What a pleasant surprise! I had this book on my “to read” list for awhile, and I don’t remember where I heard about it. All I knew was that it was YA historical fiction, and that the cover art was very pretty (I am a sucker for girls with flowing locks and flowers in their hair).
So, when the library told me it was in, I picked it up and shoved it in my bag for the subway ride. After a very, VERY long day at work, I settled in and cracked open the book. The prologue is a poem. I generally skip poems. First page – another poem.
It’s a book written entirely in free verse poetry.
Don’t get me wrong – I like poetry. In moderation. A whole book? In a book that was meant to be some YA frivolity? Free verse? But, it’s late – I am too keyed up to sleep on the train and I decide to give it a few pages.
So, here’s my thing with poetry – I don’t understand it (expect a blog post on YouShouldOnlyKnow about this soon!). I can read it, and I can comprehend it, but I am not entirely sure what made this poetry other than seemingly randomly placed line breaks. So, I lucked out, and just read it as I would any other novel.
It’s the story of Elaine of Ascolat from the Arthurian legends. Awesome! I love alternative re-tellings of classic stories, and by coincidence, the only stories I know from the Arthurian traditions are these alternative ones. It was very pretty, and told of the unrequited love of Lancelot, the complicated emotions of Guinevere and some cool Pictish battles. I heart the Picts.
Some other stuff I liked? It brought in Tristan, of “Tristan and Isolde” fame. Double alternative re-tellings. Score! Stuff I wasn’t so fond of? This story had a happy ending. The “real” story has a rather tragic one. I wouldn’t mind them doing some sort of twist, that would explain this happy ending, but acknowledging the more traditional one, but this was kind of a re-write of fake history. Kind of a cop-out for my tastes.
I did a little reading about the author, and apparently she was inspired by a painting of Elaine (The Lady of Shalott) by John William Waterhouse. I wonder how the aforementioned cover art was chosen.