Perilous Times

By Thomas D Lee

Perilous Times, a novel by Thomas D Lee
Book details

I love an Arthurian Legend retelling, Perilous Times by Thomas D Lee is not even the first one that I have read this year, but it shows how flexible authors can be with Old King Arty. Lee does not retell the tales of yore but extrapolates into the present and the future. When Arthur was buried, he was only fated to return to England when the land was in great peril. Who decides what constitutes peril? The Napoleonic Wars, WW1, or WW2? What about rising water levels, air that you cannot breathe and dying forests. Do you think that Arthur will wake up in a good mood once he sees what we have done? 

Britain in the near future is not great; more like Bleak Britain. Isolationism and climate change has left the country in ruins. Scotland and Wales have declared independence, much of the coastline is underwater and the North is in open revolt. Any land intact has been sold to the Chinese and the UK government now hires US mercenaries to lead the army. This backdrop forces the land to stir. Awaken Sir Kay, his mission to save the land from peril. Awaken Sir Lancelot, his mission to do whatever the shady powers tell him. But where are Arthur, Merlin, and the rest? 

Transporting the Knights of the Round Table to a different setting is not a new concept, but to the bleak future of Perilous is new to me. This is a Britain that could happen, of rising water levels and rising temperaments. Strip away the Arthurian aspects of the book and you can see why the country is in peril. The book becomes a dystopian urban fantasy, Children of Men meets Rivers of London

This book is hard going in places, Lee does not shy away from the bleakness of the future and the greed that led us there. When the Knights arrive, they are not much better. Sir Kay remains noble, but the likes of Lancelot, Merlin and Arthur prove that you should never meet your heroes. To balance some of the dark, Lee ensures there is light. The book is humorous from Sir Kay’s fish out of water antics, to the cynical humour of the characters. They may be trying to kill one another, but they have known each other for so long that they find it amusing. 

Perilous is a book that explores what makes a hero. Is it the man with the biggest sword, or someone who steps up in a time of need. From the present we meet Mariam and her group of feminist ecowarriors. There are various factions trying to overthrow the government, but is Mariam’s reluctant heroism the best bet for our future? A return of Arthur could be more trouble than it is worth. 

Lee manages a nice balance of tone. The book has fantastical ideas and humour, but also feels like a world on the brink of dystopia. Seeing how the legends are once they are meet reality is intriguing. Overall, despite dragons and Knights, this a darker and more cynical book that you would first imagine. It would suit fans of darker Urban Fantasy than fans of lighter High Fantasy. An interesting and unique take on Arthur and his legacy.  

Written on 1st June 2023 by .

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