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The Witch, the Sword, and the Cursed Knights

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Twelve-year-old Ellie can’t help that she’s a witch, the most hated member of society. Determined to prove her worth and eschew her heritage, Ellie applies to the Fairy Godmother Academy—her golden ticket to societal acceptance. But Ellie’s dreams are squashed when she receives the dreaded draft letter to serve as a knight of King Arthur’s legendary Round Table. She can get out of the draft—but only if she saves a lost cause.

Enter Caedmon, a boy from Wisconsin struggling with the death of his best friend. He first dismisses the draft as ridiculous; magic can’t possibly exist. But when Merlin’s ancient magic foretells his family’s death if he doesn’t follow through, he travels to the knights’ castle, where he learns of a wicked curse leeching the knights of their power.

To break the curse, Ellie and Caedmon must pass a series of deathly trials and reforge the lost, shattered sword of Excalibur. And unless Ellie accepts her witch magic and Caedmon rises to become the knight he’s meant to be, they will both fail—and the world will fall to the same darkness that brought King Arthur and Camelot to ruin.

432 pages, Hardcover

First published February 8, 2022

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About the author

Alexandria Rogers

2 books36 followers
Alexandria is the author of middle grade fantasy adventure, The Witch, the Sword, and the Cursed Knights.

After receiving her master’s degree at City, University of London for her non-fiction book on the romantic mythology of Paris, she acted, modeled, and wrote in Los Angeles. Eventually, she discovered she preferred drizzly days to eternal sunshine, and that she didn’t want anything to divert her time from writing.

Now the Wisconsin native lives in Edinburgh with her husband and dog, in eternal search of excuses to visit Paris.

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5 stars
89 (32%)
4 stars
117 (43%)
3 stars
43 (15%)
2 stars
16 (5%)
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5 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 66 reviews
September 21, 2021
WowWowWOW! I am obsessed! This was absolutely PHENOMENAL! I loved it. When it says for fans of The School for Good & Evil, they weren’t kidding. I am so shocked this is a debut, & I feel so grateful to have won an ARC so I could read this early. The talent just blew me away. Such an amazing take on Arthurian legend. I was hooked from the very start. You have 2 world’s basically colliding so to speak, with our 2 MCs. The chapters are told between Ellie & Caedmon’s POV, with each chapter heading letting you know whose chapter it is.

So many amazing parts that make up the whole of this amazing book. The characters, for 1, are the best-even the side characters & the villains are incredible. Ellie is the absolute best, & she is hilarious without even trying to be. The humor in here is so on point as well. Roxie & Galahad also had my heart too. There are so many unique & great characters in here-from the fairy godmother, a pirate boy, the knights, witches, fairies, a mermaid Princess, the DeJoies, the Urokshi, & Bert lol to name a few. Then you have the Merlin’s ancient magic, the curse, the malevotum, trials, this mysterious villainous witch(who is terrifying & perfect! So well written!), & so much more.

I loved the setting too. The castle where the knights are trained is like an amazing, next level, epic school setting-it’s incredible. The surrounding woods, & other places we get to see too. Loved it all. Not to mention this incredible magic system-every detail was superb & electric. The world building is INCREDIBLE. The character development & GROWTH is SUPERB! Seeing how far these characters come, with you rooting for them the whole, way was phenomenal. The writing just blows me away. Everything the author put into this, & all the details, & her amazing storytelling abilities just amaze me.

It’s hard to pinpoint 1 favorite about this book, because every part was so good! But the friendship we see develop between our 2 MCs is something truly special. The author wrote it perfectly. Watching their friendship & bond grow was terrific. They BECAME family. There’s still much we don’t know, & things I can’t wait to find out with Ellie….& after that EPIC ending-there better be more to come! Lol It sounds like there will be. And if there are, & they continue like this..I can DEFINITELY see this becoming an all time favorite series. I already want to reread this! This comes out February 8th ‘22! Highly recommend! Stunning cover by the amazing Manuel Šumberac too!💜
Profile Image for Fanna.
992 reviews502 followers
February 10, 2022
Charming. Refreshing. Engaging. A magical and adventurous tale of two children fighting the tides of their lives, forging a path away from home, and finding a friend in each other. Holding true as a retelling of the Arthurian legend yet building on an originality worthy of praise. Thank you to Little, Brown for the opportunity to read this early!

The Witch, the Sword, and the Cursed Knights is a debut middle-grade fantasy inspired by the Arthurian legend.

Camelot, a symbol of the Arthurian world, has fallen to ruin and the world is now divided into various magical realms and other realms where all memory of magic has vanished. Despite King Arthur gone, children are drafted every year to serve as knights of the Round Table—as the guardians of the realms. Ellie, a twelve-year-old girl with an impressive toad collection, doesn’t want to be selected into the knights’ floating castle since she hopes for her highborn mother’s recognition; and only the path to becoming a fairy godmother can guarantee this respect because Ellie is born with witch’s magic too, and witches are outcasts in Aurelia Realm, her home. So when she instead gets drafted to serve as a knight, Ellie turns to the one way she can get out of this summon: by helping a lost cause.

Caedmon, in another realm, is a twelve-year-old boy who is broken and withdrawn as grief over the inexplicable death of his best friend remains heavy. So it’s only understandable when he ignores those mysterious letters asking him to join some knights, thinking it must be a prank. But fate is written and soon, both Caedmon and Ellie find themselves reporting to Château des Chevaliers as recruits, where the two become friends and learn of a wicked curse draining the knights of their powers. Now, unless Ellie accepts her witchling heritage and Caedmon becomes the knight he’s meant to be—that is, unless both accept who they really are—the looming darkness threatens this world. And so it begins! The two find themselves on a magical adventure to reforge the legendary, shattered sword of Excalibur.

With a plot that keeps a reader guessing and with an astounding world building, this page-turner fantasy stays grounded in the original strongholds of King Arthur’s legend while also innovating storylines adorned with twists and surprises. From various creatures and Arthurian references to the cherishable trope of a young hero and shero, Roger’s debut effortlessly weaves something classic and fresh at the same time.

But what is sure to win the readers’ heart is the characterisation. Ellie’s humour gives life to the pages and her desperation to simply prove herself is impossible to not relate with. For a young girl growing up in a society that views part of her to be evil because of the witchcraft she can perform, her need to earn respect and simply fit in is unmissable. This is exactly what fuels her bravery and it’s a pleasure to witness her arc. Caedmon, in contrast, is completely lost and can’t seem to feel any ounce of happiness in the midst of an overwhelming grief. And for a young soul like him to still take up the task written for him, to rise as his true self, and to courageously do his best while the grief doesn’t leave, is absolutely commendable.

Ultimately, the friendship Ellie and Caedmon share uplifts the entire tone of this middle-grade retelling that otherwise still impresses through an intriguing plot. Both found themselves completely alone at one point and never expected to see support in each other. And that exact hope every young (and old) reader has found simmering within their hearts at some point leaves me delighted. The wish for acceptance in these flawed yet adorable characters wonderfully imparts the importance of fully being oneself—and even letting someone see that authentic self.

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Profile Image for George Jreije.
Author 4 books58 followers
March 28, 2022
This book is EPIC. I so enjoyed reading Alexandria Rogers’ debut fantasy and you will too!

Told in dual points of view, we follow Ellie from one of the faraway (and yet not so faraway) realms, and Cuadmon from our own realm. The two are chosen to be Knights of the Round Table famous for the King Arthur legends and what comes next is a wild ride of monsters, magic, and mayhem.

This book gripped me from start to finish, and I read it all in a weekend! At times, I was laughing my butt off and, at others, I was too scared to turn the page. But every word of this book is pure fun. The references to Arthurian legend are AMAZING and keep the story grounded in history while being wholly new. The side characters are fun, despicable, mysterious, and all types of complex. And the villain, oh my, what a villain!

I can’t wait to dive back into the world and know that whoever the reader is, there’s something in THE WITCH, THE SWORD, AND THE CURSED KNIGHTS for everyone.
Profile Image for Soup.
289 reviews
November 26, 2021
Chaotic and confusing. Given the complete lack of set up and/or world building, I initially assumed I had accidentally begun reading a book from the middle of an established series. The lack of grounding material, the switching back and forth between two main characters (but not two narrators, that role belongs to a third party entirely), and the decision to cram 8 or 9 plots in at once only add to the reader’s disorientation. There are good ideas in this book, lots in fact, but they have to complete with each other to be heard. Most plot elements are either rushed through to their conclusion (such as Ellie’s magic) or mentioned but never developed (I’m looking at you, Bert).
Profile Image for Karina Evans.
Author 3 books45 followers
October 27, 2021
Stunning debut told in captivating, alternating POVs with lush world building!
Profile Image for Emma Ann.
299 reviews682 followers
March 17, 2022
A welcome addition to the ever-growing list of magic school books, right up there with Nevermoor and Keeper of the Lost Cities. The strength of this book is its two main characters: Ellie, who has witch magic and fairy magic and doesn’t feel like she fits in anywhere, and Caedmon, who is grieving the loss of his best friend.
Profile Image for EB.
153 reviews
March 5, 2022
Loved this book, it was so amazing. The characters were memorable and lovable. A great book for any fantasy fan.
Profile Image for Stéphanie Louis.
220 reviews42 followers
Currently reading
February 13, 2022
A few months ago, I’ve started reading MG again and I start to fall in love with that genre. Especially the ones with magical boarding schools like this one here.

I loved the worldbuilding and the writing style. It was magical and beautiful. We see everything through Ellie’s and Caedmons eyes and follow them on their little journey full of unknown beasts and “quests”. We learn about new realms and Fairy Godmothers which is amazing and will for sure, make kids fall in love with this story.

However, the feeling of being lost became overwhelming at some points. There was too much happening at the same time and I wasn’t able to follow anymore. Unfortunately, this did influence me into rating this MG novel only 3 1/2 stars instead of more.

Nevertheless, I still think that this novel is great for children and older readers who just want to escape from reality and spend a good amount of time in another world. A world that is full of adventures, magic and wickedness.
Profile Image for Of Pens and Swords.
95 reviews11 followers
February 9, 2022
I absolutely adored this book.

The Witch, The Sword, and the Cursed Knights takes place in a world inspire by Arthurian mythology, in which the fall of Camelot fractured the world into a couple dozen magical realms and one non-magical realm. Children are drafted from across the realms each year to go through trials to potentially become knights and protect the realms (a lifelong commitment). Ellie is a 12-year-old witch, something that she has hidden all of her life, who is rejected from the Fairy Godmother Academy at the start of the book. When she is drafted, she decides to carry out the ultimate fairy godmother task of helping a lost cause achieve their greatest wish in the hopes of getting her rejection reconsidered. Meanwhile, Caedmon is from the non-magical realm, and recently lost his best friend due to a sudden illness. When he is drafted, he finds out that his friend was killed by an evil magical creature unleashed by a curse upon the academy, and that the only way to keep his family safe is for him to become a knight and find the lost sword of Excaliber.

Both protagonists are wonderful, though I was somewhat partial to Ellie. She struggles a lot with the fact that she's always had to hide the fact that she's a witch, since witches are subject to intense discrimination and control in her world. She's always been friendless, and constant insults from her mother make her want to do anything to gain her approval, which is what leads her to her dream of being a fairy godmother. She's determined and fun and impulsive and I absolutely loved reading her character arc.

Meanwhile, Caedmon is still working through the trauma of his best friend's death when his world is turned completely upside down through the knowledge that there's magic that has been hidden from his realm for his entire life, and that he has to leave his family and become a knight in order to protect them. He's rational and ambitious and a wonderful foil to Ellie's character, even if I didn't quite enjoy reading about him as much as I did her.

Ellie and Caedmon's friendship is one of the best parts of the book. They're both a little traumatized when it comes to friendships, due to Ellie's never having had a friend and Caedmon having lost his best friend only shortly before the events of the book, so a lot of this development is them learning to trust and rely on each other in spite of those issues.

The side characters are wonderful as well, if a little two-dimensional. Ellie and Caedmon's two main friends, Omari and Lorelai, are intriguing but don't get much development, something that I believe would be addressed if there are further installments in the series. They both show a lot of promise as characters, but we just don't get to see that much of them. Every other character is unique and interesting, no matter how small a role they play.

The worldbuilding is so fun as well; I loved all of the witches and fairy godmothers and knights and princesses. I wish a little more time had been spent on it, since there were definitely occasions where I was a little confused as to what was going on. However, I was always able to figure it out relatively quickly what characters were referring to, so it was never an issue for long. It isn't the most complex lore in the world, but it's still a really interesting take on Arthurian mythology, and I thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of it.

One thing I will say is that this definitely feels like the first book in a series, but it doesn't appear that any sequels have been announced yet. I'll definitely be disappointed if there aren't further books released, because it definitely feels more like the start of a story than the entire one; there's still a lot of plot and character development that it feels like is right there waiting to happen, so I truly hope it does, as it's relatively unsatisfying as a standalone.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed The Witch, the Sword, and the Cursed Knights. It's a truly captivating and fun middle-grade fantasy based on the stories of Camelot. The plot is interesting, but the characters are what truly make the story as they figure out who they are and who they want to be. While I really hope that this becomes a series, since I want to see how all of the characters and plot-hooks introduced in this book develop, I would still readily recommend it if such a thing never comes to be. It's a book about magic and knights and witches and learning to be friends; my only issue with it is that I wish there was more content coming, and there are far worse problems for a book to have than being too interesting. I'm giving it 5/5 stars.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a free eARC in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Profile Image for Marion.
77 reviews3 followers
February 16, 2022
I took my sweet time to start this book which I deeply regret now. Not only does that mean that I have to rush writing this review, it also means that I could have read this wonderful book sooner!
I took a lot of notes, reading this book.

The book throws you pretty much in there. One of the two main characters – Ellie – lives in one of the 25 and a half realms, one of those with magic. Ellie is a sweet and determined girl, starved for approval and friendship, who wishes for nothing more than to become a fairy godmother and to forever hide that she is a witch. She has high hopes… until a draft letter arrives.

Her counterpart, a boy named Caedmon who is from „our“ realm, gets drafted too but under total different circumstances. He has no idea about the realms that coexist with our world and doesn‘t really care. His best friend Jimmy has just died and Caedmon has a hard time struggling with depression.

The chapters alternate between the two characters and I loved both equally. I found it curious how different Ellie seemed from Caedmon‘s point of view and vice versa. Ellie seemed much more bubbly and energetic. Caedmon was maybe a bit spacey but nice and kind. I found that especially interesting since it shows how other people can never tell what‘s going on inside a person. The inside can be much different than the outside.

I loved the worldbuilding. The 25 and a half realms that we didn‘t all get to experience but certainly would have wanted to, the castle where Caedmon and Ellie are training to be knights. The creatures that are either super cool or will give the reader nightmares for days. It was imaginative and interesting and makes you hope for more.
The story is fastpaced and gripping, with trials – literally and figuratively – around every corner. The stakes are so impossibly high and you cannot help to root for Ellie and Caedmon to achieve their individual goals.
There were interesting and terrifying and surprising and heartbreaking moments and I loved almost every second of it.

Of course nothing is perfect and even in this thrilling adventure there were some things that I think could have been done better. The action scenes were always fast but also felt kinda blurry to me. Sometimes I had trouble to grasp what just happened and had to read one or two paragraphs again to be sure. Some of the worldbuilding was a bit confusing, especially at the beginning.
Still, I really enjoyed The Witch, the Sword and the Cursed Knights and I am interested in reading more by Alexandria Rogers.
Profile Image for Tales Untangled.
625 reviews5 followers
January 23, 2022
I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

What a delightful story! I was entranced with how the spells, lives, curses, and setting wove together.

Have you ever wondered if you would choose to be a fairy or a witch? Both are so iconic. What if you had both types of magic? Have you ever wondered if you would choose to be a fairy or a witch? Both are so iconic. What if you had both types of magic? What if witches were hated? What if witch magic called to you?

And what if you were a boy with no outstanding skills who received a secret letter to learn to be a knight? I can't imagine not jumping at the chance. What if you family was in danger? Would you go or stay?

I loved the characters. The heroes worries of not fitting in felt true and well grounded from their backgrounds. As fair warning people die in this book—but I believe most middle-graders are okay with that when it ties in and remains on the periphery. It's also unfortunate that any middle-grade book with a school for magical children reminds me of a famous one (you can fill in the blank), but the similarities were superficial and didn't take away from my enjoyment. The "bad guy" was also fascinating. I'm guessing we'll learn more in future books about this character's motivations.

The tie in with the knights of the round table was well done and will bring the old myth to a new generation. I'm curious to see more how this will play out. I feel like the author has so much she can draw on to create an adventurous series.

I definitely recommend this story!
Profile Image for Jessica Vitalis.
Author 3 books147 followers
January 23, 2022
A fresh take on the legends of King Arthur and his knights! This story is told by an unidentified narrator that speaks to the reader in the form of witty footnotes and follows two very different children. The first is twelve-year-old Ellie, who desperately wants to be a Fairy Godmother––and to please her mother. But when she's rejected by the Fairy Godmother Academy and instead summed to train to become one of the legendary knights of the Round Table, she feels she has no choice. Especially since she knows deep down inside that she's no fairy godmother––she's a witch. Interwoven with Ellie heartaches, we also meet a modern twelve-year-old boy named Caedmon, who is struggling with his own heartache after the sudden death of his very best friend. Caedmon also receives a summon to train to be a knight, but it's not until his grief causes him to explode on his own family that he accepts the offer. Together, Caedmon and Ellie forge a friendship that carries them through the trails of their training and toward their destiny––but they'll only survive if they are strong enough to accept who they really are and stop the greatest evil ever to curse the land. With its mash-up of Arthurian legend, fairies, and witches, this adventure will appeal to fans of The School of Good and Evil.
Profile Image for Kristen.
1,799 reviews29 followers
May 23, 2023
I really wanted to like this one, but the pacing was much slower than I would have liked.

It's a fresh take on the "kid who doesn't know magic ends up at a magical school" trope by throwing in Arthurian Knights, the fall of Camelot, and all kinds of amazing creatures.

But the story dragged a bit, and even though Cad finds out his purpose pretty early on, it takes nearly the whole book before he and his friends actually try to do anything about it. There's also not near enough world-building--even for a middle grade book--and the plot feels a bit chaotic at times.

Ellie grew on me pretty quickly, but she was the only character that felt really developed--so I was a bit bored without her on the page. Roxie, a hilarious skeleton-like creature of the Dead who throws her bones at people, is by far the best character in the book and deserves way more page time.
Profile Image for Brooke.
83 reviews2 followers
May 4, 2022
Ramona (my 6 year old) gives this 4 stars. She said it was a little scary (there are some deaths that made her sad) but she loooooved the book. She enjoyed learning about Camelot and Excalibur and Merlin. And she really loved the characters of Ellie and Cademon. She’s really hoping there will be another book.

I, personally, really enjoyed reading this to my kiddo. Lots of adventure and fun. I really enjoyed the friendship between Ellie and Cademon and their character growth through the books. Lots of magic, myth and mystery.
Profile Image for Alicia.
556 reviews8 followers
February 28, 2022
Thank you HBG Canada for sending me an eARC of this book via NetGalley for an honest review.

3.75/5 stars

CWs: death of a friend, death, violence, neglect from a parent, emotional abuse by a parent

This was a really interesting read. I was excited for it because a middle grade adventure featuring a witch, knights, and magic with Camelot being an important part sounds exactly like my kind of book. What I got though, was not quite what I was expecting.
First off, I spent a lot of this book confused. I felt like there could have been a little bit more explanation of the world and the magic systems and what was going on. I had a hard time following some parts because I didn’t know what was going on.
I thought the characters were interesting. Ellie and Caedmon had a sweet friendship, and I was rooting for both of them by the end. I felt like Caedmon started out as a strong character, but he kind of flattened for me. Ellie was a really good character, though, and I liked how she was able to accept all parts of herself in the end. I also liked that she was able to recognize that her mom treated her terribly! I think readers will like both Ellie and Caedmon and the adventure they have.
The pacing was pretty good overall, and there were some pretty exciting moments. The writing style itself was pretty easy to follow, I just wish that the world building had been stronger.
Profile Image for Elora  Cook.
115 reviews51 followers
June 17, 2021
I've had the honour of seeing this book build over time into the gorgeous story it is today. Alex is a long time critique partner and friend, so seeing this whimsical story she's put her heart into be her debut novel fills me with so much joy. I can't recommend it enough to readers who love fantasies like The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, Keeper of the Lost Cities series, and the Magisterium series! Caedmon and Ellie have my heart (and so does Madame Mysterieuse!).
Profile Image for Nichole.
810 reviews17 followers
February 24, 2022
This was so much fun to read! It's about friendship and adventure. Loved the Arthurian legend. I am also a big fan of magical schools. The characters are fantastic! I look forward to their next adventure.

Thank you to Net Galley and the publisher for the e-arc.
November 28, 2021
I don't often leave reviews but this book was too astonishing not to say anything. The characters, the setting, the plot - it was classic and fresh all at once. There are a lot of Arthurian books out there, so it takes a lot to stand out. And this one stands out.

Hundreds of years ago, Camelot mysteriously fell to ruin, the medieval plague hit, and people forgot all memory of magic, except for a select few who went into hiding and created the magical realms of the earth. Now, in present day, King Arthur is gone, but new kids are drafted every year to serve as knights of the Round Table, The Knights' Watch-esque guardians of the realm. Enter Caedmon and Ellie, two unlikely friends, both drafted to serve as knights. Caedmon, from Wisconsin, is coping with the death of his best friend, and finds out that a curse is draining the knights of their power - and that his friend's death might have been related. Ellie wants to go to the fairy godmother academy, not the knights' floating castle, as becoming a fairy is the only way her mother will finally respect her.

The friendship in this is so, so strong, and the characters are jump-off-the-page-real with hilarious and genuine dialogue. The plot kept me guessing, the world building was original and fantastic, and most importantly, it's the kind of book I would have actually read and loved as a kid, and I can't begin to say how rare that was. I wish I could give it more than five stars. I can't recommend it enough!
Profile Image for Dini - dinipandareads.
849 reviews97 followers
February 11, 2022
I read this book as part of the blog tour hosted by TBR and Beyond Tours. Special thanks to Little, Brown Books for Young Readers for providing an ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 3 stars

The story is told from Ellie and Caedmon's perspectives by an omniscient third-person narrative and the narrator's voice was pretty humorous at times. I liked the use of the occasional footnotes that would include something quippy and give subtle hints about the narrator's identity. If you enjoy magical schools then you'll also delight in knowing this one has the trope but instead of a school for any old witch or wizard, it's a magical school for knights! It's complete with gigantic dining halls with mouthwateringly delicious food, cool classes like poison resistance and star speaking, witchy forests and abandoned rooms that are ever-changing and rearranging. There are also lots of fascinating magical creatures and beings, such as the skeletal Urokshi who live in underground forest caverns.

What I enjoyed the most were the characters and their journeys. In a world where witches are reviled due to their role in the fall of Camelot, Ellie has had a very lonely childhood ruled by fear. She has the powers of a witch but has been forced to hide her abilities by her mother, who has always belittled her and kept her away. All Ellie wants is to make her mother proud and, more than anything, she wants to attend fairy school to prove once and for all that she rejects every notion of being a witch. When we meet Caedmon, he's drowning in despair and his grief over losing his best friend so suddenly. He's from the "New World" (Earth) and has no idea about the magical realm until he's recruited to join the school of knights. Both Ellie and Caedmon feel abandoned and alone at the beginning but form a fast friendship as they realise they're kindred spirits who can rely on each other, to be honest, and supportive, and they learn that sometimes "kin" isn't just your blood but the people you choose to be in your life. I loved how Ellie learns to accept her witch powers and how Caedmon deals with his loss, and it was great to see them both gain confidence in themselves. Their journeys are really just beginning but in this first book, they develop a strong foundation to grow individually but also as a team.

The main issue I had with the story is that I felt that it tried to do too much at once and it became a slightly chaotic jumble with nothing of consequence being resolved by the end. I thought the world-building was a little haphazard and not very intricate, which does it make it good for young readers who are starting off their fantasy reading journeys. I wish we got more details about the school aspect—the classes, the friendships (outside of their duo, and the teacher figures. We briefly meet a number of characters, including Omari and Lorelei who kind of band in with Ellie and Cad, but they're relatively one-dimensional and we don't learn much about them. Their search for the curse caster and the hunt for Excalibur took up a lot of their time but I also felt as if we don't get enough detail about it and at times I found it hard to understand how they'd come to a certain conclusion. And for as much time as they spend searching for the sword, I also found it a little anticlimactic when they actually do.

That said, I do realise that I'm not the target audience for this story. I believe many young readers who want to try fantasy and who want to explore new retellings of different tales will certainly enjoy the magic, the friendship, and the adventure in this debut, with (I'm hoping) much more to come in future books!
Profile Image for Dusty.
302 reviews5 followers
February 9, 2022
Alexandria Rogers’ The Witch, the Sword, and the Cursed Knights is a magical, adventure-filled new middle-grade fantasy! An engaging and innovative take on the legend of Arthur and Merlin, I can easily envision fantasy readers of all ages (but especially children) enjoying this. If this is Alexandria Rogers’ debut novel, I can’t wait to read any other books she may write in the future!

One hallmark of a great retelling in my opinion is using enough of the original story that it's recognizable while also changing things up such that it’s clearly a unique take. Ms. Rogers delivers on that idea; she took all of my favorite parts of the original legend and wove them into an innovative and fresh version of the tale. I really appreciated how she didn’t rely on all of the original figures connected to the Round Table (Lancelot, Gawain, Galahad, etc.) - most of them aren’t even referenced until later in the book. Her unique take on the story allowed for even die-hard fans of the original tale (a.k.a me) to be surprised here and there by plot twists, and I loved that! My favorite quote (that kind of embodies the direction the author seemed to want to take the story) is this: “Excalibur was not made for a warrior king. It was made for a boy with indomitable courage.”

It was a beautiful experience to be able to watch the friendship and bonds between the main characters, Ellie and Caedmon, grow. They both have some issues in their family life, but they were able to find a family with each other and some of the other draftees (*cue happy tears*). It was also heartwarming to see how they needed each other to be able to fulfill their destiny - talk about a full-circle moment, especially for two characters who felt so alone at the beginning of the book.

The worldbuilding was fantastic! There are a lot of creatures and magic and different elements that were incorporated, and I never had an issue envisioning things. Most of the worldbuilding is explored through Caedmon’s eyes (given that he is new to the magical realm), and it was exciting to be able to experience things alongside him.

If a kid-friendly Arthurian legend retelling complete with a strong hero and heroine, hilarious antics, and lots of intricate worldbuilding sounds like something you would enjoy, then pick up The Witch, the Sword, and the Cursed Knights today! I would happily recommend this book to fantasy readers at the middle-grade level and above.

Thank you to the author, the publisher Little Brown Books for Young Readers, the team at TBR and Beyond Tours, and NetGalley for providing me with a complimentary review copy of the book as part of my participation in the blog tour. I appreciate the opportunity to read and review The Witch, the Sword, and the Cursed Knights immensely! Please note - I voluntarily read and reviewed the book. All opinions expressed in the review are my own and not influenced in any way.
Profile Image for Paige.
1,723 reviews79 followers
February 7, 2022
Disclaimer: I received this e-arc and arc from the publisher. Thanks! All opinions are my own.

Book: The Witch, The Sword, and The Cursed Knights

Author: Alexandria Rogers

Book Series: Standalone

Rating: 3/5

Recommended For...: middle grade readers, fantasy, retelling, King Arthur retelling, magical boarding school

Publication Date: February 8, 2022

Genre: MG Fantasy Retelling

Recommended Age: 11+ (gore, death, grief

Explanation of CWs: There is some mention of gore here and there throughout the book. There is talk about death and characters dealing with grief.

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Pages: 422

Synopsis: Twelve-year-old Ellie can’t help that she’s a witch, the most hated member of society. Determined to prove her worth and eschew her heritage, Ellie applies to the Fairy Godmother Academy—her golden ticket to societal acceptance. But Ellie’s dreams are squashed when she receives the dreaded draft letter to serve as a knight of King Arthur’s legendary Round Table. She can get out of the draft—but only if she saves a lost cause.

Enter Caedmon, a boy from Wisconsin struggling with the death of his best friend. He first dismisses the draft as ridiculous; magic can’t possibly exist. But when Merlin’s ancient magic foretells his family’s death if he doesn’t follow through, he travels to the knights’ castle, where he learns of a wicked curse leeching the knights of their power.

To break the curse, Ellie and Caedmon must pass a series of deathly trials and reforge the lost, shattered sword of Excalibur. And unless Ellie accepts her witch magic and Caedmon rises to become the knight he’s meant to be, they will both fail—and the world will fall to the same darkness that brought King Arthur and Camelot to ruin.

Review: For the most part I thought the book was ok. I thought the book read a lot like The School for Good and Evil and was a decent fairytale book. I loved the magical boarding school feel to it and have added it to my HP Recovery List on my blog. The book also did so well with the King Arthur themes. The world building was good and overall it’s a great story that I could see a lot of middle graders loving.

However, I had a lot of issues with the book. I found it really hard to get into and the book was very chaotic at times. There was a lot going on with the plot points and it was just hard to keep everything straight sometimes. The characters are, in my opinion, not well developed and a bit weak. There’s really nothing I can think about either of the main characters to distinguish one from another except for maybe one or two things. The book is interesting, but it wasn’t enough to keep me intrigued.

Verdict: It’s good, just not for me but maybe for you!
Profile Image for Brent.
69 reviews2 followers
December 15, 2021
The Witch, the Sword, and the Cursed Knights is a middle grade fantasy novel. It follows the format of many Harry Potter style books: there's what is essentially a boarding school for knights where the students enter a new and unfamiliar environment and make new friends, face mysterious challenges while they learn about magical things, and try to become knights of the Round Table. The story has a King Arthur theme, with legends of Camelot, Merlin, and Excalibur serving as a sort of history behind the school.

The characters are the weakest part of the book, and as someone who enjoys character driven stories, this was a disappointment. The two main characters are Ellie, who is from a magical realm and wants to be a fairy instead of a witch and Caedmon, a kid from the regular world who handles grief poorly. The book switches between their respective viewpoints. Ellie is a reasonably interesting character, although she does develop a crush on a character who is clearly in a relationship, which was kind of weird. She spends most of the book fretting over whether she will be invited to her sister's wedding, only to reveal at the end that she had never actually spoken to her sister about her concerns. Caedmon is annoying in the beginning of the book but he becomes less so over time.

How well side characters are used and developed can make or break a story, but here they were unfortunately very one dimensional. There's a headmaster in the form of Sir Masten, who appears occasionally to dispense advice about becoming a knight and then disappears during key plot points. A couple other teachers also appear, but they don't appear often enough or with enough characterization to really be memorable. There are two students who spend the most time with the protagonists, Omari, whose defining characteristic is being attractive, and Lorelei, whose characteristics are being attractive and pompous. There's also a pirate and a skeleton girl who were more interesting characters, but they don't get as much page time. The villain character is generic and is evil for reasons that aren't really clear.

Overall, I would rate this book as average (2.5 stars). It isn't dynamic enough to be good or great, but it also isn't terrible or particularly offensive. It was a relatively easy read. Kids who are big fans of King Arthur may like the book. This review is based on an ARC received from the publisher and NetGalley.
Profile Image for Pine Reads Review.
452 reviews9 followers
February 14, 2022
“She was a queen of ruin, reigning over ash, and didn’t even seem to know.”

Content Warnings: Mentions of death and loss of a loved one

Ellie didn’t choose to be born a witch. In the hopes of separating herself from her witchling heritage and proving her worth in society, she applies to the Fairy Godmother Academy. But this plan to solve her lifelong struggle is crushed when she doesn’t get accepted, and instead is drafted to serve as a knight of King Arthur’s Round Table. There is only one way to get out of the draft: help a lost cause. Fortunately for Ellie, Caedmon is that lost cause. Though he too receives a draft letter to join the knights, Caedmon ignores it. However, his fate of becoming a knight can not be so easily ignored, and soon the two find themselves on a magical adventure to reforge the legendary sword of Excalibur. With darkness looming, both Ellie and Caedmon must accept who they really are if they wish to abolish the evil curse.

Arthurian legend, witches, and magic—say no more! This book had me hooked from the very first page. Both Ellie and Caedmon are wonderfully crafted characters; put them together and you have a phenomenal friendship. I think what stood out to me most about their friendship is that it isn’t instant. They are both a bit bitter in the beginning—Ellie for being rejected from the Academy and Caedmon for losing a close friend—and even though they are struggling to accept who they are and this adventure they have been put on, they help each other realize their inner strengths and learn to accept who they were meant to be. In addition to a beautiful friendship, the magic system of this world is terrific, the twist on a classic is unique, and the adventure is full of surprises. This magical adventure has something for everyone!

(Pine Reads review would like to thank NetGalley and Little Brown Books for Young Readers publishing for sending us an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Any quotes are taken from an advanced copy and may be subject to change upon final publication.)

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22 reviews
May 1, 2023
This is a good book--I'm just wondering why it hasn't found more readers. Fantastic worldbuilding, engaging characters I want to root for, and a funny narrator who leaves hilarious footnotes for you to read. This stars two protags, Ellie and Caedmon. This is part portal fantasy for Caedmon who comes from our world, and Ellie comes from another realm and they are both chosen to train as Knights of the Roundtable but must undertake trials to be accepted.

I am almost done with this book, but having some trouble being compelled to finish it due to some plot things. They eventually hunt the big bad, but the villain was completely divorced from the story, they're just a figure hidden someplace. They do learn their name--but no one knows it or recognizes it, or knows this person. Sooo--what does it matter? I really would have liked the big bad to be more apparent in the story, felt. Maybe even a secret person amongst the cast of characters. As a result, I don't care about the villain--or if they catch them.

Caed and Ellie discover the big bad without the Knights of the Roundtable knowing and have to come up with a plan to pursue them in secret. All of sudden you find out the Knighthood knows her name--only because they were overheard in the library whispering about them. Ummm----what? Completely unclimactic.
These things aside, maybe these things work out later in the book, but I'm not sure I'm compelled enough to keep reading to find out. I think this book is a good fit for anyone who liked Amari and the Night Brothers, The Trials of Morrigan Crowe, and Skandar and the Unicorn Thief. Give it a try and see if you like it!
Profile Image for Caitlin.
126 reviews8 followers
May 12, 2022
Thank you to @littlebrownyoungreaders for sending me a free copy of this book! (I also purchased a copy too.) These are my honest opinions.

My rating: 4/5 stars

-This story was such an adorable, charming, and witty read!
-Strong themes of friendship and loyalty and what it means to be family 💖
-I loved that this was inspired by Arthurian legend!
-I also loved the humor sprinkled throughout the book, with small asides from Madame Mysterieuse which were adorable lol
-I think young readers will really enjoy the fun tone of the story, the action, the variety of magical creatures, curses, sword-seeking escapades, and the characters who are in training to become knights!
-The book also touches on slightly darker topics, such as the death of a friend, but handles it in a pretty delicate manner.
-In my opinion, the villain fell a tad flat as a character. Her motivations are not clear for a long time, and there are still some questions surrounding her goal that remain unresolved in book one. But I don’t think this would stop young readers from enjoying the story.
-Sometimes the transitions between settings seemed a little jumpy and sudden, but I think smoother transitions will develop naturally as the author grows in her writing style.
-Events towards the end also happened very quickly. Whether this is a positive or negative may depend on your personal reading preferences. I mostly liked the fast pace, but did feel a few things were a little abrupt.
-But overall I would definitely recommend this book for readers of middle grade fantasy who want to read something inspired by Arthurian legend!!! And I wish this author good luck with her future novels 💖
Profile Image for Karen.
532 reviews2 followers
June 29, 2022
The thing that really frustrates me about contemporary MG fantasy is that so many of the stories feel like Harry Potter rip-offs. A character who has magic but doesn’t realize it. A school to teach kids how to use magic. A series of challenges or trials. This one even has a “bushy-haired” girl who knows a lot about magic and who helps the kid who don’t know as much… and she ends up spending a lot of time in the library. (Ok, she has a lot of differences from Hermione, too, but that was a LOT of similarities.) An evil character trying to defeat all the good magical characters. A mentor who does his best to protect the main characters from getting hurt by the evil character. A “spoken letter” which seems super similar to a Howler, but also kind of like FaceTime. All of these things are in this book.

Yes, there are differences. But the similarities were too much for me. Several of the characters needed to be fleshed out a LOT more. Some, like Lucy LuBelle, Nadia Fahri, and Killian What’s-his-name (ESPECIALLY him) have absolutely no personality at all and seem to be there just to make other things happen or let us know information the main characters don’t know yet.

Reading this book was painful. There were even grammatical errors.

The story is clean and appropriate for a MG audience. It is left open for a sequel, but I certainly don’t expect to read it.

Profile Image for Jenny Ashby.
729 reviews11 followers
April 20, 2022
I was trying to think of the word to describe why this book left me cold but couldn't come up with it. A couple other reviewers have said "chaotic" and that perfectly describes my impression, so thanks for that help. I was all in at the beginning, but soon lost steam as the story seemed to jump around without enough explanation for each event. At the point I thought about giving it up, it turned out I had managed to get to 60% so I finished it up. I am still not clear on the magic of fairy godmothers vs. witches vs. using the magical powder. Regarding the villain: I don't know what the grudge or plan is for the curse nor how they got away. I think the point that really cemented my feelings was when I felt like it was intended to be a Dumbledore moment but I had no feelings for the character.
Profile Image for Eileen Winfrey.
970 reviews5 followers
December 21, 2022
Good hearted Ellie is a witch, which is not allowed. Her mother strictly monitors her promise of never using her witch magic and she tries desperately to fit in and be accepted into the Fairy Godmother Academy. When she is drafted into the Knights of the Round Table, Ellie discovers Caedmon - a regular non-magic boy - who is grieving things in his own life. Together they begin a quest to find Excalibur, and hopefully save all the realms from the mysterious cursed magic infecting them all. A story about friendship, finding one's own strength and power and moving through the hardships of life all the while battling evil magical forces. I liked it, but as it was certainly at 422 page book 1, not all plot lines resolved and I have QUESTIONS! Extremely likable protagonist.
130 reviews1 follower
November 21, 2021
Ellie wants nothing more than to go to the Fairy Godmother Academy, but unfortunately she’s a witch – something the world hates and which she tries to keep at bay. Caedmon, from Wisconsin, is struggling with the sudden death of his best friend and is angry at the world. And if that’s not bad enough, a dark presence suddenly attacks his family. These unlikely two become close friends after they are summoned by a jewelry wearing skeleton to serve as a knight of King Arthur’s Round Table. Can they survive the lessons/trials?
Magic, Camelot’s remaining knights, evil fairies, Excalibur – it’s all there.
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