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03/05/2004 Entry: "IN CAMELOT'S SHADOW by Sarah Zettel -- Lynn's Rave"

In Camelot's Shadow

Forget everything I said about the Luna line and the first two books. Sarah Zettel's IN CAMELOT'S SHADOW is entirely different.  I just finished it about an hour ago, and last night I was reading portions of it to my friend because even single paragraphs are so powerful. Buy it! Buy it now! (I almost didn't. I'm more or less Arthuriana-ed out, and was skeptical that something new could be done with such a familiar story. I shudder to think I might have missed this book.)

The story manages to bring the characters of Arthurian legend we are familiar with--Gawain, Agravain, the Green Knight--and make them fresh without distorting the substance of the stories we know: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Sir Gawain and the Loathly Lady.

A knight and his very pregnant lady are traveling, she goes into labor, and they need help. They meet a sorceror, Euberacon, and the knight bargains with him to save his lady for a promise of the child to be born.  Nineteen years later, the knight is not allowing the daughter born that night, Risa, to be wed because of his promise to the sorcerer. She finds this out, flees, and is rescued by Gawain, who is investigating a planned Saxon uprising, ten years into Arthur's peace.

The characters, even the minor ones, come alive in just a few paragraphs. [...] The story is deep with association and imagery.  There is Green Knight, something far more powerful than a mere sorceror, who is also the Green Man. There is the background of Euberacon, a man who fled the Constantinople of Justinian and Theodora because of failed sorcerous plots there.

[...] Early in the book, Risa gives a good yet believable account of herself in dangerous situations, including in a seige and in a battle on the road.  Later in the book when she is in danger and being taunted that Gawain may be untrue, she doesn't falter. She does think that if he is untrue, she has still just hidden a knife from a meal and can try to help herself.  She's just a great heroine.  And Gawain...sigh.  I'm now half in love with him; he is tenderhearted, gallant, and true.

Zettel has *brilliantly* made a familiar story fresh and vibrant.  The story just sings.--Lynn

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

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