Cursed by Thomas Wheeler & Frank Miller (Artist): A Colossal Mutilation of the Arthurian Legends

Cursed by Thomas Wheeler and Frank Miller (artist) is a young adult fantasy novel that is a retelling of the Arthurian legend from the perspective of Nimue, who was known as The Lady of the Lake. I had originally picked this up because I’m lowkey obsessed with Arthurian stories and Nimue is someone whom I’ve always found to be incredibly fascinating. However, this book ended up being another terrible disappointment in the long line of recent Arthurian releases as of late.

Elements that I actually liked about Cursed include the incorporation of familiar Arthurian characters, how dark and violent the retelling is, and the attempt at adding creative touches on old-school favourites, like Merlin and Uther.

While the characters were mostly one-dimensional and laughably forgettable, the clever ways that the some of the minor characters were written into the story were pretty interesting to me. But in the end, the twists and liberties taken with these folx ended up creating a cauldron of frustration as the story progressed. For example, Merlin is portrayed as an alcoholic fool who constantly makes comments that are extremely disrespectful and crude. He isn’t brilliant or helpful or contributes to the story in the ways that one would expect. Rather he became a consistently intoxicated comic relief that made me cringe nearly every time he made his appearance. This made me angry because Merlin is usually one of my favourite people from the Arthurian tales.

Most, if not all, of the characters were dumbed down to one extent or another. I’m not sure if this was done to accommodate for a target young adult audience, or not. If that was the case, then I find that to be outrageous as it doesn’t give young adult readers credit for being intelligent enough to handle more complexly crafted characters and narrative dynamics.

Another example of poor character construction is the leading lady, Nimue. I loved that she is portrayed as a Black person. Yet, I hated that she is whittled down into an indecisive individual that needs to have other people frequently telling her what to do because of the uncertainty she is always wrapped up in. Considering that Nimue is supposed to be a leader, her ineptness with making choices made me want to throw the book against the wall at certain points. She’s also ridiculously depthless, flat, and utterly forgettable, personality-wise.

The writing style is very simplistic, which in and of itself isn’t a problem. However, when you combine it with a mostly slow progressing storyline and moronic cast members, it creates a powerful wall between the reader and the book, making it immensely challenging to stay centred and connected with what’s unfolding on the pages. There are unexplained story gaps with very little world-building, culturally speaking, that also contributes to the linear and superficial tale of Cursed.

My biggest problem with Cursed, aside from the mutilation of Nimue’s character, is the use of violence. Normally I adore dark and violently fucked-up stories, yet in Cursed, the violence is nothing more than a gratuitous prop to make the story more exciting. It’s used as complete shock value and is at-times so brutally graphic that I had to question the point of it. The vast majority of the violence is also geared towards women and children. There’s even a scene where a baby falls victim to a disturbing act of cruelty. The details and intensity of which the scene was portrayed came off as excessive and bit unnecessary. At times, I felt stunned that the novel was being advertised as a young adult title since it read so predominantly as adult fantasy.

Overall, Cursed was a sloppy rendition of the Arthurian tales and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone that is interested in diving into these legends, whether you’re a long-time fan or a newbie searching for a place to begin. There are far better books out there with better writing and more deeply developed characters that would be worth the energy than this title. Hard pass on this one, folx. Hard pass.

1 slashing outta 5!

Please note: I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review, courtesy of Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing

Also, please note that Nimue is Black in this specific story. However, in the upcoming Netflix adaptation of the book she is played by a white person. Suffice to say that I shall not be watching this adaptation at all. Even though my experience with the book was less than desirable, I was looking forward to seeing how the tale would fare as a TV show. But I don’t condone whitewashing BIPOC/POC characters, especially since there are so many talented BIPOC actxrs out there. Another hard pass.

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8 thoughts on “Cursed by Thomas Wheeler & Frank Miller (Artist): A Colossal Mutilation of the Arthurian Legends

  1. So sad to see a book with a promising premise and a fantastic artist attached to it fail so badly at what it is trying to do. 🙁 Even worse that the show doesn’t seem to be doing much better.

  2. I can’t even begin to explain how tired I am of bad takes on Arthurian legend. sighs I’m gonna regret asking this, but did they use ‘England’ or ‘Britain’?

    • I agree! I ended up skimming some parts because it was just so… cringey. I’m pretty sure he used “England.”

      • muffled screaming

        Arthur was Celtic. A Briton. Not an Anglo-Saxon (i.e. English.) They’re not the same thing – and the English always try to take him. sighs

  3. I had really high hopes when I read that Frank Miller was the artist. He blew me away back when he drew Daredevil. He drew some scenes in Rōnin that still haunt me, and he published them back in the early 1980s! So it’s really disappointing to see that they fumbled.

    Do you have any ideas about why it seems to hard to re-tell/re-cast the Arthurian stories? Le Morte d’Arthur had so much to say about the time it was written, especially in how Sir Thomas Malory decided to tell the story. I keep wondering why we can’t do something similar for our time.

    We’re about due for a reimagining of the myths.

    Say, if you’re looking for ideas for future books…

    • The artwork isn’t too bad. It’s definitely toned down a bit, probably for the young adult audiences. It’s the writing that really fell apart terribly.

      Noted! I’d love to write one, but I would never forgive myself if I couldn’t do it proper justice lol.

  4. “Young adult…” To me that means 18+. To be a young adult one has to logically be an adult at the younger end of adulthood.

    A young adult will enjoy complex plots and character studies. Not much different than middle aged or old adult in terms of stories except the story line is written using topics of interest to young adults. Most young adults will be largely independent operators with adult responsibilities. A young adult is a college student or a soldier or entering the work force. (Or possibly living in their parent’s basement as a NEET.) They may be focused on finding their place in the world or finding that significant other. What they hold as core values won’t be the same things their parents hold and that may be their focus.

    But… when I look up the genre definition of young adult I see…

    “Older middle school into high school, grades 7 through 12” and anther definition gave “High school, grades 9 and up; generally understood to cap at age 17.”

    So the literary genre young adult explicitly ends at the very beginning of the the logical definition. Which brings into question the use of senseless violence for shock value. Personally, I don’t like violence for its own sake regardless of the age of the target audience but to each, their own.

    I don’t think explicit rape and murder and other high intensity violence are appropriate for the 12-17 age range. They can easily find it if they want – the age ranges isn’t intended as censorship. They are meant as guides for parents and teachers and librarians, much are are movie, television and video game ratings.

    Oh look! It’s another take on Arthurian mythology and it is written for young to mid teenagers, the young adult bracket. Just what I want to buy my impressionable 14 year old, right?


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