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Sword Stone Table

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Member Reviews

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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Review for The Bladesmith Queen by Sarah MacLean

I requested an arc of this as soon as I saw Sarah Mac had a story in there, especially one based on an Arthurian legend. Only thing, I realized I don’t know enough of a background of many of these legends to truly understand or appreciate this story. Regardless, this has all the characteristics that draw me to the author’s work; luscious prose, a totally fierce heroine, and a hero would quite literally move worlds to please his lady love. All in this tiny little story.
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I am such a sucker for King Arthur retellings, and this anthology did not disappoint. Each of the stories were so imaginative and creative as well as packed with great characters and worldbuilding. I would love to see any of these stories turn into full length novels.
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This collection reimagines a more diverse, inclusive world of Arthurian legend, creating new ways for readers to find themselves in the classic tales. Set in the past, present, and future, these stories are wonderfully creative and transporting. Each character gets their own moment in the spotlight. As someone with a limited knowledge of Arthurian legend, I thoroughly enjoyed Sword Stone Table, recognizing plenty of the lore and finding new characters to love along the way.
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A really well-conceived, themed collection riffing on Arthurian myths. I am more familiar with some of the Arthurian legends than others, but I really enjoyed the retellings and flipped stories throughout. The "Past" section was my favorite, but the quality was high throughout.
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Sword Stone Table: Old Legends, New Voices is an anthology of 16 stories curated by Swapna Krishna and Jenn Northington and published by Vintage Books. The stories feature different takes on the legend of King Arthur and its multiple characters, including Merlin and Lancelot. The anthology is split into three different sections. Once features stories set in various points in the past, Present contains stories mostly set in modern-day times, and Future puts a sci-fi spin on Arthurian lore.

Krishna says that the inspiration for the anthology came from a question that Northington asked her: “Where are the gender-bent Arthur stories? The race-bent retellings, the queered ones?” Twists on Arthurian lore are nothing new. From comics, including Once & Future to Netflix’s Cursed and Wizards: Tales of Arcadia, there have been plenty of stories that recast the normally white and/or male protagonists as female, BIPOC, and/or LGBTQIA+ characters.

Sword Stone Table is also refreshing in that many of the tales feature characters other than Arthur. I’ve told a few friends that the way to keep Arthurian lore fresh is to dig deep in every corner of the legend. We’ve seen Arthur’s ascension to kinghood and his death in multiple adaptations. So I’m glad that most of these stories focus on other characters.

Out of all the sections, Present was the one I resonated the most with. The idea of translating ancient mythology to the modern day has often yielded great stories and often serves as a test of a writer’s skill. The two stories that play the most with this idea are “Jack and Brad and the Magician,” written by Anthony Rapp (Star Trek Discovery, Rent), and “Once (Them)  & Future (Us),” written by Preeti Chibber (Marvel: Avengers Assembly). Both stories feature Merlin in the modern-day, with the former taking place during the height of the AIDS crisis in New York and the latter in modern-day London. Both stories also feature queer and BIPOC characters: Jack is a Thai lawyer taking care of his boyfriend Brad, and a newly awakened Merlin—now christened Emrys—struggles to reconcile his feelings for a reincarnated Arthur who is now an Indian man named Arjun. The Arthurian legend has always been grand and full of romance, but seeing it filtered through these new prisms was rather heartwarming.

Once continues the trend of expanding upon other characters in the Arthurian mythos, particularly in the story “The Bladesmith Queen” by Sarah MacLean. This recasts the Lady of the Lake as a skilled blacksmith who gains a reputation for the “curse” that befalls those who kiss her and for forging one-of-a-kind swords sought by warriors from across the land. A mysterious warrior comes to the Bladesmith one day and asks for a sword in exchange for inflicting her vengeance on those who have misused her blades. This story is mysterious and sexy and will draw readers’ attention until the very last paragraph.

Finally, Future merges science fiction, which happens to be one of my favorite genres in fiction, with Arthurian lore. The results are a wonder to behold. “A Shadow In Amber” by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Mexican Gothic) takes a trippy approach to Guinevere and Lancelot’s love story in a world where the wealthy can purchase and relive memories; think “King Arthur meets Inception.” “Little Green Men” is another sci-fi twist on fantasy, combining Sir Gawain and the Green Knight with the premise of The Running Man as Gawain—called Gavin in this retelling—undergoes an obstacle course on Mars.

Sword Stone Table: Old Legends New Voices takes a genuinely diverse and refreshing approach to the legend of King Arthur, filtering Arthurian myth through a variety of perspectives and genres thanks to a collection of talented authors. As someone who’s loved the legend of Arthur all his life, I genuinely loved reading this anthology, and I’d recommend it to every reader I know. Sci-fi, fantasy, and romance; there is literally something for everyone in this anthology.

Sword Stone Table: Old Legends, New Voices will be available wherever books are sold.
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This is a large collection of short stories related based on Arthurian legends. Some are more successful than others, which is not uncommon in any anthology. I really liked the concept used of "once" "present" "future" to set the stories. The settings and characters are diverse, and none of these stories are repetitive retellings of the legends. Some of my favorite stories were The Bladesmith Queen; Do, By All Due Means; Jack and Brad and the Magician: Black Diamond; and A Shadow in Amber. Heartbeat is especially beautiful. These are all stories full of imagery and emotion. It's a great collection.
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This anthology included 16 stories that were split into Arthurian era, present, and future, or as it's written in the book, "Once/Present/Future." It's been a while since I read an anthology where I don't recognize most of the authors. I've only heard of 3 of these authors and only read from one, so it definitely delivers on the "new voices" promise.'
This also delivers on making the Arthurian stories more diverse, with over half including main characters of color and three stories including queer characters!
A decent amount of these focused on the classic tales; King Arthur and Excalibur, the messy relationship of King Arthur, Guinevere, and Lance-a-lot, but some went more off the beaten path with stories of the Lady of the Lake, Elaine, or stories who's only connection was Merlin being there. No story felt the same even if they pulled from the same tales.
And now my individual ratings for each. I didn't rate two of them because I was just too confused. A star (*) indicates it's one of my top 3 favorite stories in the collection.
•	The Once and Future Qadi by Ausma Zehanat Khan - 3.25 stars
•	*Passing Fair and Young by Roshani Chokshi - 4 stars
•	How, After Long Fighting, Galehaut Was Overcome by Lancelot Yet Was Not Slain and Made Great Speed to Yield to Friendship; Or, Galehaut, the Knight of Forfeit by David M. Lavery
•	I Being Young and Foolish by Nisi Shawl
•	The Bladesmith Queen by Sarah MacLean - 3 stars
•	*Do, By All Due Means by Sive Doyle - 4 stars
•	Mayday by Maria Dahvana Headley - 3 stars
•	Heartbeat by Waubgeshig Rice - 3.75 stars
•	Jack and Brad and the Magician by Anthony Rapp - 3.25 stars
•	The Quay Stone by S. Zainab Williams - 3 stars
•	Black Diamond by Alex Segura - 3 stars
•	Flat White by Jessica Plummer - 3 stars
•	Once (Then) & Future (Us) - 3 stars
•	*A Shadow in Amber by Silvia Moreno-Garcia - 3.75 stars
•	White Hempen Sleeves by Ken Liu - 3 stars
•	Little Green Men by Alexander Chee - 3.25 stars
As you can see, most if not all of my ratings were in the 3 star range. Nothing was so amazing as to get 5 stars, but nothing was so bad as to get 1 or 2 stars. That's also why I haven't given individual reviews of each one, because I just didn't have nay strong opinions on most of the stories. 
If you are a fan of Arthurian retellings and you want to see a wide array of different takes on the stories, this collection is definitely for you!
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There's truly something for everyone in this book! The standouts for me were the Sarah MacLean, which was swoony and dramatic and made me wish MacLean would write a full-length medieval, and the Alexander Chee's, which was delightfully bonkers. I also really loved Jessica Plummer's coffee shop setting with current day incarnations of the Arhurian gang. All in all a creative and fun read.
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I enjoyed the idea and premise of this anthology, but unfortunately everything other than Roshani Chokshi's Passing Fair and Young fell flat for me. If I could have a novel-length deep dive into this story, I could live a happy life.
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Actual rating: 3.5 stars

Like most anthologies, this had a collection of stories that I loved, liked, and disliked. Overall though, I think this is a pretty solid collection. Admittedly, there were some stories where I wasn't quite sure what the connection was to Arthurian legend. It's broken up into past, present, and future, so we encounter different tales based on the time period as well. I thought this was a fun way to structure the anthology! The past and present both had stories I loved, though they also had stories that I just didn't get. The present had several stories that were fine, but not outstanding. In general, I think the future section was probably the weakest for me in that I thought these were just fine.

Commenting on some of these stories in particular:


Roshani Chokshi - probably my favorite story in the collection. This was a great story about the Lady of Shalott and choices. It explores greatness versus being in the background. I love her writing in general, so I'm not terribly surprised that this worked really well for me.

Sarah MacLean - this was more romance focused about a lady blacksmith and fate. I think this was maybe about the Lady of the Lake? It was less clear to me, but I actually didn't mind because it was an enjoyable story. It had some interesting characters that I'd read a full book about.


Waubgeshig Rice - a retelling of the Sword in the Stone. Arthur is a First Nations boy in a reservation. This touches on suppressing culture and taking kids away from their families, but it's also very much about reclaiming heritage. I thought this was a pretty impactful story.

Anthony Rapp - this was a good (but very sad) story about Merlin years later. It touches on the HIV/AIDS crisis, so this was probably one of the saddest stories of the collection. It's well written though.

Alex Segura - this was probably my second favorite story in the collection. This reimagines the general story of King Arthur in terms of baseball. We follow Arturo Reyes with Excalibur (a bat!). I enjoy baseball in general, so that really helped me connect with this story. It was fun to see how everything was translated to the game, and it generally felt like it was about believing in yourself.

Jessica Plummer - we follow Elaine as she works at Starbucks (or a similar coffee shop). She encounters reincarnated versions of everyone. I liked this, though it did have a sad tone overall. The ending was fabulous!


Silvia Moreno-Garcia - this deals with Elaine and Lancelot. This brought up some interesting ideas with memories and consuming them.

Overall, I had a fun time with this anthology and would recommend it to those looking for more inclusive retellings of Arthurian legend!

My video review can be seen on my booktube channel (around minutes 6:10-10:03 of this video):
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I love a themed anthology of short stories! I picked this one up mostly because I saw Sarah MacLean had contributed a story, and she is one of my favorite authors. Her story did not disappoint! There is a variety of voices and time periods represented here - everything from fantasy, to contemporary, to sci-fi as far as genre is concerned. I skipped around a bit and have read most of the stories now, and they have all been unique, delightful. I do not have extensive knowledge about Arthurian legends, so I'm sure there are references or touchstones I missed. But that did not diminish my enjoyment of the stories.
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Past, Present, and Future Autherian stories.  Authors from all genres. Some surprising authors as well. I really liked the shorter ones, forced to tell the tale. The longer ones meander, and I tended to lose focus. But this is a great collection of retellings of Arthurian Legends. 

I received an ARC from Netgalley and Vintage.
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Note: I am a HUGE Arthurian fan. I will likely pick up anything that has anything to do with King Arthur or his Knights. I devoured this in one one sitting. 

I like a good retelling and most of the authors contributing to this anthology were new to me. Some I will seek out other novels they penned and others not so much. What this absolutely DID deliver was the most diverse and creative ways of retelling and all inclusive to boot. 

It's understandable to like retelling(s) because they allow the author to take certain creative liberties and sometimes take a good story and make it great. This does not disappoint in showing how people are represented in the present time in a loved legend from so long ago. 

Thank you to Netgalley and Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group for allowing me to review this early.
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I received this as an ARC and absolutely adored going through all the stories - all takes on Arthurian legends. I am a big fan of King Arthur retellings, but haven’t experienced anything as diverse or as thoughtful as this book. 

My favorite stories were from Daniel M. Lavery and Sarah MacLean - two of my favorite authors!
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Full disclosure: I only read the novella by Sarah MacLean in this book because I’m a fan of her work and the stories in this anthology are retellings of King Arthur and my King Arthur/Camelot knowledge is pretty dusty.

MacLean shows off her skill as a storyteller by departing from her usual historical romance lane.  The heroine forges swords, has a pet wolf, is fierce, and considered a curse in her village. She's been isolated until the hero shows up, a hero who has seen her in his dreams! 
Mystery and mysticism intertwined with romance results in a novella with heat and a satisfying HEA!
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I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley and am voluntarily posting a review. 
Sword Stone Table is a  fun genre-defying, race and gender-bending inclusive anthology full of new takes on aspects of the King Arthur legend, and while it does have weak points, as many short story collections do, it’s a solid gathering of stories from many talented authors, many well-known, some new to me. 
I was particularly excited by the stories from the author I recognized. I first heard about this through Sarah MacLean, and while I don’t always gel with her work, I enjoyed her contribution, “The Bladesmith Queen,” the most: It’s fated-mates, and has a lady blacksmith. “Passing Fair and Young” by Roshani Chokshi expertly explores the passage of time and events through the eyes of minor character, with the cycle of maiden, mother, and crone and signifiers. Silvia Moreno-Garcia does a futuristic Lady of Shallott retelling, exploring the concept of memories as commodities, and it’s incredibly dark and creepy in a way only Moreno-Garcia can deliver. 
Anthony Rapp, a name I associated more with acting, surprised me with his story about the AIDS crisis, which was incredibly poignant and moving. Mayday by Maria Dahvana Headley was the most unique, utilizing news clippings as a format to convey the story. 
There were several more “middling” stories, and a couple outliers (as there always are) that I felt were a bit of a miss for me. The Daniel M. Lacey story has a mouthful of a title and an equally unengaging prose style. And while I appreciated what Ausma Zehanat Khan was trying to do with her story, it was a bit of a bleak intro for the collection overall, especially when other stories were more light, or managed to be a better balance tonally. 
Regardless of your taste, if you love King Arthur, but felt it was missing something, you’ll find something to like here.
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This was a long collection with a lot of stories. I was originally drawn to it because of Roshani Chokshi, who was a medieval scholar, but most of the other contributing authors were totally new to me. This was a very diverse group who all interpreted Arthurian retellings very differently and brought a lot of uniqueness to the table. The favorites seemed to be Elaine and Merlin, with an almost voyeuristic obsession with Lancelot. Because the stories are so different, see below for my thoughts on each story, by author name (written as I finished them):


Ausma Zehanat Khan - I loved that we brought in a wholly outside perspective to the mess that is Arthur/Guinevere/Lancelot, to see the baked in sexism in Camelot, and that we got to see it all through the eyes of a brilliant, empathetic Muslim man.

Roshani Chokshi - I forgot just how much I love Chokshi's writing. It's lyrical with a delicate balance of detail and whimsy and intent and depth. I wasn't crazy about the use of second person in this one (even though I usually love second person) but I don't think it significantly hampered my enjoyment.

Daniel M Lavery - Altogether too wordy. To the point where my eyes glazed over and I had to fight the urge to skim. And all for boastful talk with little substance.

Nisi Shawl - I really like the clever use of names' meanings in the place of names for the familiar characters. How people who study the language may know them. Also the subtle digs at racism in assuming over and over that Nia comes from Ethiopia. I had trouble discerning Nia'a motivations for much of what she does, since her goal was merely knowledge. But that's the nature of a short story, I guess.

Sarah MacLean - That was sexier than expected. The editors did say there were romance elements in these stories but we hadn't seen them until now. We love a badass woman and a love interest who respects her, values her, and pays attention when she speaks.

Sive Doyle - "A knowledge of magic was all well and good, but it was hardly the same as an understanding of people." That quote but also gay ladies with swords and destinies without undue trauma (I mean, there's still trauma but not because of their queerness)

Maria Dahvana Headley - This was so intricate and I was definitely a big fan of the multimedia aspect. I hope the finished book includes more illustrations/fonts/visual effects to make this story in particular really pop.

Waubgeshig Rice - At first reading this I was annoyed because the middle school bully angle is nothing new. But then we came to the discussions of residential schools and the violent and vehement erasure of Indigenous culture in the US and it became so much more than a story about overcoming a bully.

Anthony Rapp - They really are hitting us hard here. This story has the backdrop of the AIDS epidemic. I will say that Merlin's dialogue was distracting and circuitous and kind of insensitive? But damn if that wasn't a heavy one.

S. Zainab Williams - I loved the rich and layered portrayal of loneliness. How conflicting senses of belonging and family and identities can pull you away from any one place you may fit. Add to that the vibrancy of the setting to act in contrast to that loneliness and it's a brilliant story.

Alex Segura - I know absolutely nothing about baseball. It's probably my least favorite sport and I'm not much of a sport person to begin with. But this felt like a very solid, tried-and-true retelling, stripped of a bunch of side characters anyway.

Jessica Plummer - We love taking control of a familiar narrative. But we don't always love the path it takes to get us there. It wasn't revolutionary by any means, but there was a line that made me bark out a laugh and that's a win.

Preeti Chhibber - love seeing dimension added to Morgan's character here, but Merlin was very annoying to me. I feel like we went through this and didn't really accomplish anything.

Silvia Moreno-García - "She'd communed with a ghost - like stretching out a hand and touching a black hole." Something about this image, this phrase just made me stop. It's something SMG does frequently with her writing, throwing in something both poignant and unexpected, even in a tale like this: one of voyeurism and obsession.

Ken Liu - Ken Liu's brain must be a fascinating place to be. Highbrow without being prohibitively smart, this story really focuses on how one looks in the mirror and what one sees there - and what might be looking back.

Alexander Chee - Oh what a beautiful note to end this collection on. Hope and extravagance and dreams for a future on Mars. I was definitely a fan.
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Thank you to Knopf Doubleday for an advanced copy of this anthology!

I got possibly unreasonably excited about this anthology of Arthurian legend short stories when I first heard it and I was just so happy that it lived up to the hype machine in my head.  These stories were so interesting and I loved that they were split between stories that took place in the past, present, and future.  This allowed so much more creativity and I think played to a few author's strengths.  

Overall, this anthology was like others I've read: some stories were incredible, many were good, and a few were just not for me.  But for the most part, I really loved the stories that played with the legend or focused on some of the more "side" characters like Elaine or a swordsmith.  It was fun starting a story and trying to figure out which part of the story the author was going to use and how they were going to update or change it.  I loved the stories written by authors who I already know and love such as Sarah MacLean, Daniel Lavery, and Silvia Moreno-Garcia, but it was also nice to discover new authors.  I don't think I could pick a favorite.

If you love variations on a theme or the Arthurian legend in general, this book is a must-read.
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Overall I enjoyed this book. I'm not usually too big on short stories because I like to be invested in a story for the long haul. (Reader of many fantasy series, here). I think this one helps in that it is a collection of retellings of Arthurian Myths, which I already have a fairly solid background on. The book might be a little more over your head if you don't know Arthurian myths in like the biggest detail, as even I haven't heard of all the characters involved in this one. I'm also a sucker for retellings and Arthurian legends are my favorite legends, so their retellings also score high on my list.

Below are some more detailed thoughts on some of the stories included. I didn't end up writing detailed thoughts for all of them, but these are the ones that stood out to me. The book is divided up into past, present, and future. As you may be able to see, I really enjoyed the present and future sections, but this is probably because I am a sucker for urban fantasy (which is usually fantasy set in a modern setting), and I also enjoy sci=fi and futuristic books. The past stories also weren't bad, but I think they're just more along traditional high or epic fantasy, which is easier to build Arthurian retellings around (in my own non-writer, casual reader opinion, of course.)

Black Diamond: 5/5 stars- What if Excalibur was a baseball bat given to an aging minor league baseball player? As a King Arthur fan and a baseball fan, I thought this was a lot of fun and really well done. It incorporates the legend well, allowing the reader to use it as their background info as the story progresses forward. Similarly, it let's the reader fill in some parts and details on their own, keeping the story short and succinct while still being thorough. It held my attention and in the end worked really well as a modern retelling with baseball, which is exactly what I wanted.

Flat White: 5/5 stars- To be honest, I don't know much about Elaine in the Arthurian tales. I think in some retellings Elaine is the name given to the Lady of the Lake. In any case, this short story covers a character who works as a barista in a coffee shop and has a crush on Lance, a common customer. Lance sometimes comes in with his friends Arthur and Gwen. Elaine starts to notice weird interactions between Gwen and Lance, and to try and help out she asks Lance out, who happily accepts. She soon realizes that she is part of the Arthurian tale, and what role does she have to play in it? You'll find out a little bit more of the folk character herself, and get the perspective of someone who realizes maybe she is more slighted than she deserves.

Once (them) & Future (Us): 2/5 It's told from Merlin's perspective. He's awoken from a long slumber and knows he must go locate Arthur. He finds him, a man named Arjun, but also his sister, Morgan, who we know will cause problems. Morgan remembers the past and also wants to help Arjun. I don't know... I just couldn't really get into this one. I didn't really understand why there was a present day King Arthur in this one and why Merlin needs to help Arjun. I think it was mainly to be about Morgana actually being a good character trying to help Arthur with Merlin and how they can get through the past.

White Hempen Sleeves: 4/5 stars. All I really got from this is that I should try Ken Liu. He throws you into a cool sci-fi world without explaining anything

Little Green Men: 4/5 stars. It's about a tournament on Mars and a take on Gawain (Gavin) vs. the Green Knight. A really fun sci-fi adaptation.
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