Heat Factor: There is sex once, but it doesn’t really stand out against everything else going on
Character Chemistry: They’re soulmates because they’re actually Lancelot and Arthur. Ish.
Plot: Really too much to summarize here
The low-hanging fruit for this review is that Avalon’s Last Knight is written in 1st person present, which I honestly didn’t realize until I was halfway through the book (1st person, yes; present, no), but I know some people really don’t care for that, so there you go.
There is super duper a ton of stuff going on in this book, so in order to be less verbose than I usually am, I will make a wee list. (You’re welcome.)
- Everybody is living in Avalon, Kentucky, which is a small town, maybe in Appalachia (definitely in the mountains).
- Lance A. Lotte is an adopted, former foster child, Mexican-American trans man who is studying astronomy in college and witchcraft and brujería in his free time. He also has anxiety and a serious lack of self-worth.
- Arthur Pendragon is super hot, but he’s also Lance’s best friend and has been in love with Lance since forever. He works at a construction site in town and owns his own trailer. He was raised Southern Baptist and goes to church on Sundays.
- Gwen Lotte is Lance’s adoptive sister and other best friend. She also practices witchcraft and works in town instead of college.
- Mordy and Morgan are visiting from California, staying with their Tío Myrddin, with whom they are studying Santería. They are black (and so stand out in the middle of nowhere Kentucky), twins, and Mordy is also a trans man.
- Lance, Arthur, Gwen, Mordy, and Morgan have (probably, we’re pretty sure) been reincarnated for hundreds of years since they all botched the first go-round, and Morgana cursed everyone. This might also be the case for an evil necromancer, and Gwen’s boss, Olivia, but they might just be immortal. Not sure.
- The evil necromancer, Emrys Caerwyn, abducts girls so he can feed his immortality, so when a friend of Arthur and Gwen goes missing, they know what they must do. At least, Mordy and Lance know, Morgan and Gwen are pretty confident, and Arthur is along for the ride, because he doesn’t know all the magickal things that have been happening.
- Lance has a mazillion hangups about being with Arthur. Partially because Lancelot + Arthur does not, historically, end well. Partially because he’s dealing with some emotional baggage, self-esteem issues, and body dysphoria.
- Arthur will wait for Lance 4-eva! (💗💗💗💗💗)
- There are: black magick, white magick, visions, stone circles, swords in flaming lakes, grave robbing, animal spirits, and a special visit from the Aztec queen of the dead.
In short, it’s a lot, and it’s pretty wild. Between all the darkness of the story and Lance’s angst, the mood was solidly brooding, so it wasn’t a particularly fun read… Lance tends to take all of this stuff going on pretty seriously. On the other hand, there are moments when a little levity is inserted because Lance acknowledges that whatever is happening sounds totally nuts:
Things have taken a weird turn. An Aztec death goddess is talking to me because I shouted at a bunch of rocks, and now she’s telling me I’m a brave warrior–a first, for sure.
But while Lance uses a sardonic tone for most of his narration, I couldn’t really get past a general sense of gloom while reading. And while the book wraps up with a neat little happily-for-now-and-probably-ever, I’m not sure that the romance was particularly fleshed-out or central to the story. In a sense it was central, in that Lancelot and Arthur’s failed historical love is an essential reason for the current struggle. But for much of the book, Arthur and Lance are not on the page together. In fact, for the first half of the book, Lance spends most of his time with Mordy, Arthur hardly gets a mention, and I’m over here like, “What about your boyfriend, dude?”
The romance seems primarily to exist as a way to discuss Lance’s personal fears about being in a relationship at all. Arthur is a flat, somewhat opaque, perfect figure, which makes sense in context, but which doesn’t give us much in terms of relationship growth and development. Arthur wants a relationship and Lance is unsure → They decide to pursue a relationship → They make the relationship physical → Everything is subsumed by the quest to kill the necromancer.
I’d consider this more of a coming-of-age story or hero’s journey with romantic elements, but given the romantic nature of the conclusion, I’m not sure I’d fully categorize it as smut-adjacent. I enjoyed the hodge-podge of ideas and people represented. And I loved reading the voice of a trans protagonist (my first). But I have to acknowledge that I didn’t really get invested until things started rolling at about 60%. Romance or …not, it certainly made an impression.
I voluntarily read and reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. We disclose this in accordance with 16 CFR §255.
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And a bonus rec, plus a request: We’ve reviewed one other romance featuring a trans protagonist. If you’ve read any good ones, we’d love some recs!