Friday, June 10, 2011
Song of the Sparrow
Scholastic Press, 2007
YA; Historical; Camelot
Read for the YA Overlooked Book Battle.
I was very skeptical about this book at first. It's a story about Arthur and Camelot, told in verse from the perspective of Elaine, better known as the Lady of Shalott. I'm not a big fan of poetry nor am I the biggest reader of the Camelot myths.
Elaine lives in a military camp surrounded only by men. She misses her mother, slayed by brutal Saxons long ago. She respects Arthur, second in command to his uncle Ambrosius Aurelius. She approaches romance in her assessment of Lancelot, who had saved her from a drunkard when she was younger.
But everything is changing. Ambrosius is dead and Arthur is in command, supported by his mysterious sister Morgan and the Merlin; Arthur plans an offensive campaign instead of the defensive he had always pursued. Another woman arrives at camp; the beautiful and snotty Gwynivere, who has Lancelot completely under her thumb. And her friend, Tristan, heartbroken by Isolde (!), is starting to treat Elaine differently, which confuses her.
As I said earlier, I was skeptical about the verse style. I've read a few novels in verse (Sonya Sones) but it's not my favorite method in telling a story. I ended up thinking that it really worked with the story; the descriptions of nature are especially beautiful-the colors, the textures, the overall look. It's also very personal, fitting as Elaine attempts to understand her growing womanhood and the vagaries of life.
Elaine is very stubborn and headstrong, which leads to the final conflict. As Arthur and his men embark on a final showdown, she follows and ends up captured by enemies. I couldn't believe her nerve! Gwynivere is also really mean at the start but more insight into her feelings (no one asked her if she wanted to marry Arthur) and redeeming actions won me over.
This story definitely gave me more sympathy to Gwynivere, who I had always judged harshly for her adultery. Lancelot, however, was an unredeemed jerk, in my opinion; his behavior was inappropriate in regards to his friend and leader Arthur and he was also quite rude to Elaine. Arthur is a good man, who appears little in the narrative, alas! I've always liked Arthur. The Merlin also does not play a big role because this is more Elaine's story. She is rescued from the tragedy of Tennyson and given her own voice and feelings by Sandell.
Overall: Beautiful language move the story along; recommended for fans of Camelot.
Cover: I feel like it's really stark with the plain white background and Elaine's hair grabbing most of the attention. The green is really striking too.