Song of the Sparrow by Lisa Ann Sandell
Summary from Goodreads:
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?
Lately, I have been taken to watching the BBC series Merlin and I realized that I have not read a single book pertaining to Arthurian Legend. So when I heard about The Song of The Sparrow from Chachic of Chachic's Book Nook, I thought that it would be an excellent choice to start me off.
The story centers on a girl named Elaine. Having lost her mother and their home at an early age, she has to live in Arthur's military camp along with her father and her brothers. A camp filled with nothing but men. And an impending war always hanging at the back of everyone's minds. Surely, this is no place for a girl (or a woman), but such is Elaine's fate. But it isn't all that bad. She has grown to love and respect all the soldiers like brothers and they love and respect her back. Save for Lancelot whom Elaine saw as someone more than a brother and a friend and hoping that he felt the same. But then the war came and Gwynivere came and Elaine's world is suddenly shaken.
I love Elaine's character. She is not the sword fighting-kick-ass-kind of heroine but her strength lies in the fact that she could survive in this kind of world, a man's world. Aside from having to grow up in an army camp and in the time of war, she also happens to be on the verge of adolescence. And adolescence brings with it all sorts of changes and confusion in identity and relationships. And I think this is what she struggled with the most, the transition stage. She kind of reminded me of Sorcha, from Juliet Mariller's Daughter of the Forest, one of my favorite heroines. They both grew up without mothers and around men and they both have that enduring and determined quality.
I was also surprised in a good way that Gwynivere's character has taken another direction. In this book, she is the mean girl. Particularly towards Elaine, as to why, I'll leave it to you to discover. But the dynamic she has with Elaine provided for half the fun in the story.
Even though the famous Camelot mythology characters like Arthur, Merlin, Morgan, Lancelot are supporting characters, they are not any less important to the story and their interactions with Elaine is such a treat to read. I still felt the sense of excitement that I did back when I was a kid whenever I hear anything about Arthur and the knights of the round table, and chivalry, and the magic of Camelot. This book is not short of that.
Another thing I liked about this book is how it is written, which is in verse. Now, I am not entirely fond of poetry. I usually had a hard time understanding them back in school but this one is not the headache prompting kind. It doesn't use difficult words nor are the verses constructed in a complex manner. It is still written in fairly simple language but it is lovely to read, the words roll off the tongue.
I don't know how I could discuss the romantic plot of the story without having to give anything away. All I can say is there is unrequited love, heartbreak, a lot of pinning, subtle progression from friend to more-than friend...in the end, I was pleasantly surprised about who ended up with whom.
All in all, I love this book. Elaine will definitely make it to my list of favorite heroines. I am eager for more Arthurian Legend retelling and more verse novels too. Any recommendations?
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