Arthurian fantasy reads

By Candice Blackwood

A branch of fantasy that I love to escape to is an Arthurian retelling. So, what makes an Arthurian retelling worthwhile?

You might find that Arthur is just a little too perfect, a little boring, and his knights are usually similarly dull. It is the female characters like Elaine, Guinevere, Morgana and Nimue that really make good Arthurian fiction. They’re dynamic, flawed, interesting characters. One of the great things about the Arthur legends is that they’ve been adapted for every age group. In the library’s collection and in the books featured here, you’ll find titles for the young and young-at-heart readers in your life.

Half Sick of Shadows
by Laura Sebastian

“…everything comes down to a choice that hasn’t been made yet, a choice the future of our world hangs on. One choice, from one girl.” (e-book, p 22).

Half Sick of Shadows is Laura Sebastian’s stunning adult debut. Elaine, the Lady of Shalott, is an oracle. What does she see in her visions of the future? Her best friend, Morgana, mixing a poison that will kill Arthur. Guinevere betraying Arthur with Lancelot. Mordred delivering the final wound that will kill Arthur. In so many different ways, Elaine sees how none of them survive.

Having lived in Avalon for the past 10 years with Lancelot, Arthur, Morgana and Guinevere, Elaine and her friends are returning to Camelot to help Arthur claim the throne. Of course, claiming the throne will not be an easy task; Mordred has the support of the people, and Merlin does not seem as supportive of Arthur as they would have hoped.

This was the first novel I read that really explored the Lady of Shalott, and it completely changed my opinion of her. No longer the sad character who dies of unrequited love, this Elaine possesses an inner strength that motivates her to continue to support her friends against all odds, against her visions of the future.

Half Sick of Shadows is available through Ottawa Public Library in print and digitally through our partner libraries on OverDrive.

Sword Stone Table:
Old Legends, New Voices
edited by Swapna Krishna and Jenn Nothington

If you’re looking for shorter reads and a wider variety of stories, you should place a hold on the short story collection, Sword Stone Table: Old Legends, New Voices. This collection spans genres and time, reintroduces our favourite characters and, most importantly, brings diversity and queerness to the Arthurian legends.

Sword Stone Table: Old Legends, New Voices is available in print.

The Guinevere Deception
by Kiersten White

The Guinevere Deception begins as Guinevere arrives at Camelot to marry King Arthur. But what the world doesn’t know is that this is a false marriage. Merlin and all magic have been banned from Camelot, but someone still needs to protect Arthur from a mysterious threat. Guinevere has magic, a secret that she must keep hidden if she’s to fulfill her mission of protecting King Arthur and discovering what or who this new threat is.

This was a refreshing young adult book. I enjoyed the dynamic between Arthur and Guinevere – especially because they spoke to each other, which is an element that I find frustrating in other books.

The Guinevere Deception and its sequels are available in print, eBook and eAudiobook.

by Thomas Wheeler

Cursed doesn’t align with the familiar Arthurian narratives. Instead, it pits Nimue, the future Lady of the Lake, against Uther and the Red Paladin. Wielding the legendary sword, Excalibur, Nimue defends the Fey through gruesome battle scenes until the bitter end. I enjoyed this imagining of how Nimue came into her power and became the Lady of the Lake. Readers will enjoy illustrations throughout Cursed by legendary comic-book illustrator Frank Millar. Cursed is available in print and e-book.

Knight Owl
by Christopher Denise

For the youngest readers in your life, who only care about knights and dragons, why not try Knight Owl by Christopher Denise?

A young owl achieves his dream of becoming a knight. While many of a knight’s tasks are challenging for this young owl, he finds that he excels at night-watch duty. Armed with cunning and bravery, this small owl of the Night Knight Watch will have to save the day after a fierce dragon begins taking the other knights. Available in print.

Candice Blackwood works at the Sunnyside Branch of the Ottawa Public Library. She enjoys reading fantasy novels for any age that are full of magic, dangerous creatures and the women who fight them.

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