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Camelot's Shadow by Sarah Zettel

Camelot's Shadow (original 2004; edition 2004)

by Sarah Zettel

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3021053,547 (3.54)9
Title:Camelot's Shadow
Authors:Sarah Zettel
Info:Voyager (2004), Paperback
Collections:Your library
Tags:historical fantasy

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In Camelot's Shadow by Sarah Zettel (2004)



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Risa's father forbids her to marry, and at last Risa discovers why--years ago, her father promised her to a sorcerer in exchange for his wife's life. Unwilling to wait around to lose her soul as part of a sorcerer's household, Risa flees. The sorcerer pursues, but to everyone's amazement Sir Gawain happens upon them and rescues Risa. Gawain offers his protection to Risa, and as they ride together toward Camelot the seeds of love are planted in them. But even as they fall in love, they are troubled by marauding bands of Saxons, sorcerous machinations, and Gawain's tendency to save any damsel he comes across.

I don't know exactly why but I just didn't enjoy this. Zettel conveys the medieval period well, and Risa's reactions to spices, servants, and cloth types tell you a lot about her society. But Risa herself feels like an anachronistic hodge podge of modern fantasy heroine tropes; if I never read another red haired archer who disobeys her father to be with the man she loves, I will still have read too many. Gawain at least is given a chance at depth, as he tries to be honorable even as he's stupidly susceptible to manipulations by ladies. Two side characters, Agravain and Kaye, comment on this, and I think a little more attention to this aspect of the novel would have made me like it more.

I didn't like the pacing; the plot with the Saxons is built up to be the big problem of Camelot, but then it fizzles away (presumably to come up again in some later book in the series). The sorcerer is defeated ludicrously easily and simply. Worst of all, I flat out disliked Zettel's rewrite of the Green Knight and the Loathly Lady stories. She actually manages to make the Loathly Lady tale less feminist. In the original, the hag asks her new husband whether he'd rather have a virtuous hag or a perfidious beauty as a wife, and the knight says she should be whatever she chooses. But in this, Risa is saved from her horrible disfigurement by Gawain's kiss. Additionally, the sorcerer asks the riddle "What do all women want." In the original tale, the answer is "sovereynté." In this, the sorcerer assumes that all women want "sovereignty" and Risa tells him he's wrong, all women want "freedom." What? That just seems like a difference in word choice.

Basically, I didn't like Risa, was unconvinced (and uninterested) by the romance, and thought the plot was a combination of poorly-paced imagined events and poorly-rewritten legends. ( )
  wealhtheowwylfing | Feb 29, 2016 |
Set around King Arthur's reign this book is an enjoyable mixture of folklore, magic and romance. Well worth the read. ( )
  HeatherLINC | Jan 23, 2016 |
I seem to change my mind every time I read these books. I've loved all of Sarah Zettel's work, but reading Camelot's Shadow again (for a third time) didn't do it any favours. The amount of grammar mistakes I came across in the text, for example, really began to annoy me. And the oh-so-perfect women -- Rhian, Guinevere, Jocosa -- or the demonised women -- Pacis, Kerra, Morgaine -- really got to me. Rhian was perfectly patient, Guinevere a perfect queen, Jocosa a perfect mother... Pacis was the scapegoat for Gawain's bad side, Kerra wielded her sexuality as a weapon, Morgaine brooded on Camelot's fall and betrayed even her own foundling...

At the same time, I do like the way Zettel chose to retell the stories. She wasn't afraid to take up the Arthurian stories and bend them to whatever suited her story best: she blended the tale of the Loathly Lady and the story of the Green Knight quite well, and gave an interesting background to the Orkney boys. Women are powerful in her story, for good or bad, too -- her positive Guinevere is believable, I think, and her relationship with Arthur a sweet one. And there's Kai and Agravain, both flawed but human..

Gawain is a little too perfect, I suppose, and the relationship between him and Rhian a fairytale one. I'm less impressed with this book than I was before. But I still enjoyed it, and was glad to spend time with it again. I think perhaps it suffered for being read for essay research, and because it hasn't been that long since I last read it. ( )
  shanaqui | Apr 28, 2013 |
Reread in February 2010.

Since I'm hoping that the module on King Arthur will run next year, and reading widely in the tradition helped me with the Robin Hood module, I decided to revisit these books. As I said in my review almost two years ago, I'm not really one for romance books, generally, but these are Arthurian -- which helps a lot, since it's something I'm always interested in -- and they're not exactly bodice-rippers, and I do like Sarah Zettel's writing. There's genuinely a plot alongside the romance -- at least in this first book of the four -- and earlier elements of the tradition are woven into the story, while it's also not quite a carbon copy. It could have deviated more from the tradition, easily, and perhaps been more engaging then, but this is interesting enough. I like the portrayal of Guinevere, very much in love with Arthur, and though she's mischievous, she's a good queen. If I remember rightly, the betrayal of Arthur with Lancelot isn't re-enacted in this quartet, which I quite like. That's something new. And I like this portrayal of Gawain, as compared to some quite loutish ones I've read before.

It's interesting how close it sticks to the plot of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, which I'm doing a module on at the moment. I hadn't read that the first time I read this, so I didn't really appreciate how it had taken that plot but also woven in the women, Rhian and Kerra, and how it's also woven in the story of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnell -- which I haven't read, but I know a decent amount about.

It's nice that there's an overarching plot to these four romances, with the figure of Morgaine, about whom we learn little in this book. It's also nice that they're romances in both the medieval sense and the modern sense. At least, it is for my inner geek.


March 2008.

I'm not much for romances, but I did enjoy these books. They center around the sons of Morgause, which in this case means Gawain, Geraint, Gareth and Agravain, in that order. They're all romances, so the lead characters are girls somewhat rooted in legends surrounding the boys -- except Elen, who I couldn't find any mythological basis for (but that was only on a quick search). Rhian for Gawain (Ragnelle), Elen for Geraint, Lynet for Gareth (Lynette), and Laurel for Agravain (Lyonesse).

The books individually tell the stories of how the brothers come to meet their brides, and put together tell the story of Camelot's fight against Morgaine, Arthur's sister (commonly known as Morgan Le Fay). I don't think they adhere to any plot previously set out for Arthur, but there are little references and similarities throughout. Guinevere, for example, is faithful to Arthur, but at one point Morgaine impersonates her and has sex with Lancelot. Mordred also plays a part, the son of Morgaine and Arthur, but ultimately doesn't seem that important to the plot.

As an Arthur retelling, it's interesting. There's lots of the pagan magic mixed in with the bright and shining Camelot and Christianity, which is an intriguing mix. The writing itself is quite good: descriptive enough to call pictures into one's mind, but not weighed down with it.

Unfortunately -- considering it's a series of Arthurian romances! -- the romance falls fairly flat to me. Knight meets lady in need and falls in love. Lady meets knight and falls in love. Unfaithful womanising knight becomes faithful (Gawain and Gareth). Beautiful woman gets through the coldness and silence (Geraint/Elen and Agravain/Laurel). The love seems to come quick as fairytales, and happily ever after seems inevitable. All the men have to do stuff to bring their ladies back after the lady's bold and noble sacrifice -- Gawain stands up to the test of the Green Knight, Geraint kills something important while fearing the worst, Gareth gives his life to Lynet to bring her back from the sea, Agravain uses Excalibur's scabbard to bring Laurel back from the sea. It all seems a bit formulaic.

It also seems a little... unfinished. At the end of Agravain's story, Morgaine is dead, but Mordred has fled. A prophecy remains that Mordred will kill Arthur. But the epilogue deals only with Sir Kai's death, and doesn't say anything about where Mordred went and how that prophecy pans out. It's true, though, that the story doesn't focus on Arthur but on the knights.

The books are easy to read, hard to put down and probably enough to keep someone interested. I got into the world and the relationships despite their flaws, and I'll probably reread the books someday. I think Sarah Zettel's Isavalta books are a much better introduction to her writing, though. They're more original and flow much more easily, with characters that are much less formulaic. I think I partially blame the flaws of the Camelot series on the fact that she's writing in a tradition that's centuries old. Sometimes that makes people not dare to be more creative. ( )
  shanaqui | Apr 9, 2013 |
Did not finish.
  marihawk | Mar 31, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0373811128, Mass Market Paperback)

From the wilds of Moreland to the court of Camelot, a woman searches for her true powers . . .

Fleeing from the knowledge that her father had promised her to an evil sorcerer, Risa of the Morelands refused to be a sacrifice. Armed with her bow and her confidence, she swore to evade the wicked Euberacon's claim. And when she stumbled upon Sir Gawain, returning to Camelot to warn of a plot against the kingdom, she thought she'd discovered the perfect place to hide. Surely the sorcerer Euberacon would not approach her at court?

Now ensnared with court and political intrigue, Risa is out of her element. And Euberacon has forced a strong transformation spell upon her. There might be one chance left to save kingdom and soul -- but it would take all the strength and power she had . . .

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:58:30 -0400)

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Based on the anonymous poem "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight," follows the lovely but cursed Risa from the moment her fate was sealed. The wealthy Rygehil promises his unborn daughter to the sorcerer Euberacon in exchange for the life of his sick and dying wife. Knowing that when his daughter comes of age he will lose her, Rygehil grows distraught and refuses to let the beautiful Risa marry. Frustrated and headstrong, Risa grabs her bow and flees. Euberacon is not so easily deceived and, determined to have her as his wife, chases after her. Risa must rely on the help of brooding stranger Sir Gawain, Knight of the Round Table, to escape the sorcerer's grasp. But alas, Risa is truly cursed, and her father's deal with the devil has set in motion a series of events that even the noble Gawain may not be able to overcome.… (more)

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