Cecily's book reviews

In general I've written reviews of every book I've read since I joined GoodReads (RIP) in May 08, along with one or two I read prior to that. More recent reviews tend to be longer (sometimes a tad too long?). I always carry a book, though I don't get as much time as I'd like to get engrossed - life is busy, but in a good way. Too many of my favourite authors died without writing enough! Apart from reading, and writing about reading, I enjoy Scrabble, good restaurants, woodland, and attending the theatre.
The King of Elfland's Daughter - Lord Dunsany, Neil Gaiman A beautifully-written, Edwardian faerie story for adults - not that there's any "adult" content, and were it published today, it would probably be classed as YA (despite some rather unpleasant hunting). However, it only gets 3*, as a reflection of my enjoyment of it; I prefer things a little darker, even though the moral is perhaps "Be careful what you wish for".

It is essentially a tale of young love across a cultural chasm (human Alveric and elfin Lirazel), the quest of Orion (not the Greek god), and features a witch, a faerie, elves, trolls, a magical sword, runes, unicorns and many other staples of the genre.

It is written in a florid style, lauding the beauty and harmony of the natural world ("the autumn-smitten garden"), and suggesting the ephemeral, not-quite-there nature of Elfland (the other side of "the rampart of twilight").

The poetic feel is emphasised by some recurring phrases, in particular the contrast between "the fields that we know" (the normal, non-magical world) and places "that may not be told of but in song" (Elfland).

Furthermore, the word "glamour" is often used in its archaic sense, to mean casting enchantment over something. I'm less sure what to make of the two references to the King of Elfland's tower having "brazen steps"!

Then, about half way through, the magic is suddenly broken when the author addresses the reader directly with comments about real history. It jarred.

I liked the ideas of how Elfland is occasionally but unconsciously perceivable by mortals:
"now lost to them but for dreams, a song of such memories as lurk and hide along the edges of oblivion, now flashing from beautiful years of glimpse of some golden moment, now passing swiftly out of remembrance again, to go back to the shades of oblivion, and leaving on the mind those faintest traces of little shining feet which when dimly perceived by us are called regrets."

Artists of all kinds are most receptive and "have had many a glimpse of that country, so that sometimes in pictures we see a glamour too wonderful for our fields; it is a memory of theirs that intruded from some old glimpse." Similarly, Elfland's "flowers and lawns, seen only by the furthest travelling fancies of poets in deepest sleep".

As well as being geographically abstract, Elfland exists, to some extent, outside time: time there passes V E R Y slowly in comparison with here. This is understandably disconcerting for the few who travel between the two realms. Coming to the fields that we know, "even the shadows of houses moved" as part of a "vortex of restlessness"


* "So strong lay the enchantment... that not only did beasts and men guess each other's meaning well, but there seemed to be an understanding even, that reached from men to trees and from trees to men."

* "a hare, who was lying in a comfortable arrangement of grass, in which he had intended to pass the time till he should have things to see to."

* "The glamour that brightens much of our lives, especially in the early years, comes from rumours that reach us from Elfland" and "all manner of little memories".

* "In a forest wherein it quieted the trembling of myriads of petals of roses, it stilled the pools where the great lilies towered, till they and their reflections slept on in one gorgeous dream. And there below motionless fronds of dream-gripped trees, on the still water dreaming of the still air, where the huge lily-leaves floated green in the calm, was the troll Lurulu, sitting on a leaf."

* "Little he knew of the things that ink may do, how it can mark a dead man's thought for the wonder of later years, and tell of happenings that are gone clean away, and be a voice for us out of the dark time, and save many a fragile thing from the pounding of heavy ages; or carry to us, over the rolling centuries, even a song from lips long dead on forgotten hills."

* Spring is "a mild benediction that blessed the very air and sought out all living things."

* "The hall that was built of moonlight, dreams, music and mirage."

And a dash of humour when a troll tells others about the world of men, "They listened spell-bound... and then, when he told of hats, there ran through the forest a wave of little yelps of laughter".

Currently reading

The Illustrated Gormenghast Trilogy
Sebastian Peake, China MiƩville, Mervyn Peake
Mervyn Peake