An epic, feminist retelling of Arthurian legend. Sometimes you need a crystal ball to crack a glass ceiling.
Good to know
Based on a classic
Why I love it
BOTM Editorial Team
When I was a tween, I went through a brief but intense period of watching every King Arthur adaptation I could find. (It’s a long story.) And while I’m no expert, I like to think all those hours gave me a pretty good grasp of Arthurian legend. Yet when I saw that Laura Sebastian had written a feminist retelling starring Elaine, my first thought was, Awesome!, and my second thought was, Who on earth is Elaine...?
In my defense, it’s not that surprising I’d forgotten who she was; as legend has it, Elaine really gets the short end of the stick. But in Half Sick of Shadows, Elaine is much more than a lovesick woman locked in a tower—instead, she’s a powerful prophetess. As a girl, Elaine practices magic on Avalon island, bonding with Guinevere, Morgana, Lancelot, and Arthur. But as her visions develop, she is haunted by possible futures filled with betrayal and death. When the friends journey to Camelot on a quest to make Arthur king, Elaine wrestles with her foreknowledge, wondering how much she must sacrifice to fulfill her destiny.
Half Sick of Shadows has all the touchstones of great Arthurian stories: the conflict between duty and desire, the hope for a better future, the pull of forbidden love. But it also breathes fresh life into the legend’s women: free-spirited Guinevere, strong-willed Morgana, savvy Elaine. Through Elaine’s eyes we toggle between past, present, and numerous possible futures—and though you might think you know how it all ends, it will almost certainly surprise you. One thing’s for sure: After finishing this lyrical, emotional rollercoaster of a book, I will never again forget Elaine.
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.
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Beyond thrilled with this pick. Elaine’s mysterious visions and the story of Prince Arthur in Camelot mixed with magic. Honestly, it’s what I was really hoping for. I couldn’t put it down. 4.5 stars!
If you are a die hard Arthurian fan, you might not like this book. I loved it. This is my first “glimpse” into this world and I’m told it’s completely different but it has me hooked to learn more.
I’m a sucker for a re-imagining of a famous story, so I loved this! I do wish the author went a little more into events in the legend, but I still loved the strong female characters & their journey!????
Morgana ❤️ Gwen ❤️ Lancelot ❤️ Arthur ❤️ Elaine ❤️ What I wouldn’t give for a friendship like theirs. Love love LOVE this book. Even though it crushed my soul a little…or a lot.
Fleming Island, FL
After three Halloween’s as a child dressing as Guinevere (my mom & I should have researched her before buying the costume…), I had to read this. What a beautiful, modern retelling of a great story.
San Diego, CA
Wow! I was completely immersed in this book and didn’t want it to end. This re-telling is incredible and I loved trying to figure out what would happen. Getting glimpses into possible futures was fun!
Fort Worth, TX
“Sometimes, all you can do is find beauty in the broken.” This book was amazing, capturing the heart of Arthurian legend from a female empowerment/driven lense, it has everything you want and more.
Saint Louis, MO
I loved this book! While not overly familiar with the legend itself, I loved reading this version from the perspective of the women in Arthur’s (and Lancelot) life. Highly recommend. Could be BOTY!
I didn’t expect to love this so much! The storytelling was intriguing while continuously laying everything on the table. Elaine is flawed but good and I found myself in love with all of the characters
Jackson , MS
I loved reading the King Arthur tales from the perspective of women. I’ve read Mists of Avalon but it was heavy and hard to get through. Half Sick is an engaging book that makes you think afterwards.
Corpus Christi, TX
This retelling of a beloved and familiar ancient classic is great! Spoken in the voice of the Lady Elaine, it has such a feeling of authenticity. Plus the entire ensemble of the age old characters!❤
The is book had me in the edge of my seat and I couldn’t put it down. I hope that people take the time to read this book . It’s does have a slow start but it does pick up and it’s a page turner.
New York , NY
I really loved this book, so much so that I was read it in small pieces to stretch it out. I loved the characters, & how they played off of each other. So many ups and downs, triumphs and heartbreaks.
Loved this great feminist take on Arthurian legends and the Lady of Shalott. The ending has a surprising and welcome twist that really makes everyone's stories seem more satisfying if not happy per se
This was such a fun retelling of the Arthurian legend, and not at all what I was expecting it to be. It made me laugh, it broke my heart, it made me want to hug every single character and never let go
I LOVED IT SO MUCH MORE RETELLINGS OF ANCIENT STORIES WHERE WOMEN ARE ALLOWED TO BE BAD BITCHES. a REAL contender for best book i read in 2021!! elaine du lac, ladies, gents, and honored guests!!!!
Knoxville , TN
My 2favorite type of books to read are about King Arthur and about fantasy so this book gave me both the story is being told by the oracle if u love fantasy and love King Arthur stories u will love it
I don't know much about Arthurian legend but I thought the story was told beautifully. Everything for Arthur, but Elaine found her line and refused to cross it. She takes her fate to save her friends.
Great reinvention of the Lady of Shallot. I read through it slower than usual because of the way the book plays with past, present, and possible futures, but it all felt right. I enjoyed the journey
Very much loved the exploration of the anxiety that comes with being able to see the future. Very character driven, which is definitely my cup of tea. Adored the characterization of Morgana! 3.5 stars