HALF SICK OF SHADOWS

Arthur has lived in Avalon for so long that many of his people believe him to be no more than a myth. When Uther Pendragon’s death calls his heir home to Albion, Arthur leaves the land of the fey with a small contingent of allies: his best friend, Lancelot; his betrothed, Gwen; his half sister, Morgana; and the young seer, Elaine, perhaps better known as Tennyson’s Lady of Shalott, who has lived at Camelot before. A chilly reception in his father’s lands turns grimmer when the would-be king learns that Uther has named his bastard son, Mordred, as his heir in Arthur’s absence. When Merlin delays Mordred’s coronation to make way for a set of trials—each designed to prove that Arthur is worthy of his father’s throne—his friends dedicate themselves to his campaign, at least for a time. Destiny has a propensity for getting in the way, however, and the story soon shifts, not unpleasantly, to focus on the three young women—Elaine, Morgana, and Gwen—as they make their own ways in a world that fears their magic and mysticism. Sebastian’s characterization is strong; each of Arthur’s friends bolster one of his weaker qualities—and do it well—and the young prince’s impostor syndrome will ring true to almost any reader. The novel remains relatively faithful to source materials from Malory and the French poets, though the eagle-eyed may spot an anachronism or two. Although the large central cast often requires an excessive amount of pace-hindering dialogue, the end result is one that Arthuriana buffs and newcomers alike can enjoy.

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