The Lady of Shalott

Song of the SparrowLisa Ann Sandell
394 pg; published 2007

What place does a woman
have here, in this
realm of men?
I wonder.
But I do have a place.
I belong here, with these men.
They are my family.
I mend their clothes,
I mend their bodies.
I grew up wild like a boy
How could she possibly belong here,
to this camp?
Her clothes are far too
clean for these dusty soldiers,
dusty tents.
Yet, I always dreamed of a girl
coming to live here, of a girl
who would be my friend. (182-183)

Sixteen year old Elaine, with a temperament as fiery as her red hair, is the only female in a battle camp of over three hundred and fifty men. Growing up with this band of brothers and no mother to guide her in the ways of ladyship, Elaine has lived and grown as a boy, wild and free.

Now that she is older, however, things aren’t quite as they used to be… and she’s not even sure that she wants it to be. While her ‘brothers’ look to her for friendship, advice and, and always, the mending of their clothes, they leave her behind when they go off to war. She is quick, fast, and knows medicine – she could be of help to them, she’s no longer the little sister they coddled.

She does not want her friends to get hurt while she’s not there to help them, especially her best ‘playmate’, the brave and handsome Lancelot. She yearns to tell him how she fells, to have him tell her she’s beautiful and loved. Her plans for love are interrupted, however, when Lancelot returns to the camp with Arthur’s new bride: the beautiful Gwynivere, with whom he is already “enchanted”.

Elaine’s hopes for a new friend are crushed when Gwynivere’s haughty, almost cruel nature is made clear. And her presence does nothing to help her plans where the war, and her involvement, is concerned.

I’d admit it, I got sucked in entirely by the cover on this one – it was just too pretty to resist. As such, I was surprised to get it home and actually realise that it a verse novel; not what I had expected. I’ve read a few verse novel’s this year, but I’d have to say that this one is my favourite. Sandell’s verse swung between absolute straight forward practicalities and beautiful descriptions.

As a character somewhat overlooked in most tellings of Arthurian legend, I was looking forward to seeing Sandell’s treatment of Elaine. She was an honest and endearing character, and this came through quite strongly through her voice. Sandell took a few liberties with Tennyson’s poem, but it was done respectfully and, I feel, to great effect.

Overall, a lovely book that I’d recommend to any fan of Arthurian legend. 4.5/5

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Beth F said...

Interesting. This is a new one to me. Nice review, and because I'm a fan of Arthurian tales, I'll have to add this to my wish list. Thanks for posting about it.

Erica said...

This one looks great! Thanks for letting us know about it.

Anonymous said...

I've read this book and I love it!

Jenny Girl said...

This looks very cool! Just added it to my tbr. Thanks Rebecca!