REVIEW: Perilous Times by Thomas D Lee

Perilous Times is Thomas D Lee’s debut novel. It is a wickedly funny Arthurian inspired satirical fantasy novel, set in a contemporary world. In it, and the idea where the title derives from, the knights of the road table rise up from a magical sleep whenever England is in peril. This means they have been called upon to help in almost every battle in English history, from Agincourt to the Somme. In Perilous Times, the current peril resurrecting the knights is a doomsday level of climate change – mass extinction of birds and bugs, rising sea levels meaning a lot of the country is underwater, and it is twenty-five pounds a pint in the north of England. Oh, and a dragon is on the loose. Perilous times indeed. 


Perilous TimesNow, picking up an Arthurian-inspired story, I did expect more of the big man. Arthur does appear later in the novel, but he is very different from how the legends have had us remember him. However, the knights we see the most are Kay, Arthur’s brother, and Lancelot. These, and the other Arthur-linked characters, are names that I recognised, but Lee’s presentation of them, and the others taken from the legend, feels new. Which is remarkable, given just how many Arthurian retellings there are out there. The original characters in Perilous Times are also very good creations of Lee’s, particularly one who is arguably the novel’s main character, Mariam, whom I hope other readers will love as much as I did. I think that Lee has done a stellar job in terms of representation with all of the characters, and none feel like token-inclusive gestures added to tick a box on a diversity checklist.


I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Perilous Times. I thought I would like it when I picked it up, thinking it would be a palate cleanser from darker novels, a jolly romp with knights of old. Which it is. But it is also so much more than that. Lee’s writing is nuanced, and he covers some serious issues in a careful and considerate way. The loss of loved ones, trying to find a sense of belonging in a world that doesn’t seem to fit you, questioning why you fight when fighting seems to get you nowhere, and hope even when hope feels foolish. Perilous Times is sometimes sarcastic and cynical but equally poignant and touching at others. So as well as being a delightful escapist fantasy, with some jolly romping with knights, Lee’s emotive writing will stick with you long after you have read the final page. A huge thank you to Thomas D Lee and the team at Orbit for sending a copy to be able to review it.


Read Perilous Times by Thomas D Lee

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Fiona Denton

Fiona Denton

Fiona is a former secondary school teacher and current stay at home parent to two very wild and active children. She lives with them and her husband in the UK and can often be found on a beach paddling in the North Sea or stomping through a forest with the sprogs and hounds. She loves to read and has always enjoyed fantasy novels, particularly the very dark and twisty ones with mythical creatures.