Review – Camelot’s Shadow

Posted 16 January, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 6 Comments

Cover of Camelot's Shadow by Sarah ZettelCamelot’s Shadow, Sarah Zettel

I’ve read this several times now, and I always go back and forth on it a little. Initially, I think I was a teeeeeny bit ashamed to be caught reading something that is a romance in both the modern and the medieval senses of the word. Then I included it in my dissertation and had to think about it critically. And now… now I get to read it just for pure fun. Which is great: it makes me realise how much this version of Gawain is exactly what made me love the character in the first place, and that this retelling of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnelle’s story was what guided me toward reading and loving the Gawain ballads.

It’s fun, with and without the romance; I love this version of Camelot, which is practical at the same time as romantic. There’s the knights, but there are also Saxon boys staying at the court as hostages. Guinevere is a queen and a figure of romance, but she’s also Arthur’s other half, managing Camelot alongside Kay, maintaining a whole set of duties belonging to queenship. There’s no polite ignorance of the need for an heir: Gawain is openly Arthur’s heir. (And definitely worthy of it; this version of Gawain doesn’t kill women or go on mad rampages yelling for blood. He’s courtly, though human — somewhere between Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Le Morte Darthur‘s least flattering sections.)

And Rhian is a great character too: determined, but not foolhardy; clever, but not infallible; cautious, but not immune to Gawain’s pretty face. Brave, but not insensible.

The two make a great pairing, and it’s a joy to read — as it’s also a joy to read of Arthur and Guinevere’s genuine love.

There are some frustrating aspects to this, like a certain judgemental quality around women who have sex (but not men), and an unfortunate editing slip-up where even when “father” is being used as a name, it isn’t capitalised… but it’s still fun, and I’m glad I got the chance to read it in a relaxed way like this.

Sidenote: I don’t understand why the US version has changed Rhian’s name to Risa. Well, probably to avoid people thinking it’s pronounced “Ryan”, but that doesn’t mean I like the decision — Rhian is a pretty and Welsh name, and it fits much better in the context than “Risa”.

Rating: 4/5

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6 Responses to “Review – Camelot’s Shadow”

  1. Interesting review, Nikki. I’ve been meaning to ask for ages – however do you manage to read so many books? Are you a speed reader, perhaps – or do you exist on many dimensions, ha, ha? I read a fair amount – need to for research and so on for the writing, and Beta reading writing friends’ work, which is in itself time consuming – but I have to congratulate you on so great and so varied a reading diet.
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    • Yeaaaah, it’s kinda gross most of the time and always annoying! Especially when the ebook is later only in one particular edition and you can’t get an ebook of the UK edition.

    • I have, obviously, since I did my dissertation on Arthurian myth, heh. It’s always been a topic I’ve loved… though oddly, I don’t like The Mists of Avalon (and not just because Marion Zimmer Bradley was a creepy child abuser).

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