Favorite Quote: He needed more guards. And weapons. And supplies. … And girly things…
Reviewed by Tori
The Queen: Guinevere must save Camelot. Ever since Arthur died, the evil Scarecrow has been trying to marry her and gain the crown. If she and her daughter are going to survive his mad schemes, Gwen needs to find Merlyn’s wand. Fast. Unfortunately, the only man strong enough to help her on her quest is Kingpin Midas, a flashy, uneducated mobster dealing with a curse. Gwen is a logical, rational woman, though, and she can draft one hell of a contract. She’s pretty sure she can come up with an offer not even the kingdom’s greatest villain can refuse.
The Kingpin: Anything Midas touches turns to gold. Literally. The curse has helped him to rule Camelot’s underworld with an iron fist. He has more money and more power than anyone else in the kingdom. He’s convinced there’s nothing he can’t buy. One look at Gwen and Midas knows that he’s about to make his most brilliant purchase, yet. He’s about to own the one woman in the world he would give anything to possess. All he has to do to claim her is somehow win a war against the smartest man in Camelot, hide his growing feelings from Gwen, deal with his overprotective bodyguard’s paranoia about the queen’s hidden motivations, and adjust to five-year-oldld demanding bedtime stories from a gangster. Simple, right?
The Contract: Gwen’s deal is simple: If Midas marries her, she’ll make him King of Camelot. It’s a fair bargain. Midas will keep her enemies away and she’ll give him the respectability that money can’t buy. She never expects Midas to agree so quickly. Or for their practical business arrangement to feel so… complicated. Midas isn’t the tawdry, feral animal that Arthur railed against. He’s a kind and gentle man, who clearly needs Gwen’s help just as much as she needs his. In fact, the longer she’s around Midas the more Gwen realizes that their “fake marriage” might be more real than she ever imagined. (Goodreads)
I adore modern fairytale adaptations. Add in humor and mayhem and I’m hooked-line and sinker. Ilona Andrews recently blogged about a book she and her husband read and thoroughly enjoyed-Cassandra Gannon’s A Kingpin in Camelot. Andrews touted it as the perfect bit of escapism so I picked it up, read it, and must say I agree 100%. Though this is the 3rd in a series, it read perfectly as a standalone.
Set in an unknown place and time, this curious and well written mix of fantasy and the mundane is a delicious confection of satire and snark as Gannon builds a delightfully entertaining story using her world building to cleverly manipulate our most beloved fairy tales and characters to create an action packed adventure while addressing evergreen political and social issues with biting wit, engaging intrigue, incorrigible antagonists, and an unrepentant romance. Well-plotted and cast with vividly eccentric characters, this lighthearted relatively low angst story scooped me up and kept me laughing from page one. Nothing is off limits or bound by any previous notions in here. It’s a new frontier and well worth the exploration.
Strongly character driven, Gannon’s characters are a hardy bunch whom Gannon takes remarkably and humorous liberties with. King Arthur is a drunk, womanizing jerk. Galahad is a reality show star. Little Red Riding Hood married the Big Bad Wolf and leads the fight for equal rights for villains. The Scarecrow is an evil genius, the White Rabbit a mad scientist, and the famed Round Table is really an annual conference for villains to meet and sit around complaining the whole day.
“What about starting some kind of henchman school?” The Cat chimed in, absently strumming her fiddle, which was lying flat on the (not-round) table. It was a nervous tick. “They need training in the minion-ing arts. Those dishes and spoons I work with are fucking nymphos, constantly running off together. It’s cutting into my bottom line, especially since the Cow jumped off to who-the-hell-knows-where.”
She looked over at Little Dog. “Am I right?”
Little Dog laughed, because Little Dog always laughed, because Little Dog was always high. Midas had no idea how the jackass got any villainy done when he was forever stoned out of his spotted skull.”
While the premise of story is predictable n a sense; looks determine who is considered Good and Bad in this world, but the journey is anything but. Gwen is considered Good folk whose child is determined to be one of the Bad folks. Unlike most, Gwen refuses to allow anyone to harm her child or kingdom of Camelot and makes it her mission to stop those who want to purify the race and eventually eliminate the Bad folks. This requires her to team up with the baddest of them all-Midas-the Kingpin of Camelot’s underworld.
“I need your help.” Guinevere said after a long pause. …You are the only person with the resources and power to fight the Scarecrow.” […] “He might be brilliant at political maneuvering, but that’s the only game he knows.” She arched a brow. “You’re not a politician. You’re a criminal.”
“So am I, now. I’m almost-Bad.”
It was cute that she thought so. “Maybe,” Midas allowed, “but I’m all the way Bad. What makes you think I won’t just steal Camelot for myself?”
“You have a reputation for keeping your word.”
“I haven’t given you my word about anything.” Midas reminded her.
“Not yet. But, someone told me that you’re a kind, gentle, and honorable man. That I should come here and you’d help me.
Midas squinted. “Were they taking drugs at the time?” He couldn’t imagine anyone sober telling her something so stupid.
Midas and Gwen are fabulous and interesting (far more so than in their fairy tales) protagonists and together and separately they are the undisputed stars of the story. Both are far different from their first impressions. Intelligent, practical, and loyal, Gwen may be a Queen but she is a warrior queen whose quiet strength and fierce need to protect those she loves often lands her in some precarious situations she manages with class and style. Married to Arthur because of a prediction, she was happy until he went off the rails and threatened their child, Avalon. From that moment on, Arthur and most in the castle became her enemies.
Midas is the misunderstood hero we all love. Cursed with the ability to turn everything he touches into gold and the belief everything is for sale, this large and dangerous mob boss with terrible, terrible taste in fashion and decorating and who inspires fear in all is really just a huge marshmallow with an adorably romantic side. When Gwen comes asking for his help, Midas feels like he has won the lottery. She is the epitome of class and the best money could ever buy and she came to him.
His detractors were right. Midas could try and fake it, but his efforts no doubt looked just as artificial as the rest of the partygoers’. In that moment, he saw the truth. You couldn’t bullshit class. Couldn’t pick it up like a new language. Couldn’t bibbity-bob it into existence with a fairy godmother. It was quite simply bred in the bone. Guinevere had it and he wanted it. And if she was coming to Midas, she must want something from him, too. Satisfaction filled him. He’d been right, too. Everything was for sale, if you offered the right price. Everything. Midas believed that with a fervor other men reserved for God and kingdom. If he couldn’t buy class itself, he’d simply own someone who possessed it. It amounted to the same thing.
Gwen knows the only way to keep Camelot and Avalon safe is to make Midas her king so she draws up a contract spelling out everything including the kitchen sink but when Midas’ signs to readily, she fears he is too trusting and vows to protect him even from herself. Watching Gwen try and protect poor innocent Midas is quite entertaining. Especially with Gwen begging everyone to understand she is not a vicious person and things just happen to her…usually right after she’s shot or punched someone out.
The romance is surprisingly sweet and earthy as beauty and beast find that true love does exist. I loved that in here, Midas is the true romantic while Gwen’s pessimism wars with her developing feelings. Gannon develops the romance slowly, balancing it perfectly into the storyline without a hitch. Fantastic narrative keeps the storyline moving at a brisk pace and injects much livity into the drama surrounding them. Midas doesn’t just fall for Gwen though. Oh no. Avalon steals his heart from the get go and his inability to say no to this child is well documented.
You don’t need to buy us things, Midas.”
He hesitated and she could tell he didn’t agree. “I only got the basic necessities.”
“You bought a four-foot tall robotic teddy bear that plays golf.”
“All children need one of those. The shop clerk assured me it’s educational.”
The main conflict wraps up nicely in a flurry of action and suspense. We are left with some interesting questions and possible new storylines. All in all, The Kingpin of Camelot was an enjoyable find though a tad wordy at times. Fresh and witty, I recommend this satisfyingly hilarious read to anyone who loves snarky action packed adventures with compelling characters and uncomplicated romances. This is one of my top reads for the year. I look forward to Gannon’s next story and will definitely be reading her backlist.