Half Sick of Shadows by Laura Sebastian (Spoiler Free)

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 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.

Laura Sebastian, Penguin Random House

My Review

I will pick up anything to do with Arthurian legend, but I really enjoyed this take on our Once and Future King. This story plays out in three times, the past when they (Arthur, Guinevere, Morgana, Lancelot, and Elaine) come together on on Avalon, the present when they reach Albion and step into their respective roles, and the future when the tale and tragedy of King Arthur plays out. I really liked this as it turned the conflict into characters versus plot , as Elaine tries to circumvent the tragedy we have come to know so well in Western cannon.

As a retelling, I thought it was particularly strong. There was the thread of the Arthurian legend, especially in the future line from the novel. However, bolstered some of the same stories in new ways like the twists in the intention, word play, and expanding context. Some examples are Arthur and Lancelot’s respective tourneys, Merlin and Nimue’s conflict, and combining some of the Elaine’s (in my opinion: Shalott, Corbenic, and Garlot). You can tell there is a deep familiarity with the story and love for these characters. I did wish that there was a clearer or longer ending and that the past timelines were brought into the story a little more. I do wonder if this was avoided because it was the part that deviated most from accepted cannon.

4.75 Stars

Publication Date: July 2021

Read other reviews and potential content warnings here.

Learn more about the Author here.

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