Wednesday 2 February 2022

Shalott – Into the Unknown

Shalott – Into the Unknown by Felicity Pulman (Holmes House Press) PB ISBN: 9781922389602

Reviewed by Jeffery E Doherty

Shalott – Into the Unknown is the first book in Felicity Pulman’s new retelling of her earlier Shalott series, extensively re-written for a new generation. In her own words, “They’re now a lot more magical, although they’re essentially the same story.” And the book is certainly magical.

“The Lady of Shalott” by John William Waterhouse (1888) is one of my favourite paintings. It took my breath away, and I have a print hanging on the wall in my office. It is obvious that the poem by Tennison (the inspiration for the painting) has deeply affected Pulman as much as it did Waterhouse, as well as Cassie, the main protagonist in the story. Cassie’s quest is to change the fate of the Lady of Shalott, saving her along with King Arthur and the knights of the Round Table.

The book has a Narnia feel about it. Although this was all supposed to happen in a computer program, Cassie, and a group of four other teenagers are transported to the magical kingdom of Camelot. What Cassie, her twin sister El, their friend Meg, and two boys, Stephen, and Lev (who they barely know) discover in this fantastical medieval world challenges everything they believe. Their story intertwines with the characters from Arthurian legend, King Arthur himself, the tragic lovers Lancelot and Guinevere, Mordred, and the ambitious Morgan le Fay.

Pulman has woven a tale of intrigue and courage, with a cast of interesting characters. The teens are all complex and wonderfully flawed. Their lives are fleshed out and deftly developed during their attempts to help Cassie complete her quest, and to discover a way to transport themselves home.

This is a delightfully imaginative story mixing Arthurian legend with modern day technology. This book will appeal to both girls and boys, teens, and young adults, especially fans of historical fiction.


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