Columbine: You might be inclined seeing the over-title of the series, The Chronicles of Faerie, to think this is serious high fantasy, dealing with the succession of kings, great battles, courtly intrigue, all set in the deep past. Not at all. This is a much more homely tale; you might call it the story of a fairy game, maybe “catch me if you can” or “double or quits” – although there is a darker side, as is often the case with those Irish fairies, I believe. It relates to a frequent theme of Irish tales, the Rescue of Fairyland, in which a mortal always plays a major role.

Two sixteen-year-old cousins, one Irish, one American, set off on a trip in the latter-day Ireland of buses and Guinness to find “the hidden country”. As may happen, it finds them, and Findabhair is abducted by the dashing Fionvarra, King of Faerie. Her cousin Gwen sets off in pursuit following a clue dropped by a helpful shoemender… or is she being lured into danger? If so, she’s willing enough to go. She meets others along the way who also believe in fairies and are versed in fairy lore, and with their help manages to challenge tradition, though not without consequences.

The rich, even gorgeous descriptions truly capture the glamour, wildness and beauty of the Tuatha de Danaan. They may be made of moonshine and shadows: “They poured into the hollow like molten silver… Did they have wings? Or was that moonlight trailing behind them?”, ride recklessly across the Irish skies adrift in time, or be sumptuously clad at the fairy court: “There were flounces of silk and the sheen of satin, brocaded cloths stitched with gold-wrapped thread, rich dark velvets trimmed with pearls, and tasselled trails of lustrous damask.”

The fairy prince Midir gives a memorable account of the fairies’ magic or glamour: “The order of things is ours to play with. We can create a sun and a moon. The heavens we can sprinkle with radiant stars of the night. Wine we can make from the cold waters of the Boyne, sheep from stones, and swine from fern. On the mortal plane, life is a web of illusion. We weave what we wish.”

Advertisements