[I received a copy of this copy of The Table of Less Valued Knights from its Canadian publisher Random House Canada. This does not affect my opinion of this book in any way.]
I have no idea how this happened, but I hadn’t heard of Marie Phillips before reading her new novel The Table of Less Valued Knights. Boy, have I been missing out. If her previous novel Gods Behaving Badly is anything like this gem of a book, then I need to go get it ASAP because I adored this book.
The Table of Less Valued Knights takes us into King Arthur’s court but instead of focusing on the arrogant (and long-winded) Round Table, we’re introduced to the Table of Errant Companions and the Table of Less Valued Knights. These are the knights that didn’t make the cut; for whatever reason, they’ve been excluded from the exclusive Round Table. Among the Less Valued Knights is our protagonist Sir Humphrey Du Val. He’s desperate to go on a quest to prove his worth (even though Less Valued Knights are forbidden from taking quests) and make his way back to the esteemed table. As it happens, a quest presents itself and Humphrey jumps at the chance. What ensues is a hilarious journey of an unlikely bunch: a half-giant, a Lady, an elephant, a runaway Queen, the less valued knight, and a magical sword. If you’re in any way interested in the middle ages, medieval times, and/or King Arthur’s knights, you will not want to miss it.
I don’t want to talk too much about the plot because the journey is the best part, but I will say that it has all of the makings of an epic tale: there are two major conflicts, raised stakes, and motivated characters; there are emotional backstories and love-to-hate-em villains; there are side quests, a magical Lady of the Lake, and hilarious Shakespearean comedy-of-errors mix ups; last but not least, there’s romance and an endearing and imperfect knight. Seriously, what more could you ask for in a book?
Besides the awesome plot and characters, what I really enjoyed about The Table of Less Valued Knights is its slight jabs to the unfair patriarchal system these characters lived under. For a book set in the middle ages, this story is quite progressive and it is so refreshing to read. (Seriously – so refreshing.) I know many people give period pieces a pass because “that’s how it was in the olden days!” but Phillips shows us that this does not have to be true. A medieval novel can have a story with strong female characters too!
I am really hoping that there will be a sequel to The Table of Less Valued Knights. I loved these characters so much and would love to read more of them. Until then, I’m going to have to go read Gods Behaving Badly so I can get my Marie Phillips fix. So good.
Verdict: A perfectly-constructed Arthurian tale. The Table of Less Valued Knights has all the elements that I was looking for in a great book – and more! I would highly recommend it if you fit any of the “Read if” categories…
Read if: You like reading about the middle ages/medieval times, want to hear about the less famous Less Valued Knights, need an entertaining and humorous story that is bound to keep you laughing the whole way through.
Are you as fascinated by the middle ages as I am? Have you read Gods Behaving Badly? Will you be picking up The Table of Less Valued Knights?
*The Table of Less Valued Knights will be published on August 12th by Random House of Canada**