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07/25/2004 Entry: "IN CAMELOT'S SHADOW by Zettel -- Too many problems ... Spare me! (Margaret)"

In Camelot's Shadow

I was delighted to find this book in the Library but my delight did not survive the first chapter. I know this book has been recommended, and I don't wish to hurt anyone's feeling, but I was Not Impressed. The book is so easy to put down that I'm only half way through.

Problems:
1) I don't really care about any of the characters.

2) Too many Americanisms/modernisms. Also, although "cadre" is used in its technically correct sense, it jarred--too much associated with Communism.

3) Awkward overlay of standard romance story over Arthurian tale. One example: in romances I get irritated by the heroine's persistent musings: "I love him but there is no hope for me because how could such a rich/ important/ wealthy/ handsome/ tall/ powerful/ intelligent man possibly fall in love with/marry such a poor/ lowly/ plain/ tall/ short/ young/ old/ serious/ frivolous girl/ woman/ lady as I am?" and I really, really don't want them popping up in my fantasy as well. Yes. I know it is sometimes reasonable for the heroine to think this but must they go on about it?

4) As in all Arthurian stuff you just know it will all end in tears--well, betrayal and death, anyway--but I thought it a real downer having a preface that rubbed it in.

5) In the preface, Kai, in Ireland, writes of going to the seashore looking for anyone coming from the west, from his old home. This struck me as rather odd as America, not Britain, is to the west of Ireland.

6) Also in the preface, Kai comments on all the exaggerated, if not false, stories that had arisen about Arthur etc. Well, there may have been stories but there is no contemporary written indication of them. All the Arthurian trappings--knights, round tables, distressed damsels, Merlin, Morgan, Gawain, magic etc are Medieval additions, hundreds of years later.

7) Risa's bow and arrows. She couldn't be using a crossbow (takes too long to load) or a longbow (not invented yet) but could any other bow have been effective in the siege?

Good points:
1) Arthurian setting in correct period.

2) Links to Justinian and Theodora--this is the first book I've come across that notes that Arthur and Justinian were contemporaries.

3) No Arthur/Guinevere/Lancelot love triangle (so far anyway)

****[and later]****

I made a real effort and finished this book. I even managed to find a good bit: Risa's experiences while a captive. I thought that was interesting and well done. Otherwise... Oh dear.

For a start the cover is silly. She is definitely holding a longbow 500 years before its invention, and what's holding the point of the arrow up? It should be her fingers, but they are too far down. And what's she doing with a loose scarf flapping round her face? A serious hazard and it will certainly get in the way at a critical moment.

S
P
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I
L
E
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I really objected to the mangling of the stories of "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" and "The Loathly Lady". The author has taken what she wants while completely disregarding the significance of the stories. I get the distinct impression that she hadn't read either of these stories before deciding to write the book and then only read them with an eye to what would be useful. The central point of "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" is that Gawain does something shameful. To mangle the story to turn this shameful act into an honourable one is deplorable. The story of the Loathly Lady hinges on the question "What do all women want?" and her transformation comes from the answer to the question, not from being recognised by her lover, which is another story entirely.

I am bothered by Risa's father. OK, I can understand his agreeing to sacrifice his as-yet-unborn child to save his wife's life. I can understand why he didn't tell his wife or daughter about it. I can understand why he wasn't loving towards his daughter. However, we have a man prepared to allow a horrible act in order to keep his wife's life and love, who then spends the next 19 years behaving in a way guaranteed to lose his wife's love. And why doesn't he ask Arthur for help? A good king with a powerful magician seem just the thing. Anyway, surely it's his duty to mention there's a sorcerer around? Also, why did the sorcerer insist that Risa's father retrieve her? It wasn't as if that was the only way he could get her, either by the terms of the agreement or because it was too difficult otherwise, because he was perfectly willing to grab her when she left home and ended up extracting her from among a group of court ladies. So why did he insist her father get her back? Bloody-mindedness?

No, as far as Arthurian retellings go, spare me from Sarah Zettel. However I can strongly recommend Gerald Morris and Robert Newman, although their books are aimed at younger readers.--Margaret


--In Camelot's Shadow review page
--Other Luna Books
--In Camelot's Shadow at Amazon

Replies: 1 Comment

Thank you! I thought perhaps I was too biased because I had read Sir Gawian only a few months before I read Camelot's Shadow, and everyone seemed to love it.

Posted by Rebekah @ 07/25/2004 08:16 PM ET



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