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Half Sick of Shadows by Laura Sebastian

Half Sick of Shadows

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by Laura Sebastian

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Quick take

An epic, feminist retelling of Arthurian legend. Sometimes you need a crystal ball to crack a glass ceiling.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_400

    400+ pages

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Feminist


  • Illustrated icon, Icon_BasedOnAClassic

    Based on a classic

  • Illustrated icon, Icons_Quest



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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Content warning

This book contains mentions of suicide ideation.

Free sample

Get an early look from the first pages of Half Sick of Shadows.
Half Sick of Shadows


I will die drowning; it has always been known. This was my first vision, long before I knew it for what it was, and I’ve had it so many times now that I know each instant by heart. Where most visions are ephemeral things, shifting and changing in different lights and at different angles, this one is always so solid that it leaves its bruises on my mind and soul long after it ends.

The water will be cold against my skin. It will rush around me like a storm, tearing my hair in different directions until it clouds my vision. I won’t be able to see a thing. I will want to kick up to the surface, to breathe the air I know is only a few meters away, but I will stay frozen and sink lower and lower in my whirlpool until my feet finally touch soft sand. My eyes will be closed, and everything around me will be darkness.

My lungs will burn, burn, burn until I fear they are going to burst. The surface will be so close, I could reach it if I just kick up . . . but I won’t. I won’t want to.

In a week or a year or a decade, I will die drowning. When I do, it will be a choice.

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Why I love it

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.

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Member ratings (13,542)

  • Brooke U.


    I didn’t want this book to end - I was so wrapped up in Elaine and Lancelot, Gwen and Author, and Morgana’s stories. I wanted to see more of what was to come. 5 stars to Laura Sebastian ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • Mara C.

    Gresham, OR

    While I was slightly confused by this book at first, that just made me want to read more. This is one of those “can’t put it down until you’re finished” books ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️❤️❤️❤️

  • Elizabeth K.

    Dallas, TX

    I’m not sure if it’s accurate to label this a ‘feminist reimagining’ but it did shine light on the power of framing the narrative for your own gain. I enjoyed being behind the scenes of Arthur's table

  • Theresa M.

    Rochester, NY

    I didn’t think I’d be so obsessed with this book but wow. I had to slow down so I wouldn’t read straight through the night multiple times and that ending came fast and hit hard. I’m absolutely in awe.

  • Samantha F.

    Bassett, VA

    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!

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