The Camelot Shadow by Sean Gibson

(The Camelot Shadow, #1)

“A chance to save her. Improbably, impossibly, inconceivably.”

Lord Alfred Fitzwilliam spends each day in much the same way: caring for his terminally ill wife and trying to lose himself in the dusty tomes that fill his library. Everything changes when he receives a visit from a man representing a clandestine organization operating with the backing of Queen Victoria herself. The group seeks his aid in finding an Arthurian artifact that, legend holds, can cure its bearer of any wound or disease.

Skeptical but desperate to help his wife, Alfred is convinced that the fabled item might actually exist after witnessing a seemingly impossible display of power by the organization's leader, James Nigel. He decides to pursue the treasure, accompanied by an eccentric scholar, a deadly druid, and his best friend, a sardonic bookseller who is far more than he seems. As he follows an arcane trail of clues from the gas-lit streets of London to the wilds of Scotland and deep into ancient catacombs in Italy, Alfred becomes enmeshed in a web of hidden agendas, secret societies, and ancient enchantments. Along the way, he learns a dark secret about Nigel’s past—and the true power of the artifact he seeks.

Steeped in a compelling mythology and filled with unexpected twists, The Camelot Shadow will leave readers stunned, breathless, and wrestling with an impossible question: what do you do with an object that has the power to both save the world and destroy it?

There’s always an automatic, free-pass-given brownie point bonus when the protagonist is a book lover, because – seriously - as a reader, reading stories about characters who obsess with books makes sense – especially when they have to use books in the adventure at hand.

The Camelot Shadow focuses on Lord Alfred Fitzwilliam, a man who not only loves reading, but who loves collecting valuable tomes (he blows me out of the running with that since I only indulge in cheap books.) The story is a historical Arthurian fantasy adventure type, something I have little experience with. It seems everyone in the world but me knows about King Arthur and tales surrounding, to the point where there is even a fantasy sub-division named about him.

Even though I know little about it, I found the subject interesting as it unraveled; it wasn’t too out there for me to grasp. There are a few hints and jabs in the wrong directions to leave the reader a few surprises, and the historical feel is one that slowly twists and reveals as you go through the motions with the main character. It’s multiple POV, yet thankfully the shift changes only when needed, staying mainly in Lord Alfred’s head.

Alfred was likeable – he was older, enjoyed keeping to himself, a sympathetic friend, intellectual type who remained humble. His best friend was a favorite of mine, the bookseller who had more up his sleeve than he was showing. The villain was creepy, unusual, and made even more interesting because of the other semi-villains he surrounded himself with. And Trusty John was just awesome, really, that’s all there is to say about him.

What made the book so enjoyable wasn’t so much the day old power-struggle of good and evil, but the political machinations that kept popping up in both the good and bad circles. Some people change face later, some hesitate, some follow because they’re misled, and others stay so loyal throughout that they fit the definition of fanaticism.

It’s a slower novel, which works since the plot is directed by scholarly types. Instead of getting an excitable, energetic adventurer, we get a man who can’t resist the lure of this mystery and the potential hope it holds for his wife. I loved Sean Gibson’s writing style - I think it fit the historical time period and this sort of adventure ideally.

The Camelot Shadow has layers of intrigue, some epic battles, intelligent twists, and characters who stand out and stand up. Recommended.

   Book Quotes:

“You cannot be in search of Excalibur…”
Well, we are not pursuing that particular item for one very simple reason.”
“And why, pray tell, might that be?”
Henry shrugged. “Because we’ve already found it.”