Source: purchased used
Read: to clean out my TBR pile
Reading time: about two hours (it's a novel in verse, it goes really fast)
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?
My review: What The Song of Achilles did for me and The Iliad, Song of the Sparrow does for Arthurian legends: it humanizes the ancient stories for modern readers. (Except The Song of Achilles is adult literary fiction, and Song of the Sparrow is YA, and I enjoy reading Arthurian legends way more than I did The Iliad. But, still, same principle of humanization.) Sandell does a fantastic job of placing readers in the midst of the beginning of the Arthurian saga, and not just in the myth, but in the history that surrounds it. At the same time, readers get inside the life and mind of Elaine - also known as the Lady of Shalott - and see the origins of her relationships with the men, and also the main women, involved in the Arthurian tales.
The only thing that fell flat with me was the romance, which seems to be my common complaint with books lately (this could, however, simply indicate that I'm an emotionless dweeb). Elaine and Lancelot, okay. That's in the traditional stories, and it worked for this novel. Elaine and who she moved on to, no. Though the author was great at getting us into Elaine's head for most of the book, she didn't do enough with Elaine's thoughts and feelings for this guy for her declaration of love to him not to seem a bit sudden. Otherwise, I really enjoyed Sandell's take on the Arthurian saga and Elaine's role therein, especially since she incorporates details of Tennyson's famous poem while departing significantly from his version to create a much deeper and more interesting tale.