Everyone knows the story of King Arthur pulling the sword from the stone and becoming king of all England. But what if Arthur was never meant to pull that sword from the stone? In Set in Stone, Mari Mancusi posits that Merlin’s rival, Madam Mim, set Arthur up. She thought he’d be easy to manipulate, leaving her to rule England through him and cause utter chaos.
When Arthur proves a harder mark than Mim counted on, she decides to use her foster daughter as a means to manipulate Arthur in other ways. But when the two young pawns find out Mim’s plans, they decide to join together to save England, whether or not destiny is on their side. Continue one for more about the newest Twisted Tale from Disney!
[Warning: My review of Set In Stone contains some spoilers!]
Destiny or deception in Set in Stone
Arthur is just 14 years old when he suddenly finds himself the king of all England. Feeling woefully inadequate for the job, he wishes that his mentor, Merlin, would return from Bermuda, wherever that is. Lacking Merlin’s advice, he turns to Archimedes, a highly educated owl, for help. Then a strange woman shows up offering counsel. But her suggestions seem like exactly the opposite of what Merlin would suggest, and are likely to cause problems for the young king. So he turns down her offer of help.
Unknown to Arthur, the woman offering him such bad advice was Madam Mim, the arch enemy of Merlin. She’s trapped Merlin in the future and used magic to falsely install Arthur on the throne. She was sure he would be easy to control, and she’s very angry that he’s rejected her advice. But not one to give up, Mim decides to go about making mischief in a new way. She sends her foster daughter, Guinevere, to Camelot to get close to the young king and disrupt his rule.
At first, it looks like her plan will succeed. Arthur is smitten and Guinevere is determined. But the more time Guin spends with Arthur, the more she comes to doubt what Mim has told her. What’s the real truth? Is Arthur really the horrible person she’s been told he is? Who is the true ruler of England in this Twisted Tale?
Is destiny real?
Mancusi deals with the sticky idea of destiny in Set in Stone. In the original Disney tale, Arthur becomes king because he is the only one who can pull the sword from the stone. It’s destiny and, obviously, he’s the only one capable of leading the country. But in Set in Stone, Mim uses her magic to manipulate the stone. It’s not destiny, it’s her route to chaos. However, Arthur ends up actually being a pretty good king, he just needs some confidence.
It reminded me of that old saying, “One usually finds their destiny on the path they take to avoid it”. Mim uses deception to make Arthur the king, but then he ends up being the perfect person for the job, which leaves the question unanswered in the end. Was Arthur just a pawn of Mim or was he truly destined to lead England? What do you think?
This Disney Twisted Tale is more continuation than a “what if”
Set in Stone is part of Disney’s Twisted Tale series. These stories all take a familiar Disney story and change one small detail that changes the whole story. But in Set in Stone, Mancusi changes a detail that only comes in right at the end. And her story basically all takes place after The Sword and the Stone ends.
It doesn’t change Arthur’s story at all, especially with the way that Set in Stone ends. But at the same time, it completely changes Arthur’s story. I don’t want to give anything away, but let’s just say that while the question of destiny isn’t really answered, the question of sovereignty is. Of course, some of the ending seems a little silly when you read it. Yet, the sentiment is nice all the same.
All of the Twisted Tales are quick reads. They are definitely aimed at teenage readers, even though readers of all ages can appreciate the story. But Set in Stone feels like it’s intended for the young teenage crowd. Maybe even tweenage. I say this because the main characters are 13 and 14.
The other is that the writing is a little simplistic. But not in a bad way. I enjoyed the story. It was a nice palate cleanser after reading a much heavier book. So while I think that younger kids will really enjoy Set in Stone, I think that adults will enjoy it too. Who is this book for it’s your choice, not destiny!
My Rating: 8/10
Set in Stone: A Twisted Tale by Mari Mancusi does not have a release date for the US, but can be found on Amazon from other countries. Let us know on social media @mycosmiccircus or in The Cosmic Circus Discord if you plan to read this novel!