Book Review: The Camelot Papers by Peter David

The Camelot Papers by Peter David JK Woodward

The Camelot Papers by Peter David

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

Published by Crazy 8 Press

Release Date: Out Now

The Camelot Papers follows Viviana, a young woman sold into slavery and brought to Camelot. As a servant who can read and write, Viviana (at least initially) goes unnoticed by those of rank in the castle, and is thus able to record the “true” events of Arthur Pendragon’s rise to power. For those that are familiar with his Knight Life series, this book is not in any way related to that earlier series.

I am a huge fan of Peter David’s work from way back when, so I was pretty excited when I learned that he was working on a King Arthur book. Overall, it’s an enjoyable read. It still has plenty of the author’s trademark humour but I have to say that there was a lot that gave me pause. For one thing, the cover art by JK Woodward was pretty misleading. Yes, there was plenty of humour in the book, and the tongue-in-cheek, National Enquirer-style cover was certainly eyecatching, but it didn’t mesh with the tone of the book. It felt as though the artist hadn’t actually read the same book that I had read. If anything, the book was far less humourous than David’s previous work, and far more political. But I’ll get to that in a moment.

Another thing that bothered me a lot was the voice of Viviana. The book is written like a diary, from her point of view. Except, it wasn’t until near the end of the book, that I actually began to like her character, and that’s not such a great thing when she’s your eyes into this world. Part of it is that she’s supposed to be a slave. When someone like Arthur addresses her, she’s supposed to stay bland and agreeable. And I understand that, I really do. As a slave, her fate is in other people’s hands so she doesn’t give much thought to anything outside of her own circumstances. But through most of the story, it was as though other characters were seeing things in Viviana that truly I was not. Yes, she could read. Yes, she was occasionally blunt and honest. But it still didn’t explain to me why she became so trusted, not just by Arthur but Guinevere and even Merlin.

As I mentioned earlier, this book is far more political than David’s previous work. This last complaint is perhaps more my fault than the authors. I had purchased the book with almost no knowledge of it, save that it was about King Arthur. This meant that I missed the part where it said it was political satire. And not just vague ideas, but a good chunk of the book is devoted to political satire. You have Galahad, the mysterious knight who the people of Camelot believe can do no wrong. You have Arthur and his knights going off to fight a war that has no end in sight because they can’t tell who is a follower of the evil Malegeant and who is not. You have stories of torture. You even have Guinevere proposing that the wealthy are taxed to ease the suffering of the poor. You get the picture. I think a few of these ideas would’ve made me chuckle. But I found myself feeling a little short changed. I guess, in the end, I wanted a humourous book about King Arthur, and not one that reminds me that no one in Washington seems to know what they’re doing.

Not that the book wasn’t a fun read. I liked seeing how David handled all of the pieces of the King Arthur legend to create his own story. You could see how some of it was factual, according to Viviana, and how some of it would be warped into legend. He created some interesting characters (with the exception of Viviana) and if this becomes a series, I would certainly pick up more books. Personally, I really want to see more from the trouser-wearing Guinevere and the not-really-a-wizard Merlin.