• Half Sick of Shadows

  • By: Laura Sebastian
  • Narrated by: Ell Potter
  • Length: 17 hrs and 22 mins
  • 4.2 out of 5 stars (141 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

"Laura Sebastian is the next Madeline Miller.... a fierce, fresh, lyrical tale that will enthrall until the last page." (Kate Quinn, New York Times bestselling author of The Huntress) 

A Popsugar Best Summer Read of 2021

A Bibliolifestyle Most Anticipated Summer 2021 Sci-Fi and Fantasy Book

"Magical, haunting, unique - I haven't been so excited about an Arthur book since I read The Once and Future King." (Tamora Pierce, number-one New York Times best-selling author)

The Lady of Shalott reclaims her story in this bold feminist reimagining of the Arthurian myth from the New York Times best-selling author of Ash Princess. 

Everyone knows the legend. Of Arthur, destined to be a king. Of the beautiful Guinevere, who will betray him with his most loyal knight, Lancelot. Of the bitter sorceress, Morgana, who will turn against them all. But Elaine alone carries the burden of knowing what is to come - for Elaine of Shalott is cursed to see the future.

On the mystical isle of Avalon, Elaine runs free and learns of the ancient prophecies surrounding her and her friends - countless possibilities, almost all of them tragic.

When their future comes to claim them, Elaine, Guinevere, Lancelot, and Morgana accompany Arthur to take his throne in stifling Camelot, where magic is outlawed, the rules of society chain them, and enemies are everywhere. Yet the most dangerous threats may come from within their own circle.

As visions are fulfilled and an inevitable fate closes in, Elaine must decide how far she will go to change destiny - and what she is willing to sacrifice along the way.

©2021 Laura Sebastian (P)2021 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

"Laura Sebastian is the next Madeline Miller. In Half Sick of Shadows, she frames the famous legend of King Arthur through the eyes of seer Elaine, the tragic Lily Maid who flowers into much more than a passive doomed oracle. Leading the women of Camelot into taking control of a legend long dominated by knights and kings, Elaine weaves past truths and possible futures into a fierce, fresh, lyrical tale that will enthrall until the last page." (Kate Quinn, New York Times best-selling author of The Huntress)

"Magical, haunting, unique - Sebastian is a splendid new figure on the adult scene! This is something special, readable, and real, magic and all. I haven't been so excited about an Arthur book since I read The Once and Future King (I was 11)." (Tamora Pierce, number one New York Times best-selling author)

"A thoughtful, crisp take that brings just the right amount of newness to the timeless legends readers know and love.” (Kirkus)

What listeners say about Half Sick of Shadows

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  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Time skips are confusing, boring main character

This was described to me as a feminist retelling of King Arthur. I'm not sure how that describes this book at all besides it being told from the perspective of a woman. To me that doesn't really make a book feminist. But that's only one confusing thing about this book. I think the book assumes that the reader knows very well the tale of King Arthur. I do know bits and pieces of what probably most people know, but nothing too in-depth. I say this because it's the only reason that I could see the author would choose to essentially spoil their own story.

Elaine the main character has visions. Confusing time skips happen within the story because of this. One minute she will be talking about her visions in the middle of what's currently happening. It didn't feel narratively compelling, it actually felt like the book was spoiling itself. I found myself hating whenever she would go into one of her visions or skip back or even forward in time, which was A LOT. She talked so much about COULD happen, that nothing really ACTUALLY happens for like 17 chapters.

I understand the core premise of the book was Elaine fighting her visions, seeing if she could change the future she saw. She was constantly at odds with herself. And honestly? It's exhausting and sometimes boring. I was constantly wishing we had another character's perspective so we could break away from Elaine and her worries and visions. I just didn't really enjoy her character and it made the book a slog. Elaine has little to no personality.

To be honest, I didn't even bother finishing the book. I wasn't enjoying myself halfway through, so I figured why should I bother continuing? Literally nothing interesting actually happens. Maybe the second half things begin to happen? Don't know, didn't care much to stick around and find out.

9 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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It was ok...

For me, this story lacked depth. It is an original idea, to share an Arthurian tale from Elaine's perspective; however I felt that beyond her relationship with her mother, the story fell flat. Her relationship with her Mother was the best part of the story, imo.
Why are they all so bonded to Arthur? Why is Arthur worthy to be King? Other than blind loyalty they were programmed with, this story gives NOTHING to Arthur other than him being led by Elaine's advice... which again asks the question of how she is so adept in Courtly customs when she herself was locked in the tower most of the time, relentlessly harangued by the other girls at Court, and then spent ten years in Avalon.
The story had a lot of potential but only scratched the surface of emotional depth and connection. I would have loved to see more of Elaine's story as Lady of the Lake, but it was like right at the climax the book was over.
A second book with Elaine as Lady of the Lake and her experiences, time with Morgana, and THEN Arthur's death would have enriched this story so much more. It just went too quickly.

4 people found this helpful

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New and original

Half Sick of Shadows is a captivating story where an Oracle named Elaine tries to guide her famous group of friends through all their trials of crowning King Arthur.
Laura Sebastian does an amazing job of keeping true to the common fictional characteristics of Arthur, Guenevere, and Lancelot; however she also brings a new fresh perspective with these characters, even more so with character Morgana, through Elaine’s visions and love of her friends. Elaine visions at times were sporadic and confusing but that made me feel even more connected with her and the little madness that comes with her gift.
ELL Potter also does an outstanding job of bringing the story to life in narrating.
I truly enjoy this book and hope you do as well!

2 people found this helpful

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More than Half a Waste

This author doesn't seem to know the story. She doesn't know the timeline, even. She has the characters drink TEA, a beverage everyone knows was introduced in England in the 1700s, centuries after King Arthur.

Why tell a King Arthur tale if you don't LIKE the King Arthur saga? This book had no charm, no insight, no intrigue! It adds nothing to a story that has fascinated people in many cultures for centuries. Only Merlin is even slightly recognizable and sadly, his part is brief. The very minimal story is told in a confusing manner.

Happily, this sad tale will sink soon. The many stories of King Arthur will live.

1 person found this helpful

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The glass is definitely full up

This dawdling teen fantasy plodded on for 20 chapters before I couldn’t do it anymore.

1 person found this helpful

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NOT Mists of Avalon thank God

So grateful to read a female retelling of Arthurian legend that doesn’t include incest and wasn’t written by a pedophile! Besides that I really enjoyed this retelling. All the characters were well fleshed out and their motivations made sense. None of the simpering foolishness that’s in other versions of the story.

1 person found this helpful

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A Hard Tale to Tell

Beautifully written tale of sacrifice and feminism. A retold story of a woman destined to patriarchal rule and self sacrifice, with a twist of feminine empowerment. Dark and alluring. Hard truths, suicide, and caution.

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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As revolutionary as Mists of Avalon

I loved this novel. The way Sebastian handles time and the infinite possibilities in Elaine’s visions is masterful. I wanted to hurry to hear what would happen next while dreading the end when there would be no more.

1 person found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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it was good. I did tear up at the end a little

I think the ending was rushed, and so all the set up didn't really get the justice it deserved. alot of Elaine's vision feel like they are being told over and over, with slight changes so that maybe annoying to some. but I think that it is a well rounded story. with the typical set backs that if they were just honest and talked about things maybe half the conflicts wouldn't have been an issue. but thats how stories work.
it was a different take on the Arthur tale that gives the women of the time more urgency, and fully fleshed out character arcs.

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Interesting take on the Arthurian legends

I enjoyed this book. The author takes you inside Lady Elaine’s mind . Very thought provoking.