Monday, August 22, 2011

Book Review: Song of the Sparrow by Lisa Ann Sandell

Song of the Sparrow by Lisa Ann Sandell
Release Date: May 1, 2007
Publisher: Scholastic
Pages: 416
Received: Purchased copy
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Goodreads Page


From Goodreads:

The year is 490 AD. Fiery 16-year-old Elaine of Ascolat, the daughter of one of King Arthur's supporters, lives with her father on Arthur's base camp, the sole girl in a militaristic world of men. Elaine's only girl companion is the mysterious Morgan, Arthur's older sister, but Elaine cannot tell Morgan her deepest secret: She is in love with Lancelot, Arthur's second-in-command. However, when yet another girl -- the lovely Gwynivere-- joins their world, Elaine is confronted with startling emotions of jealousy and rivalry. But can her love for Lancelot survive the birth of an empire?


I don’t like verse novels

I should say right off the bat, I really dislike poetry. This is one of those "Smart Points" I should lie about and say I totally love poetry, right? Oh well. Abstract poetry annoys me. I can tolerate the poems that tell stories, but I always end up wishing they had been written as a novel or short story instead. So verse novels? Not my thing at all.

If I’m going to read a verse novel, there has to be something really compelling about it. In this case, it was the combination of Arthurian retelling and that beautiful cover. I’m a sucker for both of those things.

Mixed feelings

As far as verse novels go, I liked this one well enough. It wasn’t overly poetic at all. It was actually very literal and sort of like a novel that was printed funny. I’m not sure how fans of verse novels would like this approach, but I appreciated it. I tried to ignore the strange line breaks and read it straight through. Approaching it like that, it was almost like reading a regular novel.

I think I was able to connect with the characters as well as would be possible for me reading a verse novel. I didn’t connect anywhere near as well as I would have with a great novel, but I wasn’t expecting that. I wasn’t even expecting to connect with them as well as I did, so ultimately I was pleasantly surprised.

The story was good, but if you’re a stickler for Arthurian retellings adhering to the legend, well, you’re going to be disappointed. It’s very different. I was torn on the author’s approach. On one hand I’m stomping my feet and petulantly crying, “NO! THAT’S NOT WHAT HAPPENS AT ALL!!”

But…on the other hand, I like the story she told. I like the way the author re-imagined the characters. I liked the ending she created. I liked the romantic pairings. I liked the events. I just liked the whole story (even though it was wrong).


The book wasn’t life-changing and I’m not sure how well I’ll remember it in years to come, but overall I liked it. I had a good experience that surpassed my, admittedly low, expectations. I would probably re-read it again at some point. If you’re like me and verse novels aren’t really your thing, then this might be a good book to start with.

Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 


  1. Yep, I hate verse novels but I read it for the Overlooked Book Battle and because of the verse, I was able to fly through it. A novel of that page length would have taken much longer.

  2. Aww, I'm sorry you didn't like it more but I totally get you on verse novels.

    I love this one but I definitely stay away from others... they are just not my thing.

    And I do remember that, the first time I read it, I wished that it was a regular novel more than once.


  3. I'm not a fan of verse novels at all. Even ones like this that aren't terribly poetic. Maybe one day I'll grow up and come to like them... doubt it.

  4. I don't tend to read verse novels. The cover is quite beautiful.

  5. I really adore verse books when they are well written. I think a good verse novel should feel like a normal structured. I will have to get my hands on this. Thanks for the review Small :)

  6. I don't like verse novels either. I've read one or two that I thought was worthwhile though. Like you, it has to be really good for me to get attached to the characters and plot. The problem with verse is that the characters hold themselves back. You have to break through a barrier to get to know them.

  7. Bookworm1858, That is one benefit to verse novels--the length is much less than it seems. I felt deceptive using it as one of my 350 Page+ challenge books :P

    Alex, Yup, I would have loved it so much more if it were a regular novel, I think. Still, I enjoyed it.

    Aylee, Ha, I don't think I'll ever "grow up" and start to love them :)

    Alexis, Me neither. I'm with you on the cover :)

    Nic, I hope you like it! I'm curious to see how someone who does like verse novels will like the structure of this one.

    Alison, Yes, exactly! I'm such a character reader and you're totally right in that verse novels have the characters holding themselves back. I'm so glad you said that! You put my feelings into tangible words.

  8. I actually haven't ever read a verse novel, I'm not sure there for me. Like you, I struggle to get into poetry and even though this one reads more like a novel I still think it would be difficult for me to make my way through. I do so love the Arthurian legend though, so I would be interested in reading the author's take!

  9. I think I remember reading this back when it came out and feeling similar. I'm not a fan of verse novels, either, but I do like Arthurian tales. Thanks for sharing your thoughts! :)
    - Lauren

  10. I still haven't read a (modern) verse novel. I am also not sure how I feel about an author completely changing Sorry I'm a stickler!

    It sounds interesting, but I might think twice about this book, maybe scope it out more. Thanks for sharing your thoughts though! :)

  11. I have never read a novel in verse though I like poetry and even write some myself. You should check out my Red Headed Demon, but it was not about you! But, I do not think I'd like a novel in verse. I've shied away from novels written in verse just b/c they were written in verse. And changing up the Arthurian legends, I can't see me liking that. That was the ultimate love triangle and it has to stay that way for me. Wasn't that part of what led to the downfall of Camelot? Glad you read it Small and I do agree the cover is lovely!


  12. I haven't read a verse novel (that I can think of) so I don't know if I would like it. I like some poetry, but anything too weird is a no-no for me.

    I'll probably give this a miss.

  13. *spit take*

    You certainly know how to open a review! I know how hard it can be to support a story that isn't told in your preferred narrative style. I haven't read any verse books yet, and I think it's because I'm afraid I won't be a fan either.

    This one is probably not for me, but I appreciated reading your thoughts on it. :)

  14. I'm not a verse novel fan either so I'll probably skip this one. The only verse novels I tend to read these days are by Lisa Schroeder.

  15. I have this one on my tbr pile only because I absolutely adore the Lady of Shalotte poem. I had no idea that it was a novel in verse! What's funny is that I don't mind the format because I don't really like Arthurian stories. There's something about how they define romance just rubs me the wrong way. Thanks for a well written review!

  16. Jenny, Hm, this might be a good place for you to try a verse novel then. It felt like "verse novels for people who don't like verse novels" :)

    Lauren, Thanks for your comment!

    Book Geek, Haha, if you're a big stickler then you'd be SO annoyed. Everything is changed. I liked the changes, but I had to try to forget that these were Arthurian characters.

    Heather, You would be very disappointed with the changes then, I think. They're pretty dramatic (though the Gwen/Arthur/Lancelot one is still there, I'm pretty sure--bad memory).

    Logan, huh, for some reason I can totally see you as a verse novel reader. Maybe it's because I think of you as an adventurous reader with all your graphic novel explorations :)

    Missie, ha, that opening is a little blunt and cynical, huh? :P

    A Canadian Girl, I've heard Lisa Schroeder's verse novels mentioned a lot. It seems like she's tops in the genre.

    Rummanah Aasi, You might like this one then! It changes around the romantic pairs a lot and I liked a few of the author's points about the romances.

  17. You are a braver woman than I am. I don't like verse books AND I won't even consider reading them.

    I'm glad you tried this one, but I'm sure I'm going to pass on this one. Its just not my style.

  18. Agreed, 100%. Couldn't have said it better. ;)


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