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Friday Flashback Review: The King of Elfland's Daughter by Lord Dunsany

Friday, February 17, 2012

Cover of The King of Elfland's Daughter by Lord Dunsany
3 Stars

The twelve men making up the parliament of Erl go to their ruler one day and ask for a magic lord. The ruler agrees to grant their request and sends his son to steal and marry the King of Elfland's daughter. But of course finding her and keeping her can't be that easy.

In the introduction to this edition, Neil Gaiman compares Lord Dunsany's writing to the King James Bible. I honestly wouldn't have thought of that, but the description is perfect. The language is beautiful, but, for me, dense and a little hard to wade through. I kept thinking of those old fairy tale books by Andrew Lang, like The Orange Fairy Book. As I remember it, those books had very little dialog and just describe the story happening. That's how this was. I also mentally compared it to a beautiful, old silent movie. You're watching this beautiful story unfold, but there's no dialog. I guess I like a lot of dialog.

As I read the book, I kept thinking of a phrase my yoga teacher uses: "like you're moving through honey." That's the pace at which this book moves: like you're moving through honey. I normally tear through books so I never quite got my mind slowed down enough to fully enjoy and understand this book. When I did manage it, for a couple of paragraphs at a time, I could see what all the fuss is about. But the rest of the time, I just wished we could get on with the story. That is, if I didn't fall asleep first.

By the end, Lirazel had gotten on my nerves. She wanted to have her cake and eat it too. Who doesn't, really? But asking her father to use his last all-powerful rune to give it to her just seemed whiny and self-absorbed to me. She was a very passive character generally, so I never cared for her much to begin with. The witch was much more interesting. I would have liked more about her.

If you like beautiful, slow-moving language, you'll probably like this one. If you're like me and like your stories to move along at a pretty fast pace, you'll probably want to take a pass.

Reviewed September 5, 2008

Buy The King of Elfland's Daughter at

Friday Flashback Reviews, a feature at The Introverted Reader
Friday Flashback Reviews are a weekly feature here on The Introverted Reader. These are old reviews I wrote on GoodReads. Thanks to Angieville and her Retro Friday Reviews for the inspiration and encouragement!
I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop's, my local independent bookstore located in beautiful downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site.

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