Book Reviews

Sword Stone Table: Old Legends, New Voices – edited by Swapna Krishna and Jenn Northington

Yep, this is another retelling. Or, more accurately, a whole anthology of them (I promise I do read other things that aren’t retellings!) When I heard about this particular anthology though, I was pretty keen to get my hands on a copy. After several failed attempts, I eventually found one in Transreal bookshop in Edinburgh and I don’t think I’ve ever grabbed a book off a shelf so quickly before!


From the vast lore surrounding King Arthur, Camelot, and the Knights of the Round Table, comes an anthology of gender-bent, race-bent, LGBTQIA+ inclusive retellings.

Featuring stories by: Alexander Chee • Preeti Chhibber • Roshani Chokshi • Sive Doyle • Maria Dahvana Headley • Ausma Zehanat Khan • Daniel M. Lavery • Ken Liu • Sarah MacLean • Silvia Moreno-Garcia • Jessica Plummer • Anthony Rapp • Waubgeshig Rice • Alex Segura • Nisi Shawl • S. Zainab Williams

Here you’ll find the Lady of the Lake reimagined as an albino Ugandan sorceress and the Lady of Shalott as a wealthy, isolated woman in futuristic Mexico City; you’ll see Excalibur rediscovered as a baseball bat that grants a washed-up minor leaguer a fresh shot at glory and as a lost ceremonial drum that returns to a young First Nations boy the power and the dignity of his people. There are stories set in Gilded Age Chicago, ’80s New York, twenty-first century Singapore, and space; there are lesbian lady knights, Arthur and Merlin reborn in the modern era for a second chance at saving the world and falling in love—even a coffee shop AU.

Brave, bold, and groundbreaking, the stories in Sword Stone Table will bring fresh life to beloved myths and give long-time fans a chance to finally see themselves in their favorite legends

Content warnings:

I couldn’t find any for this particular anthology, but I will update this when I do.

My thoughts:

I’m not usually a big fan of anthologies and short stories, only because I tend to find that once a story gets going, it ends fairly quickly after that. As a result, I’ve never really given anthologies a chance, but after reading Sword Stone Table, I think I will be on the hunt for some more! (Recommendations appreciated!)

One of the many things I enjoyed about Sword Stone Table was the way the authors approached the legends. The anthology is split into “Once”, “Present” and “Future”, with the bulk of the stories falling into the “Once” and “Present” categories. I really enjoyed some of the more modern takes on the legends (for example, Maria Dahvana Headley’s Mayday and Waubgeshig Rice’ Heartbeat), but there were standouts in the “Once” (Sarah MacLean’s The Bladesmith Queen springs to mind) and “Future” sections too. There were definitely stories I didn’t want to end and some I got quite invested in, so I’m taking that as a good sign of how much I enjoyed them.

If I had a couple of issues with anthology, it was that I wished there had been a couple of other stories that were retold. There were one or two stories that were “repeated” (for example, there are 3 versions of the Lady of Shalott in this anthology), but they were all told in different ways and from different angles, that I didn’t mind the repetition too much.

Another tiny nitpick was that there were some stories where I couldn’t quite work out which Arthurian story it was a retelling of. Again, it didn’t bother me too much and it’s a good excuse to go and read the original stories!

Despite those two tiny quibbles, I really enjoyed Sword Stone Table. There were some really enjoyable stories from some amazing authors (whose other work I will definitely be checking out) and I have a feeling I will be re-reading some of these stories again.

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