable characters wonderfully imparts the importance of fully being oneself—and even letting someone see that authentic self.
my rating ↣ ★★★★☆
After receiving her master’s degree at City, University of London for her non-fiction book on the romantic mythology of Paris, she acted, modelled, 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.
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This post is written for a promotional blog tour hosted by TBR & Beyond Book Tours but everything stated in the post is solely my opinion and recommendation, and the giveaway (if any) is in no way sponsored by me.