*Mini Post by the Belle*
Title: Song of the Sparrow
Author: Lisa Ann Sandell
Summary: Since the days of King Arthur, there have been poems and paintings created in her name. She is the Lady of Shalott, and this is a new vision of her story…
Beautiful and outspoken, sixteen-year-old Elaine of Ascolat has a temperament as fiery as her long red hair. She lives with her father and brothers on Arthur’s army base, the sole girl in a militaristic world of men. While Elaine mends armor and heals wounds, she pines for the handsome young soldier Lancelot. Then a new girl named Gwynivere arrives at the camp. Elaine is thrilled to have a female companion…until Gwynivere proves to be cold, cunning, and determined to win over Lancelot for herself. But when the two girls are thrown into a situation of gravest danger, they must come together in order to survive. Can Elaine find the courage to fight for the kingdom she has always believed in?
Belle Rating: C-
Target Audience: Young Adult
*Minor Spoilers Below!*
Story Notes: Elaine is a hard headed girl who loves her father, brothers, the men in the camp, and her country. Arthur is the general of the camp with his uncle leading them on in the battle against the Saxons and the Picts. Deep down Elaine has always wanted to help, but being a woman she is left to mending clothes and tending to the wounded (which she does gladly). Things drastically change when Arthur’s uncle is poisoned by an enemy spy and Arthur is put in charge. Some of the chieftains do not approve following such a young man, so they leave. Arthur then has Lancelot to go after one of the chieftains to try to persuade them to stay by any means necessary. Lancelot comes back with the chieftain’s daughter, Gwynivere, to marry Arthur as part of a deal to get the men back to fight with Arthur…and that’s when all the problems start for Elaine. Elaine is in love with Lancelot (I don’t really know why), however, Lancelot falls in love with Gwynivere and they flirt back and forth (*gasps* scandalous, I know!). Elaine then finds out that the men are going out to meet the enemy, head on, in a last ditch effort to drive them away for good. So she decides to try to follow them… And all of that takes place in the first two-thirds of the book. The rest of the story is Elaine and Gwynivere (yeah, snobby girl follows Elaine) getting themselves into trouble and conveniently getting out of said trouble. And that’s just about all I can say without giving too much away.
Writing Style: While I appreciate the uniqueness of writing a book as a long poem/song, there isn’t much story there. You could easily half the length if it was formatted like your typical book. So there isn’t a ton of development with any of the characters because there isn’t much to work with. I suppose Elaine ends up helping out with the war and Gwynivere stops being so snobby…but, come on, it’s really nothing spectacular.
Weaknesses: It’s written out in a song. Don’t get me wrong, in some ways it’s a good idea. But because of the formatting, there isn’t much substance to the story. There is nothing to draw you in and hold your attention. You’re not in suspense wondering what will happen next. I didn’t have a reason to really get attached to any of the main characters…in fact I would’ve rather learned more about the minor characters in the story. All in all it’s just an “ehhh” kind of book.
Strengths: It’s short. If the author tried to cram anything else into the book, I would have stopped reading it and gave it a lower rating. I also enjoyed the formatting. I thought it was great to see a different writing style that tied to the title and plot of the story.
Final Thoughts: To be honest, this was one of the hardest reviews that I’ve had to write because it’s neither good nor bad! It’s mildly interesting, but not something that I’ll be remembering later on. I suppose if you’re looking for a quick read and enjoy medieval spin-offs with Arthur and his knights, this might be a good option for you.