Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement. My reviews are my honest opinion and are not biased for the purpose of personal gain.
In the Caballaria, knights fight to settle disputes, their performances broadcast across the Seven Kingdoms for all to see… and bet upon. The Blackheart Knights are the elite, closest to the King and taking on only the highest profile fights. But the Sorcerer Knight is looking for people like him, taking him to outer-district arenas where the hopeful seek to catch the eye of a scout. There he finds Red, a young woman focused on revenge. Nineteen years earlier, the young Artorias Dracones takes the crown of London.
Blackheart Knights is a retelling of Arthurian legend with Art playing the part of a new King whose birth was under murky circumstances, perhaps involving magic. Set in an alternate London, by the time the story gets going, magic is highly regulated and god-children must register before they turn eighteen.
The story flips between Art’s rise from his misspent youth, training with his friends in city dumps to his rise to power as King, something that isn’t automatically given to him through hereditary rules, but fought for with knights. He wants to be a kinder ruler, to do things differently, but change is hard to make. The political nature of the story wouldn’t feel amiss in a more traditional epic fantasy, but I really enjoyed the more modern setting. It felt a bit cyberpunky in parts.
I want this entire country to continue being a big sea of everyone getting on with things just fine. No one needs some privileged fool in spiky headgear being symbolic at them.
The other side of the story is more present day, following Red and her desire to become a knight to get closer to someone, to seek revenge. As it progresses the two timelines start to provide connections between Red, Art and the Sorcerer Knight, as well as fleshing out the worldbuilding behind the magic aspect.
Maybe I am a bit out of practice with reading present tense, but it took me a while to get used to it here, especially since both timelines were in that tense. It meant I often forgot that Art’s chapters were happening a long time before Red’s. Once I got into the writing style, I enjoyed the story and was sucked into this world of knights and magic.
The Caballaria is a circus of hypocrites, political manoeuvrers and power-grubbers. Bouts are thrown all the time. Disputes are decided before they ever get to the arena. Just because the penalties for being found out are a lot harsher nowadays, doesn’t mean people have stopped trying to game it.
This is not a young adult story and there are several sex scenes. By the time we reach Red’s story, Art and those around his are no longer teenagers. The cast includes queer and nonbinary characters too.
Blackheart Knights wasn’t really what I was expecting from the official blurb but I ended up enjoying it anyway. I loved the way the politics of the world was introduced and how Art’s history fed into Red’s journey.
Blackheart Knights is published by Jo Fletcher Books and is available now in hardback and ebook editions. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review and make sure you stop by the rest of the hosts on the social media blast.
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