A masterpiece of fantasy literature that shaped the high fantasy genre and influenced such authors as J. R. R. Tolkien and H. P. Lovecraft
After 700 years of being ruled by man, the Parliament of Erl is ready to be ruled by a magical lord. Obeying the immemorial custom, the lord of Erl sends his son Alveric to fetch the King of Elfland’s daughter, Lirazel, to be his bride. Alveric makes his way to Elfland, where time passes at a rate far slower than the real world, wins her hand, and they return to Erl together.
Alveric and Lirazel marry and have a son, but marriage between a mortal and a fairy princess is never simple. Lirazel struggles to adapt to the customs of humans. Torn between two worlds, Lirazel must decide whether to return to her home and live forever, or remain in Erl with her husband and son, doomed to die a mortal death. Meanwhile, the King of Elfland, missing his daughter greatly and fearing her demise, must utilize his limited sources of magic in order to get her back.
The King of Elfland’s Daughter is a love story for the ages and a fairy tale in the truest sense of the word. First published in 1924, it remains one of the most beloved novels of the genre.
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- Josh Angel
Brilliant at times, but disjointed. Great narrator
(No Spoilers) As an important early work of Fantasy, I decided to read this book as part of a challenge I made to myself to read all of the “Classics” of the genre.
The prose used by the author is at times quite lovely, although some phrases are repeated often enough to be irksome, such as “the fields we know” when referencing the human world. However, overall I'd say the prose is often brilliant and beautiful, and the strongest feature of the book by far.
The story, while simplistic in nature, is heavily steeped in "soft" magic. This was something I’d not realized I’d been missing prior to reading this book. Most works in the Fantasy genre these days have scant magic, or magic so well defined they are treated more as science, with well defined abilities and limitations aka "hard magic". This book uses magic liberally and without explanation, lending it a tone somewhere between Epic Fantasy and a Fairytale.
This book shares common DNA with Lord of the Rings, despite being published some 30 years before Fellowship of the Ring. Here you’ll find elven maidens of unearthly beauty who worship the stars (or the reflections of stars in pools of water) and whose immortality and connection to the earth render them alien to normal humans.
That being said, this is no Lord of the Rings...
The overall plot is meandering, and at many points... just plain boring. There are long and pointless descriptions of pigeons, unicorns, and hunting dogs. And how hunting dogs hunt unicorns. And trolls. And how trolls hunt unicorns. Then dogs and trolls team up to hunt unicorns.
Also, something about Will-o-the-Wisps that went on way too long.
When the book is focused on the story of the actual King of Elflands daughter it was interesting, but from there the plot is a mess, jumping from character to character, with no clear focus or direction.
This was a trailblazing early work in a genre that didn’t exist at the time of its publication, and as such deserving of immense respect. Many of the tropes used here go on to become cornerstones of the genre.
That being said, this has not aged well, and lacks the narrative structure to to be a truly satisfying Fantasy novel. I am glad I read it, but would only recommend it to others that want to read it for its historical value - not for an entertaining Fantasy story.
NOTE: I listened to the audiobook version, narrated by Stefan Rudnicki, whose deep bass tones lent a fine level of dignity to the book, which I enjoyed quite a bit.
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