Review – The King of Elfland’s Daughter

Cover of The King of Elfland's Daughter by Lord DunsanyThe King of Elfland’s Daughter, Lord Dunsany

I can’t really understand people disliking this book. Well, no, I can: the language is olde worlde, the phrase ‘the fields we know’ is used far too many times, it’s more of a fairytale like story than modern fantasy, though it’s sold as being one of the defining moments for the genre, and if you’re looking at it from a modern point of view, the characters and their motivations are hopelessly unsatisfying.

I thought the language was beautiful, though: Dunsany struck just the right note for me, and for the most part I liked his turns of phrase. Even the repeated ‘the fields we know’ phrase and others like it hark back to ‘rosy-fingered Dawn’ and other such epithets in Greek epics. I love fairytales, and I think Dunsany’s mimesis here is pretty darn good. I can see how it influenced modern fantasy, and if you expect satisfying characters and development in a fairytale-esque story then… I’m not sure what you’re after. Modern updates of the stories often inject that kind of thing, but it’s not there originally.

Seriously, this book is just gorgeous, in my opinion. I wanted to wrap myself up in it, read some passages again and again, and I did actually genuinely feel the tension of how it would all be resolved. I loved the ending, the descriptions of Lirazel coming back to meet her son and husband. I loved the little asides, like the mischievous trolls.

So, so glad I finally read this.

Rating: 5/5

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