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The Future King Is a Satisfying and Thrilling Arthurian Retelling – Review

The Future King review: This novel from Robyn Schneider is a must-read for fans of young adult fantasy and gender-bent retellings alike.

It’s safe to say there are countless stories that center around the Arthurian legend. Robyn Schneider’s latest young adult fantasy novel, The Future King, is a modern queer feminist take on the classic myth. A sequel to Schneider’s first entry in the series, The Other Merlin, the novel picks up on the adventures of Prince Arthur and his court wizard, Emry Merlin, shortly after the ending of the first book.

Schneider’s take on Camelot sees Arthur as a bookish and reluctant leader, Merlin as a bisexual woman who has to fight for her claim to power, and Lancelot as a gay squire striving for his title as knight due to the homophobia at court. The updates are modern yet seamlessly woven into the characters we know and love in a way that makes the far-off myth of Camelot feel more accessible and timeless than ever before. Camelot is also peppered with trans and nonbinary characters and people of color in a way that doesn’t feel hamfisted or overwrought but reimagines a refreshingly diverse Camelot.

After the first book set up the cast of characters, as well as a star-crossed romance between Emry and Arthur, The Future King picks up with Arthur, Emry, and Lance with their hopes shattered and facing their future fates. Arthur is arranged to marry Guinevere in order to save both of their kingdoms, a loveless union neither of them wants but feels duty-bound to carry through on behalf of their homes. Meanwhile, Emry has a new, dangerous, and unpredictable power she can’t control and does her best to hide from everyone for fear of giving the king another reason to expel her on top of her gender. As for Lance, while the noble champion should be training for his knighthood, he’s stuck cleaning his uncle’s armor as punishment for his sexuality.

Desperate to find a way to control her power, Emry suggests a visit to see the Lady of the Lake, who tells her that the answer to all of her problems — and Arthur’s — lies in France. The two set off on an adventure to King Louis’ court in a fun blend of fantasy and history. While Emry works with none other than Nicolas Flamel to wield her new powers, Arthur finds himself in a precarious political situation with the ill-tempered king as he attempts to gain new allies for Camelot.

With a broad cast of characters, though, there is action in Camelot even while Arthur and Emry are in Paris. While Emry is away, her brother, Emmett, falls in love with the princess Guinevere and works with Lance to form a secret coalition to defend the castle, a group that keen readers will soon realize is the future Knights of the Round Table. It’s these subtle twists on the classic myth while maintaining its core elements that make Schneider’s books so endlessly fun and successful. Everything culminates appropriately in the climax of the book.

The Future King is quite lengthy as it follows through on subplots from the first book, including the mystery of Emry’s father who had been mysteriously lost to magic, as well as the story of his one-time apprentice, the sorceress Morgana who had attempted to kill Arthur only for Emry to send her to another time and space through magic stones. These particular subplots fall a bit flat here, only because it is clear they were left to be resolved in the next book. However, the slightly extended length of The Future King makes sense in order to bridge The Other Merlin and the final book in the series.

Fans of Arthurian legends and retellings will appreciate Schneider’s updated intersectional take on the beloved cast of characters and classic setting. Additionally, those who are less familiar with the myth will easily follow this version of Camelot in a highly accessible fantasy novel. Schneider’s writing is as witty and funny as her characters without feeling out of place for the time and place she’s writing about.

The Future King is a must-read for fans of young adult fantasy and gender-bent retellings alike. The sequel provides a satisfying conclusion for fans of The Other Merlin while setting up an exciting cliffhanger for the final book in the trilogy. While you wait for the final installment, get caught up on the Emry Merlin trilogy today.

The Future King is available now wherever books are sold. A review copy of The Future King was provided by the publisher.

About the author

Molly Turner
Molly Turner has been writing about television, Star Wars, books, and geek media for over three years. Based in New York, she graduated with an MFA in Creative Writing from The New School in 2022. You can find her writing on sites such as The Mary Sue, /Film, and ScreenRant and around the Internet @themollyturner.