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Sword Stone Table: Old Legends, New Voices

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Featuring stories by a bestselling, cross-genre assortment of the most exciting writers working today, an anthology of gender-bent, race-bent, LGBTQIA+, and inclusive retellings from the vast lore surrounding King Arthur, Camelot, and the Knights of the Round Table. Here you'll find the Lady of the Lake reimagined as an albino Ugandan sorceress and the Lady of Shalott as a Featuring stories by a bestselling, cross-genre assortment of the most exciting writers working today, an anthology of gender-bent, race-bent, LGBTQIA+, and inclusive retellings from the vast lore surrounding King Arthur, Camelot, and the Knights of the Round Table. 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.


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Featuring stories by a bestselling, cross-genre assortment of the most exciting writers working today, an anthology of gender-bent, race-bent, LGBTQIA+, and inclusive retellings from the vast lore surrounding King Arthur, Camelot, and the Knights of the Round Table. Here you'll find the Lady of the Lake reimagined as an albino Ugandan sorceress and the Lady of Shalott as a Featuring stories by a bestselling, cross-genre assortment of the most exciting writers working today, an anthology of gender-bent, race-bent, LGBTQIA+, and inclusive retellings from the vast lore surrounding King Arthur, Camelot, and the Knights of the Round Table. 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.

30 review for Sword Stone Table: Old Legends, New Voices

  1. 5 out of 5

    Dawn C

    I really enjoyed this competent collection of short stories, centered around retellings of Arthurian legends, in the past, present and future. I do feel I didn't know the original material and characters well enough, apart from a surface knowledge of some names, to fully appreciate the reimagined versions of them, but it didn't take away from the excellent writing and potential shown herein. There were two or three stories I didn't finish as the plot just wasn't catching me, but overall this is I really enjoyed this competent collection of short stories, centered around retellings of Arthurian legends, in the past, present and future. I do feel I didn't know the original material and characters well enough, apart from a surface knowledge of some names, to fully appreciate the reimagined versions of them, but it didn't take away from the excellent writing and potential shown herein. There were two or three stories I didn't finish as the plot just wasn't catching me, but overall this is one of the better short story collections I've read, and I'm always a sucker for historical fantasy and myth.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Emmalita

    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 b 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.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Laura (crofteereader)

    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 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.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Kristen Keats

    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 lege 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.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Cait McKay

    Every. single. story. Every one. There are NO duds in the collection of new musings on Arthurian legends. I am a sucker for Camelot, so this collection was calling to me from the moment I heard about it! I waited impatiently after pre-ordering, was immensely jealous of those who got early copies, and then DEVOURED mine as soon as I had it in hand. I probably pulled a quote from every other page. There are so many imaginative, delightful, hilarious, and HORNY lines in this collection- it’s impossib Every. single. story. Every one. There are NO duds in the collection of new musings on Arthurian legends. I am a sucker for Camelot, so this collection was calling to me from the moment I heard about it! I waited impatiently after pre-ordering, was immensely jealous of those who got early copies, and then DEVOURED mine as soon as I had it in hand. I probably pulled a quote from every other page. There are so many imaginative, delightful, hilarious, and HORNY lines in this collection- it’s impossible to pick a favorite. The book is wisely split into three parts: Past, Present, and Future. The Past section features tales that could have been happening right alongside the original legends, Present features modern-day retellings, and Future- well. You know. KNIGHTS. IN. SPAAAAAAAACE. Past was my favorite section, as I am a dork for medeival chicanery (speaking of which- SEE. THE. GREEN. KNIGHT. oh my gods.). It also features a piece from all-around cool dude Daniel Lavery, so the scales were tipped in my favor. GET YOUR QUEST ON

  6. 4 out of 5

    Kayla (krakentoagoodbook)

    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, th 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: THE PAST 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. THE PRESENT 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! THE FUTURE 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! I received a copy of this for review from the publisher via NetGalley - thank you! All opinions are my own.

  7. 4 out of 5

    charlotte,

    • the once and future qadi by ausma zehanat khan / 2 Rep: North African Muslim mcs • passing fair and young by roshani chokshi / 3 • 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 by daniel m lavery / 2 Rep: gay mc • i being young and foolish by nisi shawl / 2 Rep: albino African mc • the bladesmith queen by sarah maclean / 1 • do, by all due means by sive doyle / 2.5 Rep: lesbian mc, sapph • the once and future qadi by ausma zehanat khan / 2 Rep: North African Muslim mcs • passing fair and young by roshani chokshi / 3 • 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 by daniel m lavery / 2 Rep: gay mc • i being young and foolish by nisi shawl / 2 Rep: albino African mc • the bladesmith queen by sarah maclean / 1 • do, by all due means by sive doyle / 2.5 Rep: lesbian mc, sapphic li • mayday by maria dahvana headley / 2.5 Rep: Native American characters • heartbeat by waubgeshig rice / 3 Rep: Anishinaabeg mc & side characters • jack and brad and the magician by anthony rapp / 2 Rep: Thai gay mc, gay side characters • the quay stone by s zainab williams / 2 Rep: Black Malaysian American mc, Malaysian side characters • black diamond by alex segura / 2.5 Rep: Latinx mc • flat white by jessica plummer / 2 Rep: bi li • once (them) & future (us) by preeti chhibber / 2 Rep: gay mc, British Indian gay character • a shadow in amber by silvia moreno garcia / 2.5 Rep: Mexican cast • white hempen sleeves by ken liu / 2 • little green men by alexander chee / 2.5 Rep: gay mc, Hindu gay li, Latinx character

  8. 4 out of 5

    Catherine Stein

    Overall, a very interesting, fun-to-read, and diverse set of stories. Like all anthologies, some stories were more to my tastes than others, but the quality of writing was high throughout, and each story was unique in a different way. Recommended for any fantasy and Arthurian legend lovers. My stand-out favorites, in order they appeared in the anthology: Passing Fair and Young by Roshani Choksi: a fun look at a minor character and her choices, very sweet. The Bladesmith Queen by Sarah MacLean: a fa Overall, a very interesting, fun-to-read, and diverse set of stories. Like all anthologies, some stories were more to my tastes than others, but the quality of writing was high throughout, and each story was unique in a different way. Recommended for any fantasy and Arthurian legend lovers. My stand-out favorites, in order they appeared in the anthology: Passing Fair and Young by Roshani Choksi: a fun look at a minor character and her choices, very sweet. The Bladesmith Queen by Sarah MacLean: a fated-mates romance vibe. Uplifting and empowering (and I love a lady blacksmith). Do, By All Due Means by Sive Doyle: coming of age adventure quest + finding oneself + f/f romance. Fun and happy. Mayday by Maria Dahvana Headley: Unique format of articles and snippets. Suspenseful, intriguing, highly satisfying. A Shadow in Amber by Silvia Moreno-Garcia: futuristic Lady of Shalott where people can buy another person's memories. Very creepy, but so well done. Brief thoughts on the other stories, in the order they appeared: The Once and Future Qadi by Ausma Zehanat Khan: beautifully written, neat premise, but a cynical view of humanity that I found a bit depressing. How, After Long Fighting, Galehaut Was Overcome by Lancelot Yet Was Not Slain and Made Great Seep to Yield to Friendship; Or, Galehaut, the Knight of the Forfeit by Daniel M. Lavery: not at all to my taste. Couldn't get into the writing style. I Being Young and Foolish by Nisi Shawl: not a bad Merlin tale, but kind of sad and a predictable plot. Heartbeat by Waubgeshig Rice: started slow, but overall an interesting twist on the sword in the stone. Jack and Brad and the Magician by Anthony Rapp: really sad (due to AIDS crisis setting), but beautiful The Quay Stone by S. Zainab Williams: not my style. I didn't like the manipulations the protagonist went through, or the back-and-forth between past and present tense. Black Diamond by Alex Segura: a neat baseball take on the myths. I really liked how this story pulled in many of the side characters. Flat White by Jessica Plummer: not for me. Felt like literally just the Arthur story but modern. Once (Them) & Future (Us) by Preeti Chhibber: I liked the Merlin/Morgan vibe here. This story felt a little long, or maybe slow, compared to most. White Hempen Sleeves by Ken Liu: one of those really dark/twisted kind of sci=fi stories. Didn't feel any real connection to the mythology. Little Green Men by Alexander Chee: a cute futuristic take on Gawain and the Green Knight,

  9. 4 out of 5

    Margaret

    This anthology has a huge and varied selection of inclusive Arthurian legend retellings. I particularly loved the two Elaine stories partly because I tend to enjoy retellings from a minor character's perspective. I also quite enjoyed an earlier story by Nisi Shawl about an African woman trading magic with Merlin, as well as another one in the middle about an HIV-positive man and his partner watching a magic show in the hospital hosted by, you guessed it, Merlin. I wish I could remember who wrote This anthology has a huge and varied selection of inclusive Arthurian legend retellings. I particularly loved the two Elaine stories partly because I tend to enjoy retellings from a minor character's perspective. I also quite enjoyed an earlier story by Nisi Shawl about an African woman trading magic with Merlin, as well as another one in the middle about an HIV-positive man and his partner watching a magic show in the hospital hosted by, you guessed it, Merlin. I wish I could remember who wrote that one! It made me cry. Then there's a story about Emerys/Merlin time hopping into the future and finding Arthur and Morgana on a college campus. I love Gawain and the Green Knight so I was happy that the very last story finally gave me a sci-fi retelling of one of my favorite bits from Arthurian legend. And you know what? I still want more. Give me Tristan! How about Galahad! The grail! What this anthology shows is that there are so many stories that can be told using this mythos and that these stories can absolutely have a lot of diversity.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Olivia

    I'm over it with POC trying to erase white people from our own cultural spaces. Censoring white characters from European legends and myths and replacing them with brown characters is a racist experiment in erasing people of European descent from our own cultural stories and mythologies. Replacing a white character with a brown one doesn't automatically make something progressive. This is just appropriation. These are not your stories to tell. I'm over it with POC trying to erase white people from our own cultural spaces. Censoring white characters from European legends and myths and replacing them with brown characters is a racist experiment in erasing people of European descent from our own cultural stories and mythologies. Replacing a white character with a brown one doesn't automatically make something progressive. This is just appropriation. These are not your stories to tell.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Brendan Anderson

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I should preface this review by saying that I am currently earning my Master’s in Arthurian Literature, so many of my criticisms are framed from a more extensive knowledge of the tradition than is generally available (or considered socially acceptable). That said, I very much appreciate and support the goals of this project and adamantly believe we need more books like this. Therefore, rather than critiquing the writing (which is overall very strong), I shall instead concentrate on how the stori I should preface this review by saying that I am currently earning my Master’s in Arthurian Literature, so many of my criticisms are framed from a more extensive knowledge of the tradition than is generally available (or considered socially acceptable). That said, I very much appreciate and support the goals of this project and adamantly believe we need more books like this. Therefore, rather than critiquing the writing (which is overall very strong), I shall instead concentrate on how the stories manipulate Arthurian material. I suppose a good place to start is by defining the flexibility of the Arthurian tradition that makes this project (at its best) so successful. In our modern age of mass media, the images and conceptions of King Arthur are rampant, which can make it extra difficult to address any one person’s idea of who Arthur is. At the most basic and popular level, Camelot and the Knights of the Round Table operate in a didactic fantasy-world of good versus evil –– shiny knights versus black –– in an idyllic society brought down by treachery. However, the fascinating thing about the legend is that this same good/evil dichotomy has been used at different times to either justify empire (Geoffrey of Monmouth, Wace, Edmund Spenser, Nazi Germany) or to critique it (Sir Thomas Malory, T.H. White). Arthur has been used by English kings (post-Norman conquest) to justify their rule and by the rebellious Britons (especially Welsh and Scots) as a symbol of resistance. This lends the legend a wonderful elasticity that the writers of this volume embrace and twist in different ways. One of my favorite examples of this comes from juxtaposing the stories “Mayday” (Maria Dahvana Headley) and “Heartbeat” (Waubgeshig Rice), which appear side by side in the collection. Both apply Arthurian motifs to the struggles of Native Americans to resist White imperialism, but from very different perspectives. “Mayday” makes Arthur a presidential candidate whose business (and life) is founded on the exploitation and abuse of Native Americans (especially women). On the other side of the spectrum, “Heartbeat” tells of a boy (named Art) growing up on a reservation whose traditions are being systematically erased and restores to his tribe (by lifting a boulder) the drums buried by his ancestors. These stories at once reveal the range of possibilities enabled by Arthurian elasticity, and also some of the perils. Although Waubgeshig Rice is himself part of the Anishinaabe community, the imposition of Arthurian names on the Native community (not just Art, but also Merle: the only elder who preserves the old language and traditions) itself feels like a continuation of western imperialism. This also introduces my next point which I will (admittedly, rather misleadingly) dub the “Disney-fied” stories. Although the image of Arthur pulling the sword from the stone is one of the most recurring and popular in western culture, I think it’s safe to say the most pervasive and enduring one in recent memory comes from Disney’s The Sword in the Stone, an adaptation of T.H. White’s book of the same name. “Heartbeat” ends with this triumphant image while Alex Segura’s “Black Diamond” similarly makes use of the ancestral sword motif (by turning Excalibur into a baseball bat). In both cases, the symbolism is overshadowed for me by the knowledge that the motif functions as part of a larger pattern inexorably bending toward self-destruction that the Disney version (and other Swords in Stones of the same model) do not address. However, the one I find most disappointing (and I only say disappointing because of its tremendous potential) is Anthony Rapp’s “Jack and Brad and the Magician.” Set during the AIDS crisis as protagonist Jack watches his boyfriend Brad slowly die in hospital, they are granted a moment of beauty and comfort by the arrival of a magician, Merlin, who is clearly modeled on T.H. White’s time-addled wizard. Unfortunately, Merlin feels like an intrusion into the story: only able to offer the rather forlorn hope that AIDS will not always be a death sentence, a knowledge he recognizes will come too late for Brad. There is much untapped potential here in the bedridden figure barely clinging to life and the protagonist who is ignorant (or innocent) of Arthurian stories for a version of the Grail Quest (indeed, Brad is reminiscent of the name Bron which is sometimes applied to the Fisher King), but sadly the only Arthurian element feels like a disturbance to what is otherwise a well-written and tragic love story. Most of the other stories in the collection centered on Merlin consider the complicated relationship between teacher and student. In Preeti Chhibber’s “Once (Them) & Future (Us)”, a resurrected Merlin is forced to choose between steering a new Arthur on the road to Camelot or falling in love with this new Arjun, thereby forgetting his old self and power. Nisi Shawl also explores the more traditional love affair between Merlin and his apprentice in “I Being Young and Foolish”, in which a young woman named Nia, marked as magical by her albino skin, leaves her home of Nakasongola to study magic with Merlin in England. Both stories (one told from his perspective, the other from Nia’s) force Merlin to choose between love (also equated with death) and power –– a decision that is arguably made more powerful by Chhibber’s queer reading of the character. The protagonist of S. Zainab Williams’ “The Quay Stone” also finds herself snared in a perilous relationship as she follows her new friend Nenive (one of the more traditional names for Merlin’s student) through the streets of Singapore while becoming ever more frightened of her friend’s power. Each story in its own way examines the classic tale and the questions of power, agency, love, and desire it raises. Other queer-centric stories include “Do, By All Due Means” (Sive Doyle), “Little Green Men” (Alexander Chee), and “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” (Daniel M. Lavery). This last is an intriguing reading of knightly duels as examples of sadomasochistic performativity in which defeated knights render themselves utterly submissive to the victor. In this case, Galehaut (who is different from Galahad and whose close relationship with Lancelot in the 13th century Vulgate cycle has inspired queer-readings from scholars) desires nothing more than to be subdued, a wish that is not granted until he is overthrown by Lancelot. Chee’s science-fiction story “Little Green Men” reframes the tale of “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” around the kisses exchanged between Gawain and his host Lord Bertilak in the original 14th century poem. Meanwhile, Doyle adapts a lesser known Arthurian story –– the tale of the female knight Britomart from Edmund Spenser’s 16th century “Faerie Queene” –– with a few appreciable twists, including the love between Britomart and the maiden she rescues. In each case, the authors follow their medieval/early-modern sources fairly closely, making the characters’ implied desires overt and romantic. However, my favorite stories in the book all center on the figure of Elaine, the famous Lady of Shalott/Astolat. These include: “Passing Fair and Young” (Roshani Chokshi), “Flat White” (Jessica Plummer), and “A Shadow in Amber” (Silvia Moreno-Garcia). In both “Passing Fair and Young” and “Flat White”, the authors place the role of destiny front-and-center in the tale of Lancelot and Elaine as something they can recognize, critique, and resist, albeit in different contexts. Chokshi makes destiny visible in “myth marks” and has Elaine choose her role as the brief, almost forgotten side-character in the romance of Lancelot and Guinevere –– while also allowing the years Lancelot and Elaine spend living together to be a truly joyous example of domestic bliss. Plummer, on the other hand, places Elaine in the modern day as a barista who becomes obsessed with Lance, a regular customer, and then finds herself inexorably dragged into the love triangle with his best friends, Arthur and Gwen. It is the arrival of these two that nudges something in Elaine’s brain and makes her go to Wikipedia where she pieces together the story herself and her role in it. (Incidentally, this is my favorite story in the collection for its self-awareness and sense of humor which is reminiscent of Neil Gaiman at his best.) Moreno-Garcia, on the other hand, places Tennyson’s Lady of Shalott in a cyberpunk city, shut in her luxurious apartment and only experiencing the outside world through drug-induced memories brought to her by a dealer. She becomes (quite literally) hooked on the experiences of a vibrant, romantic young man she knows only as Lancelot: the only spark of authenticity in her enclosed world. The other stories in the collection are harder to tie into a discernible pattern. “The Once and Future Qadi” (Ausma Zehanat Khan) imagines a fascinating exchange between East an West as a Muslim Qadi is summoned by Arthur to Camelot in order to judge the truth behind Lancelot and Guinevere’s affair. I feel myself wanting more, while at the same time wondering if the Arthurian setting is the best for this story since the “mystery’s” conclusion is already established. Conversely, “The Bladesmith Queen” (Sarah MacLean) is Arthurian only in the abstract: a female smith sends a warrior into the world to slay her most sinister customers and recollect the blades she regrets making. The scene where they have sex in the lake is the closest to an Arthurian homage in the piece. Finally, “White Hempen Sleeves” (Ken Liu) imagines a future where technology has made death all but impossible for the rich and so an inventor splits his consciousness so he can test his own resolve in the face of inevitable destruction over and over again. There is an attempt here to draw a connection with the magical deception that enables Arthur’s father, Uther, to lie with Igraine in the guise of her husband, but it ultimately feels strained in a story already bursting with complexity, which is unfortunate in the hands of so able a writer as Ken Liu. As I stated at the beginning, my intention in this (rather lengthy) review is not to address the merits of the stories themselves, but instead to place them in conversation with one another and the larger tradition. In doing so, I do not mean to disparage anyone for departing from the “canon” (a concept as elusive and illusory in Arthurian studies as Avalon itself), but rather to use the heightened vantage point of my expertise to identify the roads not taken and point the way toward unexplored frontiers I hope the next wave of writers will undertake. If nothing else, I hope my review has demonstrated that the Arthurian legend is one of the most enduring and flexible in the western tradition and stories like this (despite what others might say) are some of the best testaments to its continued strength and relevance.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Other Rachel

    Sword Stone Table edited by Swapna Krishna and Jenn Northington is a testament to the power of anthologies. Some of these tales are eerie, warnings about the cyclical nature of humanity; others are heartfelt moments of second chances and what it means to become a leader. All embody the beating heart of King Arthur and his Court, and what it means to turn into a living story. Several of these stand out, in particular: The Once and Future Qadi (Asuma Zehanat Khan) - One of the best Outsider POVs yo Sword Stone Table edited by Swapna Krishna and Jenn Northington is a testament to the power of anthologies. Some of these tales are eerie, warnings about the cyclical nature of humanity; others are heartfelt moments of second chances and what it means to become a leader. All embody the beating heart of King Arthur and his Court, and what it means to turn into a living story. Several of these stand out, in particular: The Once and Future Qadi (Asuma Zehanat Khan) - One of the best Outsider POVs you'll read from the genre. With the Queen's honor put on social trial, it is up to a jurist of the Almohad caliphate to investigate the tricky nature of the court. With a narration reminiscent of Agagthe Christe's dry tone, Khan grounds the myth in a historical reality through the practical eyes of her protagonist. I could easily read a whole volume of Yusuf's adventures. Passing Young and Fair (Roshani Chokshi) - A breathtaking retelling of Elaine and the sacrifices women make. I can't say much due to spoilers, but her prose pulls at you like a river. Mayday (Maria Davhana Headley) - Myth becomes present through the items found at the West Sister Island Lighthouse. The story of King Arthur is retold through newspaper clipping, bullet-ridden clothes, diary entries, and private investigator notes about a series of events that happened in the 1800s. Is it magic or mundane? You decide. Heartbeat (Waubgeshig Rice) - Rice perfectly captures the joy of reading King Arthur for the first time. As someone who grew up with Disney's Sword in the Stone, Heartbeat reminds us of the power of memories and stories around brave children. Flat White (Jessica Plummer) - If you have ever felt slighted by Elaine was treated in the myths, this tale about reincarnation and messy relationships will help validate the anger inside. The ending nearly had me screaming. Once (Them) & Future (Them) (Preeti Chhibber) - I am literally dying for this to become a novel. I don't know how to explain this story about reincarnation and second chances without spoiling anything, but Chhibber has written the exhaustion off living these lives so well. So many mistakes, so many choices, but there is such relief in the way she has these characters explore them. Little Green Men (Alexander Chee) - A sci-fi retelling of The Green Knight. Gavin is challenged by a mysterious man in green as he wonders about the disappearance of a good friend. Self-aware and full of Easter Eggs, you'll have to read this story more than once.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Marie

    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 inte 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.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Ana

    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 bette 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.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Erin Cataldi

    Reading this collection of Arthurian re-tellings makes me want to go back and read the old stories anew! This anthology contains new takes on old tales, modern takes, and even some futuristic takes. Every single story was unique and different, although some were much stronger than others. The stories focus on different characters from the Arthurian legends and played around with them in fun new ways. From a vengeful baseball player to a barista falling in love with Lance to the Lady of Shallot t Reading this collection of Arthurian re-tellings makes me want to go back and read the old stories anew! This anthology contains new takes on old tales, modern takes, and even some futuristic takes. Every single story was unique and different, although some were much stronger than others. The stories focus on different characters from the Arthurian legends and played around with them in fun new ways. From a vengeful baseball player to a barista falling in love with Lance to the Lady of Shallot taking illegal memories like drugs in a futuristic city - the span and scope was impressive. About half of the tales failed to draw me in but the ones that I loved, I LOVED. I only recognized a handful of authors, but that didn't matter to me. Pardon me while I go dig out The Mists of Avalon from under my bed.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Corley Elizabeth

    4.5 stars. It's a well-known fact that I love Arthurian myth, and when I found out about Sword Stone Table and Maria Dahvana Headley contributing to it, I was 100% on board. Having read this has introduced me to so many great new writers! A few stories were underwhelming, but I found the majority solid and captivating. Some of the ones that stand out include "Passing Fair and Young" and "Flat White," two stories that explore the character Elaine and have equally compelling storylines; "The Quay S 4.5 stars. It's a well-known fact that I love Arthurian myth, and when I found out about Sword Stone Table and Maria Dahvana Headley contributing to it, I was 100% on board. Having read this has introduced me to so many great new writers! A few stories were underwhelming, but I found the majority solid and captivating. Some of the ones that stand out include "Passing Fair and Young" and "Flat White," two stories that explore the character Elaine and have equally compelling storylines; "The Quay Stone," which is set in Singapore and portrays the darker side of obsession through the Lady of the Lake; the futuristic "Little Green Men" that is a fantastic adaptation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight; and Headley's story "Hayday," which was my favorite and which I can describe only as a political western where Merlin is referred to as a "cowboy poet, patent medicine seller, soap-box agitator, and magician." Loved this inclusive collection immensely and cannot wait to purchase a physical copy. I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jessica (the naptime writer)

    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 leg 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.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Alice

    A fantastic collection, exploring the Arthurian legends in inventive and fresh ways. The Once And Future Qadi ⭐⭐⭐⭐ Passing Fair And Young ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 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 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ I Being Young And Foolish ⭐⭐⭐⭐ The Bladesmith's Queen ⭐⭐⭐⭐ Do, By All Due Means ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Mayday ⭐⭐⭐⭐ Heartbeat ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Jack And Brad And The Magician ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ The Quay Stone ⭐⭐⭐⭐ Black Diamond ⭐⭐⭐⭐ Flat Whit A fantastic collection, exploring the Arthurian legends in inventive and fresh ways. The Once And Future Qadi ⭐⭐⭐⭐ Passing Fair And Young ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 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 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ I Being Young And Foolish ⭐⭐⭐⭐ The Bladesmith's Queen ⭐⭐⭐⭐ Do, By All Due Means ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Mayday ⭐⭐⭐⭐ Heartbeat ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Jack And Brad And The Magician ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ The Quay Stone ⭐⭐⭐⭐ Black Diamond ⭐⭐⭐⭐ Flat White ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Once (Them) & Future (Us) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ A Shadow In Amber ⭐⭐⭐⭐ White Hempen Sleeves ⭐⭐⭐⭐ Little Green Men ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

  19. 5 out of 5

    Marisa Gettas

    I read this for Sarah MacLean's story, which I loved. It’s short, just 25 pages, and my problem now is that I want her to write a medieval romance series! I give the story 5/5. I didn't feel it was fair of me to rate this 400+ page collection of stories based on one 25 page section, so I left the star rating blank. I read this for Sarah MacLean's story, which I loved. It’s short, just 25 pages, and my problem now is that I want her to write a medieval romance series! I give the story 5/5. I didn't feel it was fair of me to rate this 400+ page collection of stories based on one 25 page section, so I left the star rating blank.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Greyson

    3.5 stars. Some of the stories were really good and some weren't (as I expect with most short story collections). It's divided into 3 sections: Past, Present, and Future, but I'm frustrated that the Future part was only 3 stories and took up around 50 pages out of a 450 page book. It just didn't seem balanced to me. 3.5 stars. Some of the stories were really good and some weren't (as I expect with most short story collections). It's divided into 3 sections: Past, Present, and Future, but I'm frustrated that the Future part was only 3 stories and took up around 50 pages out of a 450 page book. It just didn't seem balanced to me.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jackie

    This book is a good time and I'm glad it exists! I think what I discovered, reading it, is that my Arthurian preoccupations/fascinations are different preoccupations/fascinations than the ones these authors have. And that's fine! I just kept imagining the stones left unturned. This book is a good time and I'm glad it exists! I think what I discovered, reading it, is that my Arthurian preoccupations/fascinations are different preoccupations/fascinations than the ones these authors have. And that's fine! I just kept imagining the stones left unturned.

  22. 4 out of 5

    nora

    One of my favorites tales is the Arthurian one, how excited I was to have this collection! It was really clever to retell this tale in the past, present and the future. And also discovering new authors is always a plus. I really enjoyed it!

  23. 4 out of 5

    Paige

    This anthology of short stories related to Arthurian legends is loaded with diverse retelling sand imaginative takes on Arthurian legends. An overall rating is difficult because some stories were more enjoyable for me than others, but that is typical with anthologies. This one has such a variety of styles and visions, that anyone who enjoys tales related to Camelot should pick this up.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Beatrice

    Exceptionally uneven, even for an anthology. I can’t fathom the editorial choice to put MG/YA in the same collection as that Liu story doing Liu’s schtick. Anyway, I’d recommend the Lavery and that’s really about it.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Simone

    ATTENTION ROMANCE READERS: This is not a romance anthology! This should be clear from the cover, but this is important info before you buy! Most of the stories are not romance at all. Some try to be, but they...don't quite hit the mark. BUT if you, like me, are here for Sarah MacLean.... It was fantastic! Sarah proves that no matter what the genre of romance, she can write it. This one is Medieval with fantastical elements--a warrior who is destined to be king seeks out a lady swordsmith who has ATTENTION ROMANCE READERS: This is not a romance anthology! This should be clear from the cover, but this is important info before you buy! Most of the stories are not romance at all. Some try to be, but they...don't quite hit the mark. BUT if you, like me, are here for Sarah MacLean.... It was fantastic! Sarah proves that no matter what the genre of romance, she can write it. This one is Medieval with fantastical elements--a warrior who is destined to be king seeks out a lady swordsmith who has given up everything to protect her village from evil men. And then, in a feminist AF spin on the Lady of the Lake & Excalibur that will make every MacLean fan's heart sing, it turns out the warrior is also a sword -- pledged to the Bladesmith Queen for her vengeance. That, and smoking hot (sword and) stone sex! - 5 stars! I hope she releases it on its own with more of the story of Orsa & Bruin! I also really loved Roshani Chokshi & Preeti Chhibber's stories, which were both beautifully written and in the case of Chhibber's, so romantic. I immediately bought Chokshi's The Star-Touched Queen. As for Chhibber, it looks like she's only written Star Wars/Marvel tie-ins until now... and I hope this story is the first of a long career with her own work. will absolutely read more of both of them. Most of the other stories didn't keep my attention, but your mileage will definitely vary depending upon how much romance you're requiring in your pandemic reading.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jasmine

    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 som 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.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Robin

    **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.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Courtney

    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 throug 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.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kelleen Moriarty

    I picked up this collection of short stories because I am always interested in the act of reimagining stories from the past, especially as done through the lens of BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, and feminist artists. Especially with stories so ingrained in the British cultural identity, it sounded like a really exciting opportunity to negotiate colonial constructs and reimagine our own legends. In many ways, a lot of these stories did exactly that, taking inspiration from the founding myths of the Arthurian L I picked up this collection of short stories because I am always interested in the act of reimagining stories from the past, especially as done through the lens of BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, and feminist artists. Especially with stories so ingrained in the British cultural identity, it sounded like a really exciting opportunity to negotiate colonial constructs and reimagine our own legends. In many ways, a lot of these stories did exactly that, taking inspiration from the founding myths of the Arthurian Legends and retelling them in a "gender-bent, race-bent, LGBTQIA+, and inclusive" way. The word "inclusive" doesn't do justice to the varied and boundless breadth of this collection. In addition to the identities and cultures represented and explored, these stories span genres from romance to sci-fi to an avant garde collection of memorabilia. The anthology itself is broken into "Once," "Present," and "Future," and this varying dimension of time also lends to the diversity within the book. Some of the pieces were hard for me to get through, while others felt fresh and inspired. Some highlights for me: Passing Fair and Young by Roshani Chokshi, Jack and Brad and the Magician by Anthony Rapp, and Black Diamond by Alex Segura. This may seem obvious, but this collection is much more enjoyable if you really know your Arthurian Legends. I have a passing knowledge of the lore, having read some of the tales first hand and then absorbed others from the general American cultural consciousness, but I found myself stopping my reading and googling different characters, places, and storylines in almost every story. I think I would have enjoyed many of these stories much more if I had had a more detailed, in depth, and nuanced hold on the legends.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Alyssa Silverstein

    The idea behind the Sword Stone Table anthology is to give readers versions of the King Arthur legend through modern, own voices lenses. The stories work best when focusing on the perspectives of “forgotten” characters, including queer, gender and race focused retellings. As with most anthologies, I had my favorite stories. The Bladesmith Queen by Sarah MacLean This story features a strong, independent heroine who creates swords, saves her village and manages to find her fated mate, too. Do, By A The idea behind the Sword Stone Table anthology is to give readers versions of the King Arthur legend through modern, own voices lenses. The stories work best when focusing on the perspectives of “forgotten” characters, including queer, gender and race focused retellings. As with most anthologies, I had my favorite stories. The Bladesmith Queen by Sarah MacLean This story features a strong, independent heroine who creates swords, saves her village and manages to find her fated mate, too. Do, By All Means by Sive Doyle This tale is set sometime in the distant past about a young woman on a magical quest. She finds her princess soulmate after eliminating her inferior male competition in heroic fashion. Flat White by Jessica Plummer Flat White is a modern take on Arthur and his friends, with Elaine, barista as the central figure. The ideas of what is predestined vs what individuals can control are front and center. Little Green Men by Alexander Chee. Aside from the nice Arthur references, I’m always up for a future reality show on Mars with queer characters and descendants of Bjork. Really. This anthology is a great concept, and it’s really cool to see the many different interpretations of the King Arthur story. But, the stories require different levels of previous knowledge about King Arthur and his world. The more you know, the more interesting and intriguing some of the stories can be. There were a few stories that had me visiting Wikipedia to check a name or fact that I felt like I missed. However, some stories require minimal previous knowledge to be fully enjoyed. I voluntarily read and reviewed an advance copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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