Perilous Times by Thomas D Lee

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Perilous Times by Thomas D Lee

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Category: Fantasy
Rating: 3/5
Reviewer: Olivia Tierney
Reviewed by Olivia Tierney
Summary: Arthurian lore meets environmental peril in this unique, adventurous fantasy novel that will be perfect for some readers but not others.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 544 Date: May 2023
Publisher: Orbit
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0356518527

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Hate is the path of least resistance

Set in the near-distant future, in a world on the verge of climate collapse, Britain is in great peril. The British Isles desperately needs a hero (or several) to save the day and rescue what little remains. What no-one expected was that one of the Knights of the Round Table would answer the call.

Reborn every few centuries under Merlin's magic as an immortal defender of the realm, Sir Kay – one of Arthur's knights – crawls his way up from the earth to glimpse the new world. One ravaged by divisions and dragons, rising oceans and a privatised military. A dystopian world that it seems steps away rather than leaps.

Thrust into battle as soon as he wakes, he finds himself crossing paths with the eco-terrorist Mariam – an ordinary woman who has spent her life fighting all that's wrong with her country – who as desperate as she is for a miracle just might believe the legends are true and that Britain has finally found its saviour.

As the two embark upon a journey through the bizarre and dangerous Britain, they discover that there is a darker magic at play. Behind the scenes, within the shadows, an apocalyptic plot is being enacted by old friends and old foes, threatening to ruin all that remains. Endeavouring to defeat it and salvage a future from the rubbles of the present will challenge Sir Kay and Mariam to limits they have never known before.

Britain is in their hands. Can they fix it or will they be forced to watch it burn?

Perilous Times is an original fantasy dystopian novel which shines light on the impending environmental crisis facing the Earth whilst reimagining the legendary tales of Arthurian knights. It's an intriguing concept, one in which you cannot help wanting to understand how such chalk and cheese concepts mix. Strangely, it does and quite well. Lee's expert worldbuilding and his weaving of the story behind the knights coming to answer the country's needs ensures it works. The pieces of Aruthurian legend unfurl throughout the course of the novel naturally, neither too soon nor too late, which I think is the secret as to how Lee has brought them successfully together. Through familiar figures and various cameos, remembrances and reunions, the old world is almost as vivid as the new.

There are scatterings of humour and comical scenes throughout the novel – though I would caution it will of course depend on your humour. Furthermore, the different POVs, which shred light onto the backstories of the central characters, add interesting edges to the novel enriching the story in different ways. There are also lots of fantastical elements – dragons, witches and wizards, earth magic, powerful swords – embroidered within a fractional, dystopian world which I am sure will delight and satisfy fans of both genres.

Although fun and entertaining, there were however some elements that left me desiring both more and less. At over 500 pages it is quite a long novel and I cannot help feeling that it should have been at least 100 pages shorrter. At times the story meanders without having a direct consequence on the plot, which will make it great for readers who want to be engrossed in the world as long as possible and desire a slower-paced read, but not for those seeking a fast-paced action-packed story.

I struggled with the lack of depth in the novel. Though there were hints and flickers of the past lives of Kay and Lancelot nothing was ever touched on or explored and it felt like certain characters were underdeveloped and others changed without reason. At times things conveniently just fell into place and problems were too easily resolved for my liking, making it feel as if the characters were sometimes adrift in their own story.

However, with a core message about the need for united environmental action, this imaginary dystopian world stands out marrying old legend and future crisis together. Although well sewn together and polished, I expect it will be a 'marmite' type of novel: fantastic for some but maybe not for everyone.

Fun and imaginative, Perilous Times will be a great fantasy / dystopian read for summer.

Many thanks to the publishers for providing the Bookbag with a copy for review!

In terms of further reading, if you have not had the immense pleasure of reading it yet Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman is a humorous, atmospheric, fantastical triumph of a novel. For those searching for another story centred around Arthurian history, Sword At Sunset by Rosemary Sutcliff is exceptional, revealing the truths behind the myths. For another story in the same but different veil, Ben Aaronovitch's Rivers of London is a unique series, blending fantasy with crime, which gets better and better with every book.

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