Jamie Pacton’s debut, The Life and (Medieval) Times of Kit Sweetly is a sweet, feminist, young adult romance that will be out on May 5, 2020!
I was so excited to get my hands on this book, which sounded so fun and looked like a young adult version of Jen DeLuca’s Well Met (find my five-star review of Well Met here). The Life and (Medieval) Times of Kit Sweetly is delightfully feminist and certainly cute, but is ultimately lacking in character growth and real conflict.
Kit Sweetly works as a wench (a waitress) at the Castle, a medieval-themed restaurant, but she dreams of being a knight. Knights have the coolest job at the Castle; they get to fight and perform other tasks on horseback and are paid considerably more than the other roles at the Castle. Not only is Kit more than qualified for the job, but she also needs the raise—her single-mother is struggling to make ends meet and Kit has no idea how she’s going to pay for college next year. The Castle’s policy, however, only allows cis-men, like Kit’s older brother, Chris, to be knights.
When she steps in for Chris at a show—kicking ass and proving that she’s just as capable as any cis-man—and reveals her identity, she becomes an internet sensation. She decides to leverage this new-found internet fame and launches a campaign to convince the Castle’s management to change its policy. Enlisting the help of other non-cis-male employees at the Castle, Kit is determined to show the Castle’s management that it’s time to be on the right side of history.
Starting with the good—
This book was full of delightful nuggets of feminist medieval history! I took a medieval women’s history class in my senior year of undergrad (one of the best classes I ever took) and so I loved the references that were familiar call-backs to that class. For example, when Kit talked about anchoresses, I felt so giddy as I remembered back to the classes where we discussed the incredibly important and often ignored role of women in medieval religious history.
I loved the casual diversity in Kit Sweetly. “Casual diversity” is kind of a weird phrase but it’s the best I could come up with. What I mean by that is that it features a cast of characters that are diverse and it’s not a big deal. It treats its trans characters, gender non-conforming characters, LGBT+ characters, characters of color, etc. as a given. Basically, it normalizes the wide spectrum of identities that exist in our world and I loved that SO MUCH because, hi, hello, it SHOULD be normalized. (Note: I apologize if, by calling this out, I am inadvertently perpetuating problematic erasure and marginalization.)
Now, onto the not-so-good—the conflict in this felt incredible forced, the resolution felt rushed, and I didn’t feel as if the story adequately addressed Kit’s shortcomings. Yes, she’s our fearless heroine, but I agreed with her friends when they called her out about being too self-centered. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with having imperfect characters—in fact, we need them. Perfect characters are boring. But I didn’t feel that there was any real growth on Kit’s part. Nor did I feel as if there was a meaningful resolution to the book’s conflict. I have a hard time caring about something if the characters in the book don’t even seem to care that much.
I also didn’t feel as if we got a real sense of any of the other characters. They all seemed to exist in furtherance of Kit’s story without any real purpose. I wouldn’t necessarily say I’m someone who needs to have character-driven stories to enjoy a book, but I had a hard time with Kit Sweetly and wish we could’ve gotten to know each member of her support network better.
Overall, I thought this was a sweet debut and I look forward to seeing what Jamie Pacton has in store for us next!
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This has not impacted or influenced my opinions.