Audiobook review: Half Sick of Shadows by Laura Sebastian
Note: I split my time reading this book roughly 50/50 between the audiobook book and the ebook. This review reflects a review of both mediums.
Although the tragic Arthurian Legion is familiar, Ms. Sebastian creates an engrossing story, told from a new perspective. Like the legendary Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley, Ms. Sebastian bolsters the rolls of the woman, giving them strength and power not seen in the original tales. Half Sick of Shadows is shared from the perspective of Elaine of Shalott, one who must sacrifice much to help Arthur succeed. Cursed to see the future, Elaine struggles to discover if the actions she takes to alter the fated future ultimately cause the undesired outcomes.
Although a bit confusing at first, I ultimately loved how the story is shared: in three tenses and over the course of multiple time periods. There is the present day narrative shared in present tense, but then Elaine will slip into future visions (shared in future tense) or past memories (shared in past tense). And at times the past memories cause her to recall other past memories. The author uses visual cues in the text to help the reader identify when the story shifts times; however in the audiobook version, the only indication of a new time period is the change in verb tense, which can be confusing until one gets used to the flow.
Elaine is a tragic heroine; weighed down by the sad and heavy burden of knowing the future. To know her beloved will betray her. That all of Arthur’s friends will betray him. That Arthur will die alone. Yet she always has hope, even as she sees how her actions ultimately send the group of friends down a doomed path. I loved the spark of light within Elaine, even when things become lonely and dim.
Narration: The story is shared via the first person perspective of Elaine. The narrator uses a prim English accent appropriate for present and future Elaine, who ultimately narrates the entire story. Ms. Potter slightly alters the dialogue, adding subtle accents based on upbringing, social class, and place of origin. The dialogue is modified sufficiently so it’s clear which people are speaking. I like how in flashbacks, younger Elaine’s voice is modified accordingly. Ms. Potter’s performance works well for the story style.
The tale of King Arthur is not a happy one; it is filled with pain, sorrow, and betrayal – not something this HEA girl normally likes. Yet something has always drawn me to the Arthurian Legion. Knowing the ultimate outcome of Arthur’s story didn’t deter my enjoyment of Half Sick of Shadows because Elaine works so hard to reach for the good parts of the future and tries to save her friends. And the author chooses to end her story in such a way that brought a smile to my heart.
About the Book:
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.
Author: Laura Sebastian
Narrator: Ell Potter
Genre: Fantasy; Arthurian Legion
Audiobook Release Date: July 6, 2021
Publisher: PRINT: Ace; AUDIOBOOK: Penguin Audio
Length: Hardcover (448 pages); audiobook (17 hrs, 22 mins)
Audio Speed: 1.5x
Audible/Amazon (affilate link)