Columbine: The second of the Chronicles of Faerie spends less time with the Fairy Court, or the Gentry, as they are called here, who appeared in The Hunter’s Moon. At second hand we find out that Midir, now the High King of Faerie, is seeking a human champion. His first choice, Honor, died falling from a cliff, and the action of the book starts a year later when her twin, Laurel, is enlisted to take her place.

Laurel is a sceptical hearty girl and merely tolerated her gentle sister’s belief in fairies, but when she encounters the clurichaun, a cheerful member of the leprechaun clan, he advises her : “Act as if ye believe and see what happens.” He says he is one of the Fir Dhearga, the Red People, sent by the High King. Hearing that her sister is caught in “a quare place” (that’s her on the cover) and hoping to save her, Laurel accepts the mission: to find the Summer King, who alone can light the beacon on Hy Brasil to initiate the Ring of the Sun which will pour light and power into the troubled heart of Faerie.

Laurel’s encounters with the ‘lesser’ Irish folk are alarming. On her journey she is accosted by a frightening bird-man – “It was the eyes that truly terrified her. Pure black and rimmed with gold coronas, they burned with a feral intensity” – one of the Fir-Fia-Caw and not the last she will see. She is charmed but rather overwhelmed by some mischievous sprites: “She was surrounded by whorls and tinsels of light – glittering golds and greens, frilly pinks and blues. A burst of miniature fireworks! And inside the lights flashed limbs, veined wings, and streaming tresses.” And she barely escapes with her life from the Folk of the Sea, the boctogai who live in caves by the sea shore. These sea fairies are described as amorphous and mercurial, changing shape and size at will, all the colours of water. They seem to be having a wild party and welcome Laurel at first, but turn on her when she mentions the Summer King.

Eventually there is a great fairy battle to attain Hy Brasil, with a ghost pirate ship weighing in. Grand stuff. And Laurel learns the truth of the many warnings she has received about being misled by tricksters. She doesn’t get what she hope for, but there are compensations.

Robin: This and the previous book echo an old strange belief about Faerie – that it is one aspect of the Afterlife, though unusually it is not just a matter of having to die in the human world to live afterwards in Faerie, but vice versa. There is an interesting parallel with another book about Irish fairies, Wild Blood, when Laurel insists her friend remain in the human world, saying: “You were born into this world. It’s your duty to live here.”

The first book of the Chronicles of Faerie is The Hunter’s Moon. Other books in the series are The Light-Bearer’s Daughter and The Book of Dreams – the latter explores the fairy lore of Canada.

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