Camelot's Shadow

Camelots Shadow -  Sarah Zettel

I have read all four books of Sarah Zettel's Camelot series and am catching up by posting reviews of each of them here today.


The books are set, of course, in Arthurian times, but in the first, Camelot's Shadow, we see little of Arthur and Guinevere and Camelot, though they are always there in the background. The nominal hero is Sir Gawain, but the real hero is the heroine, nineteen-year-old Lady Rhian, whose father had promised her at birth to a sorcerer in exchange for her mother's life.


Sir Gawain rescues her from the sorcerer, who is in league with the wicked witch Kerra, who is employed by the even more wicked Morgaine in her intricate spider-like schemes to encompass the downfall of Arthur, and battle commences.


At the heart of the story looms the fabled Green Giant, an ancient god of the land whom Kerra, the witch, attempts to manipulate and make use of against Gawain, the plot of this book being based primarily on the poem of Sir Gawayne and the Grene Knight. It is also in some ways the closest any recent writer has come to reproducing Tolkein's all but inimitable style: she even has a creature who accuses poor Rhian of being a sneak ('Sneak! Sneak!' it cried. 'Thief!') when her situation is quite as desperate as Frodo's ever was.


Like the poem, the novel contains both the human and natural and the mystical and magical. It is full of magic. Kerra, for instance, flies with the ravens; Rhian is transformed into something resembling a pig (this never happened to Frodo – and even on Circe's enchanted island it only happens to men, which doesn't seem so shocking somehow!); and things are not what they appear anywhere, either in the enchanted forest or the ensorcelled hovels that seem to be castles or the castles that seem to be hovels.


And then there is Gawain's brother Sir Agravain, a nasty piece of work who, though not a sorcerer or on the other "side", makes Rhian's and Gawain's lives a great deal harder than they need to be.


Sometimes a little slow and detailed, but overall a read that comes lose to being a dream.