Half Sick of Shadows
Published July 6, 2021
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I picked Half Sick of Shadows for my June BOTM selection because I couldn’t turn away from the idea of an empowered female cast coming from Arthurian legend. I mean, who can? Written by Laura Sebastian, this novel promised to be the feminist retelling we’ve all been craving.
We all know how the story goes. Arthur is destined to be king. But, Guinevere and Lancelot betray him. Then, Morgana turns against the lot of them. And then there’s Elaine of Shallot, the seer forced to witness it all countless times.
This is not quite that story. Well, the latter part is certainly true. Echoes from the future haunt Elaine; that fact will never change. Yet this isn’t quite the Camelot we’re used to seeing, nor are the characters that fill the pages.
Can a book be both everything and nothing like a reader expected? If so, then please apply that definition to Half Sick of Shadows. It is the feminist retelling that I was hoping for, though I think it fell flat somehow.
Elaine truly does take charge of her fate here. She isn’t some shy or passive woman. Better yet, she doesn’t merely go along with the story. And she certainly isn’t passive in terms of her future or the fate of those she cares about.
However, there were some twists or alterations I wasn’t terribly impressed by. I won’t go into detail because I don’t want to spoil the novel. But I do feel that one in specific sort of ran counter to the promise of Half Sick of Shadows.
I think those two opposing feelings left me so conflicted on how to review this novel. On the one hand, I certainly enjoyed it, and I could never say I hated it. On the other hand, it wasn’t quite what I wanted it to be. That lands it somewhere between a three and a four-star rating for me.