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Allusion is not Illusion

You'll pry my books off my cold, dead body. By the time you shift them all I'll be flat and dessicated.

Currently reading

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...and other shadows

The Camelot Shadow: A Novel - Sean Gibson

Affluent and elderly Alfred lives a retiring life of study and boozy dinners with old friends, generally happy except for the heavy shadow cast by the incurable illness of his beloved wife. Or is it? One night, a stranger approaches him with a story to far-fetched to be believed; can his fantastical tale possibly be true, or is he lying? In either case, what it his true motivation? To decide, Alfred must learn more -- but a little knowledge is a dangerous thing...


First, the requisite disclaimer: I am a friend of the author. It is a friendship born of goodreading. I do not have to worry that he will disinvite me from his next orgy or throw a Molotov cocktail through my window if I say something mean about his book (which I won't).

I enjoyed this story. I've always had an interest in Arthurian lore, and this was a new approach. I liked the characters, and it was nice to have a group of old friends with their various other entanglements rather than a bunch of kick-ass heroes or anti-heroes. Quieter passages of bibliophile research, train travel, and historical conversation alternate with action: sneaking, stabbing, and skullduggery abound. Some of the murders and fights are pretty violent, although not to such an extent that I'd expect them to bother anyone who wasn't particularly squeamish about such things. I myself am not a fan of physical horror, and none of the violence disturbed me, although a couple of deaths did make me go, "ahhh, boo!"

In terms of language, I would put this somewhere near the middle of the historical fiction spectrum, with one end being authors who attempt (more often than not unsuccessfully) to replicate the formality of historical prose and the other by those who are writing what is essentially a contemporary story and characters in costumes. Gibson avoids anachronistic language but doesn't try to imitate the linguistic formality or convoluted sentences of, say, Dickens or, God forbid, Henry James. I'd compare the prose most closely to that of informal letters exchanged between Victorian friends, if you've ever read any of those. In fact, it reminded me a bit of painter Burne Jones's bantering conversations with his friends, as recorded by his assistant Rooke. Just needs some caricatures in the margins.

I would say that this would make a fun movie, except they would make all the characters 30 years younger, hot, and kick-ass, and then it would be nothing like the original.


In terms of taste, I would recommend this to people who enjoyed, for instance, Barbara Hambly's historical fantasy, such as "Those Who Hunt the Night."