Royal Enchantment and the books in the Camelot Reborn series work under the premise that King Arthur and his Knights were suspended in time in order to defend humans against a future magical threat by Queen Morgan le Fae and her people. It sounded like something I might enjoy since I’ve loved stories of Camelot ever since I watched Excalibur as a young girl. Unfortunately, the book was less about chivalry and romance and more about a clueless king and the needy woman he left behind.
The marriage between King Arthur and Queen Guinevere was never as romantic as the legends would have us believe. For five years they lived as virtual strangers in Camelot as Arthur spent his time managing his growing kingdom while Guinevere was left to more womanly pursuits. Their complete estrangement comes on the heels of Gwen’s attempt to negotiate with a visiting dignitary who instead uses her to learn of Arthur’s weaknesses. From that moment Arthur begins to see betrayals in everything Gwen does at court, including her friendship with Lancelot, and Gwen can do nothing to redeem herself in Arthur’s eyes. When his battle with the Fae reaches a stalemate, Arthur decides to put himself and his men in an enchanted sleep so as to be ready for the threat when it returns; however he barely gives a thought to the wife he’ll be leaving behind in the past.
Years pass and Arthur and his knights have awoken in modern-day Washington to face a new threat from the Fae while Gwen has been forgotten in time. What Arthur didn’t know is that Merlin had performed the same sleeping spell on Gwen, knowing that a king of Camelot must always have a queen by his side. After years of searching Merlin finds the crypt where Gwen’s body has been held and uses his magic to revive her. Gwen awakens from her slumber angry and reluctant to be reunited with Arthur considering he left her without any explanation. Arriving at Arthur’s apartment Gwen is shocked by the modern conveniences but is also surprised at the lack of servants, courtiers and the small size of the space. When Arthur arrives back at his home the awkward reunion of king and queen is a reminder of the problems in their marriage and Arthur’s refusal to let her into his private study shows Gwen that centuries haven’t changed her husband. Fortunately a spell of knowledge from Merlin enlightens Gwen to the opportunities for women in the 21st century. Realizing that the old ways and the old Camelot are gone, Gwen questions if her role as consort to an out of place monarch is what she wants out of her new life.
I tend to forgive crazy ideas when reading a paranormal romance and was game for the idea of King Arthur being revived in the modern day. That premise worked for about one chapter until I learned that Arthur and his knights are now making their living as performers at a Medieval Times type of dinner theater. That was way too on the nose for me and I checked out of the fantasy. Sure, I realize that an ancient king doesn’t really walk into the job market with the skills required for a desk job, but couldn’t he and his men have done something a little more inconspicuous? His battle against the Fae is really a fight to keep the regular humans from knowing that magic exists, so when an evil Fae starts sending dragons to attack the city they try to pass it off as a publicity stunt. It’s all just a little too convenient and not as clever as the author probably intended.
Arthur is more delusional than noble, believing that he’s a king of some undefined realm when in reality he has no authority, lands or respect (other than his paying audience). He’s more than happy to adjust to modern conveniences when it helps him and his men but refuses to comprehend that Gwen has options that don’t include him. It takes much too long for Arthur to understand why Merlin saved Gwen all those years ago, that he personally needs someone like Gwen to keep him grounded and not so consumed by the responsibilities placed on him. As much as I wanted to support Gwen’s new independent outlook on her life, it, too, rang false since she’s constantly seeking Arthur’s approval and his love. Her attempts to show Arthur that she’s intelligent and capable sometimes feel like childish tantrums or passive aggressiveness. I liked that her interests in design and engineering led to a solution for the dragon problem in Washington; however, she only takes joy in her accomplishment because it makes Arthur notice her. Not quite ready for your Feminist membership card yet, Gwen.
I’ll give points to Ms. Ashwood for having a unique idea for reimagining the Arthurian legend but the execution leaves much to be desired. Arthur and Gwen are still trapped in the past despite their modern dress and a magical knack with computers. Their story needs more explanation for a new reader like me about how Arthur can still be a king when there’s no kingdom left for him. There are hints that Merlin and the other knights may feature in future stories but I’m perfectly happy to move on without those tales being told.