Monday, May 27, 2024

Review: Twelfth Knight by Alexene Farol Follmuth

Twelfth Knight by Alexene Farol Follmuth
Publisher: Tor Teen
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance 
Twelfth Knight cover
ISBN: 9781250884893
Release Date: May 28, 2024 Source: Publisher
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Viola Reyes is annoyed.

Her painstakingly crafted tabletop game campaign was shot down, her best friend is suggesting she try being more “likable,” and her school's star running back Jack Orsino is the most lackadaisical Student Body President she’s ever seen, which makes her job as VP that much harder. Vi’s favorite escape from the world is the MMORPG Twelfth Knight, but online spaces aren’t exactly kind to girls like her—girls who are extremely competent and have the swagger to prove it. So Vi creates a masculine alter ego, choosing to play as a knight named Cesario to create a safe haven for herself.

But when a football injury leads Jack Orsino to the world of Twelfth Knight, Vi is alarmed to discover their online alter egos—Cesario and Duke Orsino—are surprisingly well-matched.

As the long nights of game-play turn into discussions about life and love, Vi and Jack soon realise they’ve become more than just weapon-wielding characters in an online game. But Vi has been concealing her true identity from Jack, and Jack might just be falling for her offline…

Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night gets the reimagined in a high school setting treatment a la ‘90s and early 2000s rom coms in Twelfth Knight. Alexene Farol Follmuth pays homage to The Bard while making this story fully her own and the result is a delight.

It’s grumpy meets sunshine with Vi and Jack. Vi is a gamer who – thanks to rampant sexism in the gaming world – plays as a male knight named Cesario in her favorite MMORPG. Jack “Duke” Orsino is a football star whose world turns upside down when his knee is busted. Jack’s at a crossroads in his life and it doesn’t help that his girlfriend, Olivia, is avoiding him. When his friend recommends he pass the time with Twelfth Knight, Jack ends up teaming up with Cesario and the friendship he develops with his online friend is a stark difference to the bickering he and Vi do in real life.

What will happen when Jack learns that his sword-wielding friend is the same sharp-tongued grump he’s falling for? I’ll leave readers to find out. But I will say that this was an absolutely charming story with well-drawn characters and an entertaining plot. I liked seeing Cesario and Duke Orsino open up to each other online while Jack gets over, under, and through Vi’s barriers in the real world. There are just enough references to Shakespeare’s play to keep an enthusiast entertained but not so many that this book can’t stand on its own.

Twelfth Knight is about letting down your walls, letting people see the real you, and trusting that they will be there and love you as you are. I loved the gaming aspects, both seeing it through the experienced Vi’s eyes and the new-to-gaming Jack’s viewpoint. Jack and Viola are joined by a wonderful cast of characters who are as endearing, flawed, and unique as they are. All in all, this was a fun read that also took its characters on engaging journeys of personal growth.

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.