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Damosel: In Which the Lady of the Lake Renders a Frank and Often Startling Account of her Wondrous Life and Times Hardcover – October 14, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 6–10—Spinner's presentation of the Arthurian legends is told primarily through the voice of the Lady of the Lake. Damosel begins by explaining how she used her magical and metalworking abilities to create Excalibur for King Arthur, and how her cousin Nimue's involvement with Merlin led to his imprisonment. Damosel's involvement with Arthur's court continues when Merlin asks her to look after Arthur. She lives her life according to the rules that govern her kind, such as "A Lady Always Keeps Her Promises," but she learns that rules are made to be broken as she finds love and drama in Arthur's court. Damosel's narrative is interspersed with chapters from the perspective of Twixt, Arthur's dwarf court jester, who offers a more intimate and gritty picture of court life. The combination of these two unusual perspectives allows Spinner to create interest and suspense, even though readers know that the conclusion can only be Arthur's downfall. Fans of Arthurian legends will enjoy this new take on these familiar tales.—Beth L. Meister, Milwaukee Jewish Day School, WI
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From Booklist

In this lovely tale, drawn from Arthurian lore, Merlin commissions Damosel, the Lady of the Lake, to craft a wondrous sword for Arthur, the future king. Intertwined with Damosel’s tale is the story of Twixt, an insightful, clever dwarf, who is rescued from an abusive situation by Tor, an Arthurian knight on his way to Camelot. Twixt becomes a keen observer of court gossip, while Damosel protects Arthur with her powers of enchantment and ability to envision happenings from afar. Together, Damosel and Twixt tell a Camelot saga with all its political intrigue, battles, and romance. The magic is exciting and palpable: I had caused Excaliber to rise out of the water . . . A woman’s pearly white hand held the sword aloft so that it shone in the morning sun. Spinner’s elegant language, strong characterizations, energetic dialogue, and lively plot combine in a memorable, accessible novel. Grades 6-10. --Anne O'Malley

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 830L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (October 14, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375836349
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375836343
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,064,683 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Reader 200 on January 27, 2009
Format: Hardcover
It's not often that I just don't know what to make of a book, that I just don't get it. But that is how I feel about Damosel. It is a story of Arthur, Guenivere, Lancelot, etc. told from the perspective of Damosel - the Lady of the Lake, and Twixt - a court dwarf and jester.

The writing is excellent. At two hundered pages, my original thought was that it is intended for a younger audience, but the word craft seemed geared toward older.

The story of Arthur is told from a distance. Other people relay his doings back to Damosel, or Twixt tells of things he saw, but didn't really participate in. Neither Damosel or Twixt themselves had a true story of their own. Things happened to them, but there was no sense of a character ARC or character journey.

The author's notes at the end explains the author's inspiration as: "A story about her (Damosel) began to form in my mind, one that gave interesting (if not plausible) reasons for her stranger behavior." And this is possibly why I had such a hard time loving this. The book is a bunch of vignette, loosely tied together, to give a background to Damosel's behavior. However, as a novel, this just didn't work for me. I end up with lots of information, but very little `story.'
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Enchanting Reviews on April 28, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Fantasy YA

Rating: 4 Enchantments

DAMOSEL, is the Lady of the Lake and is approached by Merlin to make a beautiful sword for the future King Arthur, a task that will take years. But she makes the wonderful Excalibur and presents it to the young King almost nine years later, setting off a chain of events that will change things forever.

DAMOSEL wasn't quite what I pictured when I read the jacket blurb. I expected more interaction between Damosel herself and Arthur and the rest of the characters anyone familiar with Arthurian legend would expect, but that wasn't quite the way things were. However, DAMOSEL was a very well written, easily engaging story with a novel twist on things. Most of the story is told through stories told to Damosel or things that happen to Twixt. I have to say I really enjoyed the character of Twixt, the dwarf who Sir Tor rescues from his two evil masters most out of all the characters. Damosel herself was also enjoyable, especially in the early part of the book as she bartered to get the gemstones to make Excalibur and as she shared the Rules that the Lady of the Lake must live by and which Damosel strictly adheres to, which added a nice bit of humor to the story as well.

All in all, DAMOSEL is a very unique read, capturing a side of Camelot I hadn't read before.

Stephanie Spinner is the acclaimed author of many books for young readers. After a distinguished career in children's book publishing, she is now a full-time writer. She lives in Sherman, Connecticut.

Enchanting Reviews
March 2009
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Bonnie Svitavsky on March 1, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Damosel is a retelling of the legends of King Arthur, from the perspectives of the Lady of the Lake, Damosel, and a dwarf named Twixt, who serves at Camelot as court jester. Damosel follows all the rules required of Ladies and lives a fairly quiet life in her Lake. When Merlin seeks her out to craft Exaclibur, it begins a series of events that will lead to Arthur's rule, Merlin's entrapment, and plots to overthrow the king.

I've never been all that into reading Arthurian legend. I just don't get the appeal. I do like retold fairy tales and myths, though, so this story intrigued me. Hearing Damosel's perspective on Arthur, Merlin, and Camelot is interesting and may appeal to others who have had trouble latching onto stories of King Arthur. That said, the book seems to assume you already have some familiarity with the stories, giving readers a very minimal explanation of characters and events.

I enjoyed the first half of the book, where Damosel is trading for materials and crafting Excalibur, or speaking with her cousin Nimue about Camelot and Merlin. Stephanie Spinner spends this time developing Damosel and presents us with that alternative point of view we expect in this premise. However, the moment that she meets and falls for the knight Pelleas, the plot becomes painfully slow. All of the action that's been built up, the promised conflicts, they either evaporate or take place off the page. The ending felt sudden - but I feel that way about all version of King Arthur's story... except perhaps the King Arthur and the Knights of Justice comics!

Twixt's parts are enjoyable and do indeed give you a unique perspective. Who doesn't love to hear from the court's fool? I was disappointed that in the summary of the many characters, we didn't hear anything about what happened to Sir Tor... did I just miss if he was killed?
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Brittany Moore VINE VOICE on May 22, 2012
Format: Paperback
The Lady of the Lake played a crucial role in the tale of the Great King Arthur. But what did she do when she wasn't helping the king? She did what others do, bide their time. She talked with her cousin and found a fellow whom she cared deeply for. She used magic and tried to right some wrongs. In this novel, you will get to read about The Lady of the Lake's life before and after she helped Arthur.

I love retellings, and while this isn't strictly speaking a retelling, it did toy with a character that already existed in literature. I thought Stephanie Spinner did a fabulous job making this character, who played a huge role but received little face time, come to life. For being such an old soul, Damosel still had plenty of faults. She failed to accomplish things she wanted to, and broke some rules. It was very interesting learning about her down time between when she was helping king Arthur. It was great to have that timeline to work with mentally though. The handing over of the sword, the rescue of the King, Morgan Le Fay and so on. If you are an Arthurian legend fan, I highly suggest that you check this one out.

First Line:
"I am so well versed in The Rules Governing Ladies of the Lake that I could recite them backward on a dare, but the wisdom I treasure most was gleaned not from that vast, ancient compendium, but from my own earnest blundering.

Favorite Line:
"I wondered if forthright meant 'wails like a banshee.'"
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