Thursday, 19 June 2008

Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones

Published 1985

I bought this book thinking I knew what to expect. A year or two ago I read an article which discussed it, along with Elidor by Alan Garner (one of my favourite books growing up), as examples of British myths retold with a contemporary setting. I can't find the article now, but I remember it left me with an impression of a re-telling, based on the Scottish ballads of Tam Lin and Thomas the Rhymer), that was as gritty as Garner's treatment of the Mabinogion. I was interested, but there was no sense of urgency about reading it, particularly since I couldn't find a copy for sale in the UK. The Once Upon a Time II Challenge, though, spurred me to search again and, this time, patience was rewarded and I found an affordable copy which was soon winging its way across the Atlantic (I can't imagine why it's so hard to get here).

And boy, was patience ever rewarded! Now, I readily admit to being an easy target (my second son was named for Tam Lin – a dangerous move, I realise in retrospect, you shouldn't dangle a tempting treat under Queen Mab's nose like that, and I once considered buying a dreadful house in Earlston simply because the town was the birthplace of Thomas the Rhymer) but I have found a book to enjoy re-reading for years to come.