Genre: Fantasy Age Range: Adult Star Rating: 5 stars Series: standalone
Everyone knows the legend. Of Arthur, destined to be a king. Of the beautiful Guinevere, who will betray him with his most loyal knight, Lancelot. Of the bitter sorceress, Morgana, who will turn against them all. But Elaine alone carries the burden of knowing what is to come–for Elaine of Shalott is cursed to see the future.
On the mystical isle of Avalon, Elaine runs free and learns of the ancient prophecies surrounding her and her friends–countless possibilities, almost all of them tragic.
When their future comes to claim them, Elaine, Guinevere, Lancelot, and Morgana accompany Arthur to take his throne in stifling Camelot, where magic is outlawed, the rules of society chain them, and enemies are everywhere. Yet the most dangerous threats may come from within their own circle.
As visions are fulfilled and an inevitable fate closes in, Elaine must decide how far she will go to change fate–and what she is willing to sacrifice along the way.
Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.
HALF SICK OF SHADOWS is a feminist take on Arthurian mythology that isn’t focusing on the major events. Yes, there are references and visions of the final battle and the Guinevere/Lancelot affair, but that’s not the main thing the book is about or even leading up to. We see their childhood in Avalon and then them coming to Camelot to take the throne – only to have to fight for it.
I loved seeing a book focus on the relationships between Arthur, Guinevere, Lancelot, Morgana, and Elaine – and then show them starting to break, but not all the way. It meant there was still hope but also that it felt like a prologue to the stories we already know. For example, it lays the groundwork for why Morgana “turns evil” (I have yet to see her fall arc feel satisfying. While this book is satisfying with her, I don’t count it as a Morgana fall arc as we see the start, not the full journey.)
The characters are completely human throughout. None of the focus five are ever truly bad or truly good. Even Arthur, who is the “best” of them, still has flaws. The exception to the “very human” was Mordred and Morgause, who were just bad without much justification. I’ve always had a fascination and soft spot for Mordred, so it was the one thing that niggled me!
This book is firmly about the girls and their relationships though. While time is spent on their relationships with the boys, it’s mostly about their friendship. Elaine and Morgana’s friendship is the core one of the book, and I loved this new take on Morgana.
Having watched BBC’s Merlin as a teen, this is what I wish they’d done with Morgana. Made her angry about the world’s impositions on her without making it whiny. And made it personal betrayals, rather than vague “the world doesn’t accept people like me” that lead to her turning against friends.
One of the things that interested me in this book was the fact that it uses past, present, and future tense. Past for flashbacks, present for the present storyline, and future for visions. It’s such a tricky balance to pull off well, but Laura Sebastian manages it. The book jumps around a lot between the three, giving it a bit of a literary leaning feel, but it’s not disorientating.
It also demanded to be read slower – which is not my preferred reading style (I like to be able to read in long bursts because of my reading speed and general brain set up.) I had to keep taking breaks, because I was loving the book and didn’t want to be annoyed that it was basically telling me to take it slow. Which is a really good indicator of how much I loved the book, because I was willing to be all bitty in my consumption.
What about my preference for Arthurian to be entrenched in the land, because of how I was told it as a child? Yes, that was met, because Avalon was so well written, and then the contrast to Camelot and Lyoness made that magic-in-the-land of Avalon all the more powerful.
Read my reviews of other books by Laura Sebastian:
- ASH PRINCESS (#1)
- LADY SMOKE (#2)
- EMBER QUEEN (#3)
Castles in Their Bones: