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Half Sick of Shadows Paperback – March 21, 2017
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About the Author
Richard Abbott writes speculative fiction - both historical fantasy and science fiction set in the near future of our solar system. He has a keen interest in exploring how human and artificially intelligent individuals will combine and relate to each other. Look out for Far from the Spaceports and Timing.
He also writes historical fiction set in the Middle East at the end of the Bronze Age, around 1200BC. Look out for his books in the Kephrath series: In a Milk and Honeyed Land, Scenes from a Life, and The Flame Before Us.
Richard Abbott has visited some of the places that feature in his historical fiction. To date, however, he has not had the opportunity of visiting the asteroid belt, or anywhere else outside the Earth.
He lives in London, England and works professionally in IT quality assurance. When not writing words or computer code, he enjoys spending time with family, walking, and wildlife, ideally combining all three pursuits in the English Lake District.
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Top customer reviews
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So I’m going to say a few general things and encourage you to go get the book. It’s worthwhile.
First, you don’t need to know that Half Sick of Shadows is taken loosely from the British legend of the Lady of Shalott best known to poetry readers in its version by Alfred Lord Tennyson. It’s a fun curiosity to map Half Sick of Shadows on to the legend, but the story stands on its own.
You also don’t need to know what genre the book is in order to enjoy it. The author says it is Historical Fantasy. I would say it’s Speculative Science Fiction. It includes much learned perspective on historical and especially pre-historical things, but the story itself turns out to be less about earth than about… well, that would be telling.
Half Sick of Shadows is gorgeously written. It is very precisely written, as is Richard Abbott’s wont, but it also has a kind of sneaky, seductive richness that draws you in by its own sneakiness. You don’t know that you’re going to be wiping tears by the end until you are.
There will be no sequel to this book, I suspect, unless there is, but to me this is the best kind of one-off: a book where the author had an idea given to him by his fertile imagination, which he ran with till the end, and which ends by being a beautifully-crafted work of art.
‘The Lady’ in the story lives in a building like a small fortress with no doors and watches the world as it changes through a ‘mirror’, which we, the reader, seem compelled to believe is some sort of computer. The author tantalises the reader with glimpses into the ancient times of a certain part of this country as The Lady sees the same small corner of her world evolve. Her desire to be in the world she is seeing becomes greater and greater as she learns to understand more of the people. When she finally achieves her dream there is no going back.
It wasn’t until this part of the story that I understood who the people were, although of course I recognised the scenes that had been described leading up to it. As a fan of ‘pre-history’, I enjoyed those stages, so skilfully portrayed by the author.
Even in the end, when The Lady finally discovers who she is, the story retains a certain amount of mystery.
I had no idea what to expect from the title and I found this story tantalising and absorbing and loved the deep-rooted connection to a legend that is famous. A triumph, in my opinion. Five stars!
The story begins, as one might expect, in the tower. The Lady, who remains nameless throughout the novel, has awoken to her surroundings, an Eden-like setting filled with beauty and flowers and a mysterious Mirror which seems to direct her days and her education. As she learns, the Mirror adjusts its lessons to suit her needs. She goes through several cycles of hibernation of sorts, during which ages pass in the mortal realm. During these times, her body also changes, sometimes drastically and other times less so, although readers are left to wonder what exactly the Lady looks like as we are never given a detailed picture of her.
In each age, the Lady finds people outside her tower to associate with in some way, to ward off her loneliness, to teach her about the world she inhabits, and who in some way often worship her as some kind of divine being. She learns the precarious nature of her position and the pain of power, real or otherwise. She also discovers discovers cultures and people throughout the ages, bonding with some as best she can from within her tower. Seeing the people and culture change over the centuries allows for a very interesting twist on the Arthur/Guinevere/Lancelot triangle later, once the Lady comes to know them.
For a story that has almost no dialogue and very few characters beyond an inanimate Mirror and a handful of people with whom the Lady can never fully interact, this book was thoroughly engaging. The language was descriptive and lush without becoming overwrought or melodramatic, the imagery is lovely right from the very first paragraph, and the overall story of the Lady of Shalott is entirely original. I loved it, especially tne end. It hit on all of my favorite genres in one, and was just a lovely way of revisiting one of my favorite and often overlooked Arthurian legends.
Most recent customer reviews
I went into this not knowing Tennyson’s Lady of Shalott, so I had no reference to...Read more