Book Review: The Fifth Knight by Claire Luana and Jesikah Sundin
At its core, this is a Mary-Sue self-insert King Arthur fanfic where Arthur, Lancelot, Galahad and Percival all fall for the heroine.
And you know what? I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Yes, Fionna is a bit too perfect to be true. She’s otherworldly beautiful (even though she compares herself unfavourably to her sister), a super-fighter who can go toe to toe with Arthur or any of his knights despite her small size, and apparently is also destined to be a great enchantress, according to Merlyn. Everyone falls in love with her at first sight. She’s pretty much the definition of a Mary-Sue. And yet… I still really liked her. She has relatable motives and is willing to work hard to get what she needs; she’s kind to servants and doesn’t treat other women as rivals, and she regularly questions her attitudes and works on being a better person.
I’ve always been a huge fan of Arthurian fantasy, and this was a nice take on the story, with Morgana a vengeful fae bent on getting her revenge after Lancelot cheated on her. Several curses afflict Arthur’s kingdom, not least Excalibur being stuck in its scabbard, and only Merlyn’s prophecy of a fifth knight to join their company and help them find the Grail gives them faith.
Fionna joins them under false pretences, winning a tourney disguised as a man, and by the time her identity is revealed it’s too late to back out. Besides, her blood released Excalibur, so Arthur has no choice but to believe she’s the right person for the task.
Morgana certainly isn’t about to give up without a fight, though. She’s working contrary to Merlyn’s prophecies the whole time, and as this first book in the trilogy draws to a close, it’s obvious things are about to get a lot trickier for the group, especially since some of them are still concealing important truths from the others.
While this is Reverse Harem and marketed as unsuitable for readers under 18, there’s not that much sex in it. Clearly the story is building to Fionna having a relationship with all four men, but in this first part of the trilogy she only gets intimate with Arthur and Galahad, and the heat only probably reaches a 3-4 stage. Considering Lancelot is under a curse and Percival has taken a vow of celibacy, I don’t think you’ll see too much more action until at least Book 3, either.
I liked the way that Lancelot was written as explicitly bisexual, and it was certainly at least hinted that Percival was too, so homophobia isn’t something you have to worry about here, often a problematic element in RH books. I think this is a great example of a fantasy romance with a slow build to a reverse harem which makes logical sense given the circumstances, and I’ll definitely be looking out for parts 2 and 3 of the trilogy. Five stars.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book for review through NetGalley.