Cover Image: Half Sick of Shadows

Half Sick of Shadows

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Member Reviews

This was such a cool, fascinating read! I'm a huge fan of Arthurian legends, so when I saw a book about Arthur, Morgana, and all of the others, I knew I had to check it out. And this book did not disappoint!

The only problem I had was occasionally with the switching back and forward in time. Sometimes it was hard to figure out whether I was reading about something that happened in the past, or present. But for the most part I didn't have any trouble. And I did enjoy the flashbacks, as they gave some good insight into the characters.

Speaking of characters, that's where this book really shone. I loved how developed, unique, and relatable they all were. I felt so invested in all of their lives that I found myself genuinely worried as they faced the various dangers in the story.

I would definitely recommend this book for anyone who enjoys fantasy books, especially if you have a soft spot for Arthurian inspired stories.
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“You are different and it terrifies them, so they try to push you down and keep you small and manageable. They know that if they keep you huddling in your corner, you will never stand to your full height. They know that if you ever do, you'll be great enough to ruin them.”


Content warnings: parental abuse, emotional abuse, death, blood, suicide?, drowning, sexism

Thank you to NetGalley and Ace Books for an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Half Sick of Shadows is an Arthurian retelling that follows Elaine of Shalott in both the past, present, and future as she follows a twisted path with her friends Morgana, Guinevere, and Lancelot on their quest to secure Arthur his throne in Camelot. 

The original Lady of Astolat story follows a woman with no personal agency who spends her life alone in a tower and eventually dies of heartbreak. Sebastian did an absolutely wonderful job of writing a retelling of this that gave Elaine her own personality and wants. The found family tropes and platonic relationships here were lovely. All five main characters of sorts had such distinct personalities that it was pleasant to read about them all as well. 

I actually really enjoyed the past, present, and future sections all being written in different tenses. Unfortunately, what I struggled with the most in the book is what took me over two months to read it: the plot and the logic of it. While I loved the unique take on the characters and collected a plethora of relatable quotes, I never felt a desire to actually pick this book up and continue it. 

As spoiler-free as possible, Elaine has visions of terrible endings for her friends and herself in an unstated amount of time, and she spends the entire book trying to find a way to stop them. The conclusion, and then.... post-conclusion of sorts, left me wondering why we had to go through this entire book for almost no satisfaction in terms of plot. 

I still found Sebastian's writing to be very well-done, and will absolutely check out another book of hers in the future! This plot may have just not been for me, and I would still recommend it to fans of Arthurian retellings and multiple timelines written beautifully.
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This was one of my favorite books of 2021. This is The Mists of Avalon replacement we've all been waiting for. I couldn't ask for more from an Arturian retelling.
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I didn't particularly care much for this book. It took a lot of liberty with Arthurian myth, like Mordred not being Arthur's son with Morgause and turned the famous betrayal of Lancelot and Guinevere into something small and instead focused on a "will they won't they" between Lancelot and the Lady of the Lake
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Approximately 60% into this title I had to put it down/step away. I love the general idea and premise and just all over it, but the actual execution of the story is driving me mad! 
Elaine is an oracle and while listening to the audio it is unknown if we are in the past, present, or future and often those three overlap in the same chapter. It just became a bit much. Additionally, I was not keen on some of the character portrayal and the incestuous relations going on.
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This is my first book by this author and let me tell you I liked it!. I will say that the beginning took a little bit of an adjustment as it felt like I was starting around the 35% mark, but I was able to catch up and sort of figure everything out thankfully. I also found the structure of the book and the timeline jumps to be a tad confusing but I also was able to stick it through which I am glad I did, because even though at times the book was hard to follow I think looking beyond the structure it was really good. This was my first sort of Arthurian retellings and I really enjoyed it. I do also think that authors note at the end helped make sense of the reasoning behind some of the structure things, but in all honesty I don't know if they necessarily bothered me or if I just wasnt used to it! So I still really liked the story.
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I love retellings of Arthurian legends, and this did not disappoint! I majored in English in college with a focus in medieval texts, so I am always happy to see stories that might interest new readers in the legends. I look forward to more by Laura Sebastian!
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DNF at 40%.

I love the content, however the writing style of Half Sick of Shadows was not my cup of tea. I can handle nonlinear timelines, but each chapter is written from the main character’s first person perspective, and in the middle of chapters there are scenes from the past alongside visions of the future. It made it difficult to feel invested in the characters or the story. The bulk of the story read to me as speculation on the future and on other characters with little character development and a very slow-moving present-day plot. This didn’t intrigue me, it only served to annoy me.

It certainly makes sense to structure your story this way when your main character is an Oracle, but it just wasn’t for me.
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A retelling of the Arthurian Legend with a feministy twist, this book was a good read for me. Here are some of the thoughts I had while reading it:

Now, while I knew about the major players, Arthur, Lancelot, etc., 1 wasn't familiar with Elaine's character. Some quick Googling showed me that she was the mother of the Pure Knight, Galahad, and wife to Lancelot. In this iteration, she and Lancelot are a couple, but Galahad's been written as one of Arthur's cousins. Close enough, I'd say.

I was also okay with Mordred being made Arthur's bastard brother and not his son. So, while these changes didn't bother me as much, some of the others did. I mean, it's always okay to reinvent myths and legends. But why do it if there isn't a need for it or if it doesn't serve any real purpose?

I'm referring to Merlin being turned into a dud. He's described as being old, mysterious, and only worries about who will sit on Uther's throne. Yet none of his magical or amazing feats made it into this book.

Dunno if it's because I loved "Merlin" the series, starring Colin Morgan or not, but whenever Morgana appeared, I imagined Katie McGrath doing the talking, I loved the way she did whatever she could to get Arthur on the throne. Even when her family and friends treated her unfairly, she remained unrepentant.

I loved many things about Elaine. She could be petty, knew she'd be nothing without her friends, vacillated between breaking things off with Lancelot or staying with him. Her actions in the end redeemed her and only made me like her more.

What I didn't get was how a mousy girl who couldn't stand up to her mother transformed into someone who could manipulate royal politics and diplomacy with such aplomb. Nimue only provided her with training on how to read her visions. So, where did she learn all that suave maneuvering during her sojourn at Avalon?

Similarly, Arthur and his gang seemed to accept everything Elaine said too readily.

Gwen was another favorite of mine and a character who just jumped off the page because she felt so real! Like so many women have done, she was supposed to give up everything for Arthur and spend her life doing wifely things? Screw that! The resentment that brews in her was described very well--as were the consequences.

While I loved how complex and authentic the female characters in this book were, the male ones don't get the same fair treatment. Arthur's written as someone without any flaws. Someone who'd do anything for his people and to unite the kingdoms of human and fey. Just made him seem fake and unlikable if you ask me. Lancelot, too, deserved better.

Well-told with fun twists along with brief flashbacks from Elaine's past. The only issue I had with it was that it seemed overly long in some places.

Given how all the women are manipulators and temptresses, this novel's like a breath of fresh air. I'd love for my younger cousin--a reader and already, a feminist to read this!
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I love King Arthur stories. I have since the sixth grade when I had a teacher read us a chapter each day from one of the 'tales of King Arthur' line. I could not wait to get to her class each day to see where the story went.

So this one is mostly from the point of view of Lady Elaine. She lives in Camelot and people have said she is mad. The reasoning being is that she 'sees' things before they happen. Arthur's sister Morgana (Morgan La Fey) comes to visit and convinces Elaine to go to live with her on Avalon. Elaine consents and begins being taught that she has a gift by Nimue (Lady of the Lake.)

There she meets her new besties Morgana of course, Gwen who is stronger than most guys, half fey Lancelot and the future king Arthur.
Honestly, this whole set up to me seemed like a bit of Middle agish "Friends."

I kinda did enjoy this book. Maybe the fact was I just loved one of my favorite characters ever. Morgana (Morgan Le Fay.)

The book is supposed to (I think) be sort of a feminist retelling but it totally flopped on that. I felt like everyone was just living to make sure that Arthur was king and to heck with you or your own dreams.
It does tend to drag and repeat itself continuously so there is that to be prepared for. Also, this story introduces some story lines that I wasn't so fond of that would be spoilery to mention. So go in with an open mind that it is not the typical re-telling.

Booksource: Netgalley in exchange for review.
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I was hopeful for this book. The Lady of Shalott is a fascinating character. She is mysterious and captivating. Unfortunately, this book was a DNF for me. It read more like a WB drama, Riverdale in Arthurian times, and that is just not my speed. Reducing the story to a bunch of horny teens kind of spoiled the mood for me. It wasn’t my cup of tea, but if you like those kinds of tv shows this might be a good book for you!
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Arthurian retellings are SO COOL! And while I've read quite a few in YA already, this distinctly feminist one that Laura Sebastian penned just took my breath away.
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I was a little nervous to read this considering I'm not familiar with the King Arthur myth story. The author subtly describes the myth through Elaine's perspective as a seer and her visions, which I thought was a very clever way to get the readers familiarized with the story, but also have it as a background plot. I really enjoyed Elaine as a main character, I adored her perspective as an oracle. The author did a great job at writing the past, present, and supposed future sp blended that it all seems to have happened in the now. There's enough flash backs and past retelling to establish the character's personalities, their relationships, and how they interact with one another, but it doesn't overrun the main story line. 

Main take-away is that I loved Elaine, and her journey with accepting her gifts to sacrificing herself to only grow into her full potential. All of the characters were very three dimensional and vibrant. Great read!
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This was a retelling of the Author of Camelot story. I loved the way she brought the characters to life and made them appear believable as normal and flawed people. A sequel would be wonderful to hear the rest of the legend in this form. Would recommend to fairy tale readers.
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I have always enjoyed Tennyson’s Lady of Shallot, so I was eager to see Sebastian’s take on the classic poem in Half Sick of Shadows. Unfortunately, I found it to be rather slow and not particularly engaging.

The timeline seemed disjointed and confusing. The plot switches from the current timeline to memory to visions of the future, and I struggled to keep it all straight. A more linear timeline would have helped the reader become more immersed in the story and the characters. Our narrator, Elaine – the Lady of Shallot, was not particularly interesting though she certainly has more agency than she did in the original poem which was a welcome change. The other major players of the King Arthur myth were, likewise, uninspiring. 

Some seem to be really liking this new take on an old classic. I, sadly, did not enjoy this one.
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I enjoyed this take on the Arthurian legend. It presents a new side to the story. Strong, smart women are at the forefront. It got a little repetitive but had a good ending.
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I loved this book. As an avid fan of Arthurian lore (I even have a tattoo of Excalibur), I was thrilled to discover a novel that centered around a female protagonist.

Lady Elaine is a truly satisfying character to read, and, as a seer, she wrestles with the question of "if you knew the future, would you do what you can to change it?"

Including age-old characters like Morgana, Guinevere, Lancelot, and, of course, Arthur, HALF SICK OF SHADOWS explores the deep roots of love, friendship, and family. With beatific prose and intriguing characters, this book is for anyone who needs a little magic in their life.
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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 it 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.

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.

My Rating: A-
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Wow. This was a powerful story of friendship and love. Like “Witch’s Heart” or “Circe”, “Half Sick of Shadows” takes a well known mythological world and looks at it through the eyes of a lesser known woman. In this case, Elaine, the Lady of Shalott. It brings all of the stories of Arthur, Lancelot, Camelot and Avalon together as visions of possible futures that Elaine sees. Taught by Nimue to always put Arthur first, Lance, Gwen, Elaine and Morgana leave Avalon to help Arthur take his rightful place as Camelot’s king. Author Laura Sebastian gives us a heartbreaking look at what it might mean to see the future, or all possible futures, without knowing how to stay on the path to the future you want. How it can paralyze Elaine, seeing so many terrible outcomes and so few good ones, and have to help guide her friends as best she can. Elaine may be a pawn in a game she doesn’t understand, or she may be the only way Arthur can become king. But on the road to discovering which she is, Elaine and the others must ask themselves what is power worth, and what lines they are not willing to cross. 

When you really think about it, all stories of Avalon and Camelot are beautiful, powerfully haunting, and ultimately tragic. “Half Sick of Shadows” joins this list proudly. Powerful women trying to adapt to a world afraid of them, trying to change things for the better, and discovering themselves along the way, this is a tale that will haunt you long after you have finished the last page. 

I received an Arc of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review
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If you also loved "Mists of Avalon" as a tween/teen, but now it's tainted because you've heard about MZB's real life, you should read this book. So many of the same themes are found here, with the intense friendships and multiple loyalties of Camelot. This retelling looks at some of the familiar moments from the tales of King Arthur, and imagines what could possibly have led there, with a focus on the women around Arthur.
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