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This title is shortlisted for the September Book of the Month
Medieval / Arthurian
Medieval / Arthurian
It is no secret, to those who know me well, that I am a sucker for Arthurian legends. I will read them in any form I can get. I requested to review this book based on the title alone, figuring it would be about the Lady of Shalott. I had no idea that it would end up being one of the most utterly unique re-imaginings of the tale that I have ever encountered.
The story begins, as one might expect, in the tower. The Lady, who remains nameless throughout the novel, has awoken to her surroundings, an Eden-like setting filled with beauty and flowers and a mysterious Mirror which seems to direct her days and her education. As she learns, the Mirror adjusts its lessons to suit her needs. She goes through several cycles of hibernation of sorts, during which ages pass in the mortal realm. During these times, her body also changes, sometimes drastically and other times less so, although readers are left to wonder what exactly the Lady looks like as we are never given a detailed picture of her.
In each age, the Lady finds people outside her tower to associate with in some way, to ward off her loneliness, to teach her about the world she inhabits, and who in some way often worship her as some kind of divine being. She learns the precarious nature of her position and the pain of power, real or otherwise. She also discovers cultures and people throughout the ages, bonding with some as best she can from within her tower.
Seeing the people and culture change over the centuries allows for a very interesting twist on the Arthur/Guinevere/Lancelot triangle later, once the Lady comes to know them.
For a story that has almost no dialogue and very few characters beyond an inanimate Mirror and a handful of people with whom the Lady can never fully interact, this book was thoroughly engaging. The language was descriptive and lush without becoming overwrought or melodramatic, the imagery is lovely right from the very first paragraph, and the overall story of the Lady of Shalott is entirely original. I loved it, especially the end. It hit on all of my favourite genres in one, and was just a lovely way of revisiting one of my favourite and often overlooked Arthurian legends.
© Kristen McQuinn
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