Two contemporary gamers find themselves living a real-life fantasy adventure with the future King Arthur and Guinevere even as they navigate rough-water friendships.
Twelve-year-old Sophie and her best friend, Stu, play “Camelot’s Honor,” an online video game based on Arthurian legend. Unknown to them, their third party member is the real wizard Merlin, connected with time-traveling Wi-Fi. Meanwhile, 13-year-old Arthur and Princess Guinevere pal around. One day, instead of pulling a certain sword out of a stone, he falls through a magic well, landing in 21st-century Massachusetts. After he learns his legendary fate with a search on “the Google,” he decides to stay and play football, a decision that drastically alters history. The four teens travel through time and face the vengeful sorceress Morgana—but, as Merlin says, “unfortunately in real life there are no do-overs.” Mancusi builds suspense well in this series opener. The casual, multiple-perspective narration keeps the characters familiar and approachable for young readers, even within the medieval setting. The ultimate message is muddled, however; dreams of self-determination clash with apparently inevitable destinies. There is some troubling gender treatment: Even though Guinevere can fight, she still needs rescuing and ends up pigeonholed as romantic drama, and the text fails to challenge Arthur's 21st-century pal's obnoxious, anti-feminist declaration that he hopes to "score a dance with a real medieval chick." The book features no characters of color in either timeline, offering a default-white cast. Mancusi sets the stage for future adventures…in the past.
A wholesome, modern twist on the classic legend that could provide a gateway for newer readers and fun for the gaming set. (Fantasy. 8-13)