The Camelot Shadow by Sean Gibson

“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 purse 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?

Amazon | goodreads

My Review

The Camelot Shadow is quite unlike Sean Gibson’s other books that I have read. For a start it is not a comedy, but rather a thriller set in Victorian times with all of the mannered dialog that is normal in such period pieces. 

There is a mystery to be solved which requires a quest for a powerful item of Arthurian lore. The scabbard in which Excalibur resided is said to have magical healing properties and our main protagonist, Lord Alfred Fitzwilliam, an aging scholar of Arthurian texts, has a wife who is seriously ill with consumption. There follows a race to find the artifact with clues as to its whereabouts coming to light along the way. A shady organization of druids exists who also want the scabbard and a mysterious character who says his name is Mr Nigel is eager to get his hands on it via fair means or foul. 

There are secret passageways, clandestine meetings, a train journey across Europe, fights and murders – which make for an exciting story – but the excitement doesn’t really kick in until around halfway through the book. Up to that point I found the pace a little slow and was confused by the many male characters. 

Once the pace picked up around the hunt for the scabbard, I found I was enjoying the story more:

“Having held the scabbard, you still doubt that magic might be real?” Will shook his head. “Call it what you will, there are forces in the world that we cannot yet explain with science. Since joining the order, I have seen far too much that defies logic and the known laws of the universe to have any doubt that the man who seeks the scabbard is the very man who gave it to King Arthur in the first place.”

The intriguing character of Mr Nigel was another mystery which piqued my interest and I enjoyed the madcap character of Henry Milner with his obsession with certain days of the week. The Camelot Shadow was an enjoyable read and I recommend it  to readers who are interested in Arthurian lore, with mystery and magic thrown in for good measure. There is even a fair amount of gothic horror.

About the Author

Sean Gibson, “author” and slackonteur, is not a professional mini biography writer (if he were, this would be much more compelling). Instead, he’s a business professional by day, hangs out with his amazing wife, son, and daughter by night, and writes somewhere in between. He holds a BA in English Literature from Ohio Wesleyan University and an MBA from the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University, though rumors persist that he also attended mime school (he is silent on the subject). Sean is a fan of sports teams from Detroit, a distressingly large number of bands that rose to prominence in the 1980s, and writing in the third person. He currently resides in Northern Virginia, and, given how much he hates moving, and given that his house has an awesome library, is likely to remain there for some time.

Sean is the author of several stories starring Heloise the Bard, including The Part About the Dragon Was (Mostly) True (which Publishers Weekly drunkenly gave a starred review), “You Just Can’t Hide from Chriskahzaa,” and The Chronicle of Heloise & Grimple. He also wrote the Victorian-set fantasy thriller The Camelot Shadow and its prequel short, “The Strange Task Before Me.” He has written extensively for Kirkus Reviews, and his book reviews have also appeared in Esquire.

You can follow him on Twitter at @Gibknight, but is that really how you want to spend your precious years of life?

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