The Shards of Excalibur, Book 1: Song of the Sword Paperback – Nov 15 2010
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Quill & Quire
Authors who incorporate, interpret, or subvert Arthurian legends in works of contemporary fantasy take a huge risk: the failure rate of such books is staggeringly high. Every so often, though, a writer is skilled enough to utilize the stories of King Arthur and Camelot to significant effect. Guy Gavriel Kay’s Fionavar Tapestry trilogy is definitely on the list. So, too, is Song of the Sword, the impressive new YA novel from Regina writer Edward Willett.
Fifteen-year-old Ariane is struggling to adjust to a new life. After two years in foster care, she now lives with her aunt, and must deal with both a sense of displacement and bullying at the hands of older girls in her new high school. These aren’t the worst of her problems, though. Since the disappearance of her mother, Ariane has been plagued with premonitions and visions of a woman and a sword, visions that typically occur when water touches her skin.
Things begin to make more sense, sort of, when she meets the Lady of the Lake herself. The Lady reveals that Ariane is her descendant and that a quest has fallen to her. She and Wally Knight – younger brother of one of Ariane’s tormenters – must collect the shards of shattered Excalibur and prevent them from falling into the hands of the evil Merlin, who is living incognito as a software billionaire and is intent on using the sword to gain power over the human world and foment a war with faerie.
It’s an audacious conceit and a daring subversion of the Arthurian mythos, and Willett backs it up with a taut, compelling narrative, well-drawn characters, and a keen sense of genuine peril and true wonder. It’s a powerful, fun, engaging read, and it’s the first of a series, so readers have much to look forward to.
The only lingering issue with the book is that, given its target demographic, Song of the Sword could very well be a first exposure to the legends of King Arthur, Merlin, and the Lady for many young readers. Not only will some of the force of Willett’s conceit be lost (as those young readers will lack the background to fully appreciate what he’s doing), but more significantly, it has the potential to skew the initial reading of those legends.
"Willett brings great energy, clarity, and excitement to every page." Robert J. SawyerSee all Product Description
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The characters in this interesting adaptation of the Camelot mythos are very real and sympathetic. Though set in Canada, the young man and woman caught up in the events of this story could have come from anywhere in any modern country. The backgound of each character is unique and interesting, and is only revealed in glimpses of each person's past. The author keeps the reader engaged by revealing details that make the characters more human (while making them more un-human at the same time!) This young lady and gentleman have very real problems that tweens, teens, and young adults can understand and sympathize with, and oh, they're supposed to save the world, too. No pressure!
There is no sex and I don't remember any cursing in this novel. The material is high fantasy with faerie and human worlds intertwined. My verdict is: Read it! and then, read it again! I plan to!
Recommended for any reader, probably 8 and up can understand completely.
Needless to say, when this was offered, it didn't take me too long to agree to review it.
I thought, for the concept that was being used, it was very well done indeed. I'm never going to be a fan of evil Merlin. I love Merlin far too much. But I thought Willett did an excellent job here - it's not that Merlin is evil so much as stuck in at time that's not his own, with an idea that he doesn't consider evil.
It just kind of happens to be.
I like Ariana - she's got quite a bit of personality and spunk, and I like that. I wish she didn't get a hold of her powers quite so fast, but hey, she was pressed for time. Wally is definitley my favorite character. He's got a bit of King Arthur potential, but he's so very quirky. He fences. I like him. And I sense his sister becoming a bit of a Morgan le Fay character, which should prove to be entertaining.
All in all, it was very well executed - nothing compared to some of the other Arthurian novels I've read, but hey, it makes a fun read.