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Sword Stone Table

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Member Reviews

This book is wild and so interested and I am so glad I read it. It is unique - I have never read a book like it. Everyone must read!
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I cannot review this book properly because I think I don’t like the genre. Therefore I’m unable to give this book and unbiased review.
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*Thank you to NetGallery and Vintage for granting me access to an early copy of this book*
Why I Requested It: I wanted to branch out beyond the standard fairytale retellings (Cinderella and Snow White) and the diversity (gender, race, and genre) of this collection appealed to me. Some of the authors, namely Roshani Chokshi, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, and Ken Liu, whose previous works I had a positive experience with and wanted to see what they did the Arthurian mythos. 

Overall Thoughts: As a whole, I was underwhelmed by this collection. Part of it is my own personal preference. I've come to the conclusion that while I'm fascinated by video essays and critical analyses of Arthurian legend, I'm not really interested in modern retellings of it. I also noticed that most of the stories were categorized as "Present" meaning their setting was in the present day or within the near past, and I just don't gravitate toward contemporary stories. I had a similar problem with How the World Became Quiet by Rachel Swirsky, but the overall quality of the stories was much higher. The overall quality of these stories was mediocre, not bad but very forgettable and more often than not failed as a retelling. In my notes I frequently put the diversity as a notable pro of several stories but it was also the only positive thing I could say for about half them. I would also say that if you are expecting the focus to mainly be on Arthur or Guinevere, you will be disappointed. The two central characters are Merlin because of the magic and time traveling possibilities and Lancelot because of all the love drama he creates, and I generally dislike romance driven dramas. Below I've ranked all the individual stories from the best to worst and briefly summarize my thoughts and on each one. 

The Once and Future Qadi by Ausma Zehanat Khan
   This was probably the best of story of the whole collection, and it was the first one. In this one the diversity 
  was well incorporated, with a visiting Arabic noble investigating Guinevre's affair. It was one of the more 
  nuanced stories, about gender and judgement and cultural differences that really elevated it. 
Passing Fair and Young by Roshani Chokshi
   Chokshi always has very beautiful writing but sometimes there isn't is much substance to the stories 
   themselves. This, fortunately was not the case, because Elaine was given quite a bit characterization, and this 
   was her story about the choices she made in life and the consequences that they would bring (not in a being 
   punished kind of way). 

Decent and Memorable:
White Hempen Sleeves by Ken Liu:
   Not really a retelling, but a really good, nuanced story and the only criticism I would give it is that it was too 
   short for me to feel fully connected. 
A Shadow in Amber by Silva Moreno-Garcia 
   In this one, the Lancelot melodrama is quite subdued and the story was well written, slow and slightly 
   melancholy, but it lacked the thematic drive that I wanted from it. 
Black Diamond by Alex Segura
   Not the type of story that would normally make an impact on me, but this was a great modernization of 
   Arthur and Camelot through the lens of baseball of all things. The only thing I didn't like was the ending 
   because of its ambiguity  and making a woman the villain. 
Do, By All Due Means by Sive Doyle
   Not quite sure how this is Arthurian other than heavy theme of destiny, but I liked the narrative of a woman 
   taking her own path.  
Jack and Brad and the Magician by Anthony Rapp
   Really have to squint to count this as a retelling, but its a bittersweet story with a lot of heart, set during the 
   AIDS epidemic. 
Mayday by Maria Dahvana Headly
   Unique in that it employed a mixed media format, but for me personally that hindered the story. Honestly my 
   favorite thing about this is that it is set in Ohio around Lake Eerie, and I'm from Toledo so it's nice to see some 
   geographically representation in literature. 
The Blade Smith Queen by Sarah MacLean
   Reading this one just gave me bodice ripper romance vibes. There is some interesting commentary on war 
   and weapons, but its just overshadowed by this instantaneous and lust fueled "romance." 

Decent but Forgettable:
I Being Young and Foolish by Nisi Shawl
   The synopsis of this story sounds interesting, with a foregin albino sorcerress living with Merlin, but the fact 
   that I cannot remember any specifics, besides a bunch of random romances, tells me that there was just a lot 
   of wasted potential with this one. 
Once (Them) & Future (Us) by Preeti Chhibber:
   I have the distinct impression that this one was actually a decent story, and did the whole reincarnation thing 
   well, whatever story was there was massively hindered by the romance. 
Flat White by Jessica Plummer
   A reincarnation barista romance, neither of which I are tropes or AUs that I gravitate toward, but in this one at 
   least Elaine finally breaks it off with Lance. 
Little Green Men by Alexander Chee
   Despite being based on one of the few stories from Arthurian mythos that I both remember and like (Sir 
   Gawain and the Green Knight) there was no real story here, with the focus being on world building and pop 
   culture name drops, which was very jarring. So more dedicated to aesthetic rather than making a good 
Heartbeat by Wausbgeshig Rice: 
   In this one a Native American boy embraces his past and culture, and while that works as a Sword in the 
   Stone retelling, there wasn't anything distinct about it besides its diversity and felt that the ending was abrupt 
   and unearned. 
The Quay Stone by S. Zainab
   This is the one I remember nothing about and the only constructive note I have is that it had little to do with 
   Arthurian legend. 

How, After Long Fighting, Galehurt was Overcome by Lancelot yet was  Slain and Made Great Speed to Yield to Galehaut, the Knight of Forfeit by Daniel M. Lavery (yes, that was the entire title)
   Much like the title, the story itself was so wordy it was incomprehensible, and as such I could not 
   distinguish what was going on, let alone any positive or retelling elements, making this the one truly bad story 
   in the collection.
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I did not finish. Collection includes a number of strong writers and themes, but not enough to keep me reading. This Short story collection not likely to interest our library patrons.
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In the introduction to Sword Stone Table, editors Swapna Krishna and Jenn Northington wrote about their search for Arthurian retellings. They wanted tales that bent the race or gender of the characters, or introduced queer characters to these beloved stories. So they set out to create their own, and asked sixteen writers to contribute their own takes on Arthur and the Stone Table. Writers from Sarah MacLean to Alexander Chee said yes, and Sword Stone Table came to life.

As with almost any collection of short stories, I found some stories excellent and some only okay. The authors set their tales either in the past (once), the present, or the future. Roshani Chokshi reveals a new side to the tale of Elaine and Lancelot in "Passing Fair and Young," Waubgeshig Rice places a young Arthur in an Anishinaabeg community where he learns about his culture and traditions from his mysterious Uncle Merle in "Heartbeat," and Silvia Moreno-Garcia writes of a woman in a a tower many years in the future who savors memories from a beautiful young man she calls Lancelot in "A Shadow in Amber." There are two kinds of readers who will be wowed by this collection--people who are looking for new-to-them science fiction and fantasy authors, and those who are die-hard Arthurian nerds. Kudos to the editors and writers for bringing new life to these well-loved stories and characters.

Sword Stone Table: Old Legends, New Voices 
Edited by Swapna Krishna and Jenn Northington 
Vintage July 2021
480 pages
Read via Netgalley
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If you are a fan of King Arthur lore you must get this book of short stories. A mix of gender, race bent and queer retellings from a range of great authors. Asuma Zehanat Khan's is one of my personal favorites, but everyone will find a story that speaks to them.
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I came for Sarah MacLean and Danny Lavery, but stayed for the rest of this complicated, fantastic anthology. It’s such a diverse take on the Arthur mythology and I loved it!
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Somehow this book just wasn't what I expected, at least from the first section. I found it hard to stay interested in any of the stories.
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Old Legends, New Voices

From the vast lore surrounding King Arthur, Camelot, and the Knights of the Round Table, comes an anthology of gender-bent, race-bent, LGBTQIA+ inclusive retellings.

Here you’ll find the Lady of the Lake reimagined as an albino Ugandan sorceress and the Lady of Shalott as a wealthy, isolated woman in futuristic Mexico City; you'll see Excalibur rediscovered as a baseball bat that grants a washed-up minor leaguer a fresh shot at glory and as a lost ceremonial drum that returns to a young First Nations boy the power and the dignity of his people. There are stories set in Gilded Age Chicago, '80s New York, twenty-first century Singapore, and space; there are lesbian lady knights, Arthur and Merlin reborn in the modern era for a second chance at saving the world and falling in love—even a coffee shop AU.

 Brave, bold, and groundbreaking, the stories in Sword Stone Table will bring fresh life to beloved myths and give long-time fans a chance to finally see themselves in their favorite legends.

What makes this such a fresh and creative premise is not the legend of King Arthur. Those stories have been retold from generation to generation but this rendition gives us something new, original voices that we don’t normally hear, diverse in every way imaginable. We get unique ways of looking at the Arthurian characters and unusual twists on what would happen in different scenarios and worlds. It is breathtaking, especially if you love the original legends which I do. 

The book description gives you a much better notion of the stories in this anthology than I ever could but what I can do is give you my opinion. The editors of this anthology have blended the best writers into a unique set of stories that were enthralling and engaging. I raced through this fabulous collection, delving into each thought and idea, marveling at the author’s creations. Whether based in the original world of Arthurian legend, present day or the far future, each story successfully explored the themes and ideas of Arthur in new and different ways. I absolutely loved each one and wanted so, so much more. 

If you love the legends of yesterday, or like stories of the far future, you will find something for anyone in this collection. If you love Arthurian legend, this is the anthology for you. I loved it and so will you. 

Rating: 5 out of 5 legends.
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This was this one because it had short stories that took on our story and legends in a new way. Some of the authors I’ve read before such as Sarah McLean and I loved her story. It was also a great introduction to writers that I have not read before. I now have a new list a ride or something for the forward to after reading this fun little anthology.
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I love retellings, and I enjoyed these even though I am not super familiar with all of the source material. Short stories are fun, but I will say I was occasionally left wanting more! The Bladesmith Queen was spectacular, and I would read a novel version of it in a heartbeat.
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“Sword Stone Table: Old Legends, New Voices” is a collection of short stories written by a diverse group of others.

These stories were heavily entrenched in myths and legends but set up in a new, quirky way. The creativity behind each story was outstanding! This is part of the reason I love reading - to see how writers can take a blank canvas and paint a vivid world with their words! 😍

Some of the stories may have went over my head because, of all the historical periods, medieval times is my weakest and the lore isn’t strong for me either. I need to do better. In spite of my personal inadequacies, these stories were well written and beautifully done!

This was my first exposure to several of these authors and I am really happy about it. I love being introduced to new authors, especially when they are from underrepresented groups. 📚

*I received this ARC from NetGalley and Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group in exchange for my honest review. 
#SwordStoneTable #NetGalley
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Absolute perfection in a story collection. I have been looking forward to reading this, but it really ended up blowing me away even more than I anticipated.
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I haven't been much of an anthology reader but wow! This was so fun. Unfortunately, I don't know as much about Arthurian legends so some of it went over my head but I still really enjoyed the storytelling. It also introduced to me authors I may not have found otherwise. Thank you so much for the arc!
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What a delight! This collection is an outstanding cross-genre melange that is sure to satisfy many readers. The MacLean title was particularly strong, but all were well-done. If you’re interested in fairy tale retellings, particularly Arthurian legends, this is the book for you. The gender-bent, queer, fantasy lenses only make these familiar stories feel fresh and new.
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This is such a hard book for me to review because I was so excited to get into it/read it, because I love King Arthur retellings, but short stories are so hard for me, so I ended up DNFing it after the first story. I generally don't like short stories, but because Roshani Chokshi authored one of the short stories, I was like I'm going to do it! I need some time to get into a story and by the time I'm really into a short story, it's done (or I just never get into it at all). I really wish I had liked it though! Based on the first story in this collection, I think it would be great for people who do like short stories though and the King Arthur retellings are always on point
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this was a really cool anthology! I'll admit my favorite story was Sarah Macleans😍 Her books are my favorite, and I LOVED her story in this book!! It was mystical and sexy and such a ride
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A collection of stories that really feels like the perfect chaser to David Lowery's The Green Knight — reinterpretations of classic legends that we all know so well, but from authors that infuse it with a fresh sense of voice and identity. Definitely some standouts from the pack for sure, but overall a marvelous anthology that would make a perfect addition to anyone's bookshelf, especially if you grew up reading these tales in school like I did!
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I’m conflicted about how I feel about this collection. Some of the stories were innovative and really fun read while others dragged. Some relied pretty heavily on a previous knowledge of Arthurian mythology, whereas others barely seemed to have any in it, to a point where I thought I was missing some deep subtext. I really enjoyed some of the stories (especially the one told through an auction since the setting is just a few miles from where I live) and there were some really sweet moments in a few stories as well. Overall, though, it often felt very disjointed and it was a bit jarring sometimes since the vibes were so different from piece to piece which I guess is inherent in many short story collections. Maybe if I were more intimately acquainted with the King Arthur legends I would have enjoyed it more, but as it stood, the collection was enjoyable but not extraordinary.
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No story here is less than solid, but standouts for me included Ausma Zehanat Khan’s “The Once and Future Qadi,” in which King Arthur summons a Cordoban judge to Camelot to determine whether Guinevere is guilty of adultery; Maria Dahvana Headley’s extraordinary “Mayday,” which assembles 19th-century artifacts surrounding the “presidential run of one Mr. Arthur Pendragon, the Cleveland-based millionaire” with a dark secret past; Waubgeshig Rice’s profoundly moving “Heartbeat,” in which an Indigenous community’s once and future kinship is not so much pulled from a stone as unearthed from beneath it; and Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s “A Shadow in Amber,” which sets “The Lady of Shalott” in a near-future Mexico City where the young and poor can sell portions of their experiences to the wealthy. If you got excited about Dev Patel starring in “The Green Knight,” you’ll definitely want to pick this up.
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