Every so often I like to talk about a new book that could be an interesting new addition to your World Lit classroom. Today, I want to talk about Thomas Wheeler’s Cursed! This book would be a fantastic addition to your King Arthur studies to see how the author has reimagined the King Arthur lore in such an intriguing way.
I recently read this gem and really enjoyed it. Though, I committed the cardinal sin and watched the Netflix series first. If you are in the same boat as having watch the show only at this point, let me put your mind at ease- there are no major sex scenes in the book for you to worry about with your students.
However, there is still a steady dose of killing. Isn’t it a sad commentary that I have to put your mind at ease that there’s a healthy dose of violence, but no sex….. Alas, that’s a topic for an entirely different post!
What I loved about Cursed:
This is a feminist look at the King Arthur legends. So, yes, things are different from the traditional King Arthur tales. However, this story is written in such a way that it still honors the original tales. Think of it as fractured King Arthur tales if you will.
For example, Gawain is also known as The Green Knight. Lancelot is of the Fey kind, but not the best of people in the beginning of the book. As someone who has been reading and watching Arthurian tales since I was a small child, I loved seeing how the original tales were weaved into a new world.
I loved that Nimue is a powerful, but reluctant hero. She has been taught to believe that she is cursed and often wishes that she had never had the powers that she has. After horrific tragedy strikes she comes in possession of the sword, which magnifies her powers but also comes at a terrible price. She also becomes the Fey Queen and finds a lot of responsibility lying on her shoulders to save what is left of her kind.
Merlin is horribly flawed and a mess. He’s mostly powerless, but you soon find out why. Without his powers, he feels that he is nothing and has become a drunken shell of the greatest magician in history.
Arthur is in search of becoming the man he wants to be. In this rendition, he is not even unknowingly high born. His father was a knight, but died and left a mountain of debt for his son to work off. He’s not the most noble person when we meet him, but he is trying.
Oddly enough, I really enjoyed seeing the brutal honesty of what the Church did to the Celtic people hundreds of years ago. In this book The Church is the enemy as they are marching across Briton slaughtering all Fey (and Fey sympathizers) they come across. This shift made the book feel slightly more grounded in historical accounts and made it not feel like a high fantasy book (don’t get me wrong, I LOVE high fantasy but that’s not always the best fit for our classrooms). I also liked that this is shines another look on bigotry and Otherism.
What might be problematic:
I won’t lie, it is a little lengthy and I know long books can be a challenge in the classroom. It does actually read a little quicker since the text is larger and there are several illustrations.
The Church as the bad guy. This may be an issue with some. However, many progressive Christians acknowledge what atrocities happened in the past, it may still be a sensitive subject.
Have you read the book? Would you consider having it as part of your curriculum?