Cover Image: Sword Stone Table

Sword Stone Table

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Member Reviews

Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for the complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.


When I saw that Sarah MacLean was writing a story about a female bladesmith for the Sword Stone Table anthology, I requested it right away. 

Including 16 stories with an aim toward inclusivity and offering ‘“bent” Arthur retellings,” this intriguing anthology edited by Swapna Krishna & Jenn Northington is often moving & provocative (at least to this reader who isn’t super well-versed in Arthurian legends) & has a lot to offer those interested in the topic or the writers. 

As expected/hoped, Sarah brings the steam, the emotional gravity, & the hopefulness that I’ve found in her previous writings in “The Bladesmith Queen.” I love the story of a bladesmith who’s a curse & also an actual heroine to her village, & the fated overtones are lovely. 

I had several other fave stories in this anthology & I was repeatedly surprised by how creative the authors are in writing Arthurian stories in past/present/future settings. 

This is a cool project & I think it has a lot to offer both laypeople & those in the academic fields.
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Sword Stone Table is the collection of Arthurian inspired stories you didn;t know was missing. This is perfect for any fans of the Arthur legends and wish they way they represented the way people look and feel in our world today. This takes the myths of the Camelot and infusing them with new cultures and myths. It an anthology of gender-bent, race-bent, LGBTQIA+ inclusive retellings. Featuring stories by: 
Alexander Chee • Preeti Chhibber • Roshani Chokshi • Sive Doyle • Maria Dahvana Headley • Ausma Zehanat Khan • Daniel M. Lavery • Ken Liu • Sarah MacLean • Silvia Moreno-Garcia • Jessica Plummer • Anthony Rapp • Waubgeshig Rice • Alex Segura • Nisi Shawl • S. Zainab Williams
 
These stories are beautiful, and groundbreaking and the seeds of the myths you know are there and the additions make it all the more rich and virant world building. I loved these snapshots of these retellings and there are quite a few I would love to read full stories about.
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My formative King Arthur works were the 1963 Disney movie The Sword in the Stone, and 1975’s Monty Python and the Holy Grail. When I discovered Mary Stewart’s The Crystal Cave, as a preteen, my life as a reader of fantasy and romance was set. I’m a King Arthur enthusiast, but not a purist (except for Antoine Fuqua’s 2004 King Arthur – great cast, beautiful visuals, terrible movie that should never have been marketed as “historically accurate”). Hearing that a work is a retelling of or inspired by King Arthur will prick up my ears. When I saw an anthology of short stories based around King Arthur edited by Swapna Krishna and Jenn Northington on NetGalley, I smashed the request button hard. Look at this list of authors: Alexander Chee, Preeti Chhibber, Roshani Chokshi, Sive Doyle, Maria Dahvana Headley, Ausma Zehanat Khan, Daniel M. Lavery, Ken Liu, Sarah MacLean, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Jessica Plummer, Anthony Rapp, Waubgeshig Rice, Alex Segura, Nisi Shawl, and S. Zainab Williams. 

Overall, this was an excellent anthology. Some of the stories were perfect bonbons that did not need any additional words. Others I would love to see developed into longer stories, or more stories told in that world. All of the stories expand the world of Camelot, some by bringing in a different perspective, some by relocating the mythology in place and time, and others by re-focusing the lens on characters in the world.

Many of the Arthurian legends focus on destiny and prophecy. Some of my favorite stories focused instead on choices. The anthology starts strong with Ausma Zehanat Khan’s “The Once and Future Qadi,” which brings a Muslim scholar’s wisdom into the mythology of the British Isles. We see King Arthur, Queen Guinevere, and Lancelot acting out their tragedy through the eyes of an outsider. Preeti Chhibber wakes Merlin and Morgana up in contemporary Great Britain and gives them another chance to make better choices with Arthur, now Arjun, in “Once (Them) & Future (Us).” One of my favorite stories was Roshani Chokshi’s “Passing Fair and Young” which gives young Elaine a choice – does she want to be a legend, or a footnote in the legends of others.

Other stories took elements of the Arthurian legend and placed them in a post-colonial context. Waubgeshig Rice’s “Heartbeat” locates the Sword in the Stone legend on an Anishinaabe reservation, where a young First Nations boy reclaims the heritage outlawed by the British colonizers. Another favorite, Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s “A Shadow in Amber,” transplants the sadness of Lady of Shalott into a near future Mexico City.

Many of the stories brought queerness to the mythology. I loved Daniel M. Lavery’s brutal and yet gentle skewering of chivalry in “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 the Forfeit.” The story I most want to see expanded is Alexander Chee’s “Little Green Men.” Set on a human colonized Mars, it’s a retelling of Sir Gawain and the Green Night with all the anxiety of a fragile life in space and the intrusiveness of a constant audience.

I’ve only touched on a few stories. There is more in here to discover.

I received this as an advance reader copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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3 stars *may change

Arthurian mythology is so often watered down to "that king who had a golden cup, I think, and also his best friend slept with his wife," but I don't think that's quite fair. It's more like "that king who had a golden cup, I think, and also his best friend slept with his wife and there's a wizard with a funny hat and some other people who also do things."

Okay, so I don't actually know anything about Arthurian mythology, and I'm not sure if that made the reading experience better or worse. If I had known more, would I have sat there criticizing the way the stories interpreted the myths? I honestly read these mostly not understanding any of the backgrounds, which was fine for me. 

Oh, yeah, it's stories. Plural. The problem that seems to arise with anthologies is that almost all of them seem to get the same reaction. Some stories are funny, some are sad, some are bittersweet, some are good, and some are boring. It leaves the entire impression of the anthology to just be, "It was fine." Some stories stood out more, like Chokshi's and MacLean's, while other ones seemed very dull or just didn't grab my attention. There's certainly a story for everyone here, whether or not you like or even understand Arthurian legend, but I don't think every story is for me. 

Thanks to NetGalley for providing an advanced reader's copy.
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DNF. I really liked the premise but the writing did not work for me at all. It wouldn't be fair to the book if I finished reading and gave it a low rating.
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Wonderfully representative and thought out! Some of the short stories felt low-key rushed but wonderful overall. I hope that this means that these authors are going to produce more books like this in the future.
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King Arthur and his crew never get old, and no where is that more true than this collection: Sword Stone Table. This anthology contains pieces from a wide variety of authors and reimagines the legend in a myriad of ways from different time periods and contexts to gender-bent, race-bent, and LGBTQIA+ inclusive retellings. I absolutely adored it!

The creativity within this collection is amazing. I never thought I would be reading a baseball version of King Arthur where Excalibur is the bat and thinking, “Yes, this totally makes sense,” but I did. And I’m definitely now in need of a mini-series of Arthur and Merlin in the American Wild West thanks to Maria Dahvana Headley. While many of the stories within this anthology do focus on major players of the original tales (Arthur, Merlin, Guinevere, Lancelot), a good number of others focus on characters who do not have as much screen time in the original, like the Lady of the Lake or Elaine. The genre of the stories also ranges from adventure to romance and more. These choices (as well as the organization of the collection as a whole into past, present, and future retellings) keeps each story feeling fresh and, in addition to reinforcing why I love some of the authors already, gives me a brand new set of authors to read and explore. 

Like any collection, not every story will appeal to every reader, but I whole-heartedly recommend this for anyone who enjoys fantasy or seeing their favorites transformed into something new. If you’ve ever read the Arthurian legends and thought, “What if…?” then this collection is one you should definitely add to your shelf.

I received a free digital copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review
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I fully admit that I’m probably not the target audience for this book. My knowledge of Arthurian legend comes from pop culture, specifically Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Merlin, and Camelot. In terms of the authors featured I have read all of Sarah MacLean’s books, I have Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Mexican Gothic on my TBR, and I’ve seen Anthony Rapp on Broadway, the others seem well respected in their genres but are not writers I’m familiar with. Likely because of all of the above I struggled with the anthology. I think if I had been more familiar with the source material I would have better appreciated the writer’s takes on the legend. My favorite one was by far Sarah MacLean’s because it was a delightful romance, which is what I enjoy reading. There were a few that skimmed because try as I might, I can’t make myself care about baseball. One that surprised me was a summary of items at auction which was just cleverly written. Overall this anthology would be very fun for someone who really likes Arthurian legend, I just lacked the background knowledge to fully appreciate it.

Thank you to Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group and NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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I loved the first 2 stories in this collection so much. It really set a high bar. Unfortunately, the rest didn't live up to them imo. I wanted more 'canonical' Arthurian characters.
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This is a really interesting selection of writers. I definitely requested this for Sarah NacLeab's which was perfection. But I was pleasantly surprised with some of the other offerings too.
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I requested this book for Sarah MacLean’s story and it just was wonderful. It was beautifully written and she fits so much story in the short format.  Looking forward to reading the other stories in the anthology.
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This is a collection of short stories inspired by Arthurian legends. They're diverse, fresh, and come with unexpected twists. They're set in the past, present, and future and some are very close to the original story while others only have a very loose connection. As with all anthologies, one is prone to enjoy some stories more than others, but something I noticed is the consistently high quality of writing. So even though I wasn't equally interested in every single story, every single one is beautifully written and easy to read.

Among my favorites were The Once and Future Qadi for the premise alone - more than with any other story I realized I would love to read an entire book with Qadi Yusuf as the protagonist. The Bladesmith Queen by Sarah MacLean is romance and  well, that's my jam. Mayday was compelling due to the unique format and I loved the Native twist of Heartbeat. Black Diamond gives a really neat baseball angle. 

I was surprised how much I enjoyed the three sci-fi stories since that's not usually a genre I read, but all three gave us seriously complex world-building in such little space and it was extremely well done.

All in all I loved how so many characters and aspects of the old legends were explored and the diversity regarding race, gender, and sexual orientation made this feel completely unique and original, despite the obvious inspiration. This collection is great for when you know you have to turn off the lights in half an hour and don't want to find yourself reading into the morning hours, frantically thinking "only one more chapter".
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Some of these stories I loved, others were just ok. Overall the quality of the stories makes this collection worth while for me.
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Lots of compelling and fresh retellings of the Camelot tales. It's tough to retell these stories in a way that truly feels knew but this anthology accomplished it. Plus, the cover has a lovely aesthetic.
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Thank you to the publisher for providing me an ARC in exchange for a fair review. This is an anthology of retellings of Arthurian legends. As with all anthologies, my feelings varied wildly from story to story.  I was excited to read this book because I was fascinated by the premise, and on top of that, I was already familiar with some of the authors. There were a handful of stories that absolutely gripped me and left me wanting more, most were enjoyable enough but simply not to my taste, and some I just didn't care for at all. My favorite three stories were Passing Fair and Young, The Bladesmith Queen, and Mayday. I will admit that my knowledge of the Arthurian legends is average at best, and my enjoyment of each story sometimes depended on my familiarity with the source material. I did like the variety in the stories, and even when I did not love a particular story, I thought it was interesting to see how different authors interpreted the same characters. One complaint I have is that the book was described as gender-bent, race-bent, and LQBTQIA inclusive. While there were stories that fell into each of those categories, I was surprised by the number that didn't. I also agree with another reviewer that it would have been nice to have some brief commentary from each author. I don't need them to explain their stories, but I think a note on their thought process and inspiration could be interesting. Overall, it was a successful anthology, and it piqued my interest in some of the authors' other work.
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My review is scarce and i apologise i had a hard time getting the book to download like forever. Finally i started reading and welp weeks no i mean weeks later i just had to quit.i tried i really did. Maybe it just wasnt my kind of genre or my kind of book. It definitely would pull some people in but it just wasnt for Me . I really gave it ago and i tried but the book didnt pull me in i would attempt it and just not be pulled in.
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Sword stone table is introduced as a collection of novels of various authors bringing to life the characters and tales from the arthurian legends world with new takes on the portrayal of the heroes and their relationships and romances.

Putting aside the stories from contemporary time and future who didn't hold my attention for long, i enjoyed the past stories the most. Some of them were beautifully written as some authors went down the road of lyricism and offered strong impactful lines with intense metaphors...

"She was beautiful in the way of smoldering fires and spurts of roaring thunder when the sky has visibly begun to clear".

As a romance lover, i obviously adored the most romantic ones. The tale of Elaine and Lancelot was exquisite with its darker mood (i do adore my nuanced romance) and i will also praise Sarah MacLean because,  damn did she delivered romance like a queen.

"I dream of you. like this. my lady in this lake, with the sun beating down. with the moon gleaming on your skin, turning you silver, making you one with the water. i have seen you here a thousand times".

The first short story, "The once and future Qadi" was a strong one as well with the thrill of the trial of Guinevere and a very acute description of the characters, their emotions and states of mind... So compelling and again, the author put forward her writing skills...

"You thought the queen innocent?
I thought her ruined, her heart as bitter as an orchard under frost".

As an overall review, i would say that one missing element for me was the lack of introduction to every short story. As previously stated, some of these tales were so well written with a cleverness in the retelling and in the reveal of the characters and their feelings that i craved more insight of the author's line of thought, of how he thought of the retelling and what he wanted to offer through it.

Three stars as i absolutely adored the first part but was frankly not convinced by the second or third ones.
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I loved this! It’s such a great collection and has so many awesome writers in it. I particularly liked Sarah Maclean’s story!
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**I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.** 
Some of the stories were really great and some not so much.  Like most compilations. People will be drawn to some of the stories more than others.
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I enjoyed this book. I found it an enjoyable way to spend an afternoon. It was interesting. I would recommend.
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