The Life and (Medieval) Times of Kit Sweetly

The Life and (Medieval) Times of Kit Sweetly by Jamie Pacton

First Lines: The Red Knight only fights on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. Much to the everlasting chagrin of my boss, King Richard the Bold, aka Len Schwartz. Today’s Friday, and the Red Knight, my older brother, Chris, is running late. Again.

Ok, this probably sounds super corny, but this was high on my to-read list when I learned a book like this was going to be coming out. I have this thing for Medieval reenactments and Ren Faires and I wish I could tell you why, but I truly have no idea. I’ve only been to Medieval Times once and that’s it! But it must’ve made an impression.

Kit is a passionate defender of all things Just. So working as a serving wench at a Medieval -themed restaurant with no way to advance up the pay ladder to help her mom pay the bills, Kit is fired up. All she wants to do is be the first female Knight and joust but that’s not “historically accurate” despite how good she is. The company only lets men do that. So when Kit disguises herself as her brother and enters the joust anyway, the video of her goes viral–and brings with it a lot of trouble from management. But the Girl Knight won’t go down without a fight. Recruiting other girls to her cause, Kit’s next rival could be her greatest–and her last, if management fires her first.

What I’ve come to expect from stories about Medieval reenactments is that they’re going to be very quirky and a little bizarre. This was no exception.

Kit is pretty much exactly who you think she’ll be. She’s fierce and all about equality. She’s literally a Wench at the Castle (the name of the themed restaurant…so original) and wants to be a Knight like her big brother. Except company policy is that only men can be Knights. And Kit takes issue with that. Kit’s also funny and quirky and loyal, which was a nice way to round out her character.

The story bills itself as this like feminist rom-com style story (except with very little rom), and for the most part it worked. It’s definitely a comedy of errors at times and I found myself giggling over what Kit was doing. And yeah, I suppose it fits the bill as feminist too. Kit is constantly told no simply because she’s a teenage girl. The story also involves characters who do not conform to gender roles and/or are LGBTQ+. There’s one nonbinary character with they/them pronouns, one who is bi, and one who is trans. Really none of these things is ever the point of the story. For the most part it was mentioned at one moment and normalized from then on. No one cared, which is probably really how it should be.

I think the one detraction that I have for this story is that it seemed to struggle with tone a little bit. What I mean by that is this: most of the story feels like a comedy. The Castle is a joke in and of itself, and Kit and her friends are just silly and fun, keeping the story feeling super light. But then there are other very serious issues Kit’s dealing with. Her family is poor. Like can-barely-put-food-on-the-table poor. It’s a constant strain on her life, obviously. And while I appreciated the angle that brought to the story, it was always hard to go from laughing about what happened at work that night to the right mood for that scene. I don’t know. I feel like the serious stuff could have been handled/incorporated better. Because it was always sandwiched between funny scenes, it sometimes felt like it was supposed to be a joke itself and it’s definitely not.

I knew it was going to be a pretty light, fun read going in and that’s exactly what I got.

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