Here is my latest review. I had this book on my to read list for a year and I finally go around to it. I don't know why I waited so long to read this book. It was just one that kept getting put off. However, it fits in with my YA reviews for the month, so here you are!
The year is 490 AD. Fiery 16-year-old Elaine of Ascolat, the daughter of one of King Arthur's supporters, lives with her father on Arthur's base camp, the sole girl in a militaristic world of men. Elaine's only girl companion is the mysterious Morgan, Arthur's older sister, but Elaine cannot tell Morgan her deepest secret: She is in love with Lancelot, Arthur's second-in-command. However, when yet another girl -- the lovely Gwynivere-- joins their world, Elaine is confronted with startling emotions of jealousy and rivalry. But can her love for Lancelot survive the birth of an empire?
Summary from www.goodreads.com
Summary from www.goodreads.com
Paperback, 383 pagesPublished August 1st 2008 by Scholastic Inc ISBN 0439918499 (ISBN13: 9780439918497)
Song of the Sparrow was beautiful. Written as a poetic narrative, it is deeply lyrical and rhythmically moving. I was swept away by the elegant writing.
Elaine of Ascolat is better known to me as the Lady of Shallot from Tennyson’s famous poem. I had no idea these two women, the fabled Elaine and the Lady and Shallot, both of whom Tennyson wrote about, were the same woman. Or character, since we have no idea whether Elaine ever really lived. As I was reading, I somehow figured this out, and since I was so caught up in the moving story of Elaine, who lives in Arthur’s camp with his soldiers, in the days before Camelot, I briefly thought to myself, damn I hope she doesn’t die. I truly loved Elaine. Sandell’s Elaine is young, somewhat wild as she tramps about the woods collecting herbs to use to tend to the men who later become Arthur’s knights of the Round Table, men she has known all her life and who are her friends. Her connection to nature, to beauty and her uninhibited ways made me really admire her because I saw in her a quiet sort of strength. Especially when she’d sneak off to watch the men at the Round Table at night.
Of course in a story about Arthur, we have Gwynivere, who comes to the camp as a bride for Arthur; and at first she and Elaine are enemies. Gwyn is cruel to Elaine, calling her a beast and wild, and Elaine, who has already started to grow up, and fall in love with Lancelot, is hurt and angry by Gwynivere’s meanness. She even retaliates with the help of Tristan, her good friend--even if he does tease her about her about her feelings for Lancelot. Oh, and I love Tristan. I love his quiet adoration of Elaine, I love his watchfulness over her, I love how jealous he is at the end, I love that Sandell took the doomed lovers of Tristan and Isolde and gave at least one of them a happy ending. Because Elaine was at first in love with Lancelot in this story, but in the end, she has grown up and falls in love with Tristan. Which is who I wanted her with anyway, so I was delighted. Especially after the scare I endured for a couple of chapters (which are rather short in this book) when I thought Elaine would die. Her bravery in trying to warn Arthur about the Saxons attack lands her in a boat with an arrow in her chest...and that didn’t sit too well with me, given that I had figured out that Elaine and the Lady of Shallot were one and the same...
But Sandell makes her female characters, all of them from Morgan (aka Morgana aka Morgan le Fay) to nasty Gwyn, strong; and in the end, it is Gwyn who helps bring word of the Saxon attack to Arthur, and also, of Elaine’s heroics and saves her life. I really like that Sandell took the women from Arthurian legend, who are traditionally speaking, the bringers of doom to the glory and goodness of Camelot, and made them just strong and loyal and good as the men.
The writing...it might not be for everyone. But I truly loved that this story was written as a poetic narrative, it fit the romantic lens of the Arthurian legend, but gave such an element of honest feelings to the story that you never were fooled into thinking this was a story of high adventure and lovey dovey romance. Rather the breaks, and the use of rhythm gave the story pause and a depth of emotion that kept you grounded in the reality of “oh, this war,” reminding us that people were afraid, and dying, and worried and that through it all, they were trying to enjoy the beauty of a night sky, or of a song, or just each other’s company.
My sparrow, she flickers and wakes
and sings and sings.
A beautiful song of love.
5 glittering stars