‘The King of Elfland’s Daughter’ by Lord Dunsany

Mount Readmore Book Review 2018, 131/200


eBook Edition

Finished on 9/1/2018


Genres: Fairy Tale, Fantasy, Fantasy Classic

A Glorious Classic

Spoiler-ific review

Highly Recommended. This is a fantasy classic, and is a huge influence on the genre to this day even if very few people still read it. This book’s prose is worth the price of admission on it’s own. The author’s prose is genuine, whimsical and hopeful- a contrast to the average prose used today.

I liked this story a lot. Originally published in 1924, this is one of a very few Fantasy Books which existed prior to the Lord of the Rings. I sought it out, hoping to learn more about the early days of our genre.

If I were to compare this book to others, I would compare the narrative voice to Tolkien, the dreamy style to Patricia A. McKillip, and the mouthfeel to Susana Clarke’s JONATHAN STRANGE AND MR NORRELL. The book reads fantastically; it’s prose is it’s strongest aspect, both rich and lush as well as authentically ‘old fashioned.’

Now for some constructive criticism.

This book was written well before modern conventions of plot, pacing and characterization were all hammered out. The characters are all stereotypes. The pacing is super-duper uneven. The plot doesn’t conform to anything close to the 3Act structure, or ‘Save the Cat’, or the 7Act structure, or the ‘Hero’s Journey’ or anything else I’m aware of. This made the book difficult to read.

Pacing: It wasn’t boring exactly, but it was as far from being a page turner as it is possible to be while still being entertaining. This is a difficult novel which needs to be savored.

Plot: The story doesn’t have one, strong plot arc. This book’s plot is scattered, telling a story over several decades about several events and character arcs. I felt this weakened the plot overall, because none of the various plot arcs were super enthralling. I wish the author put more oomph into just one of the plots instead of writing four or five smaller subplots.

Characters: Similar to McKillip’s fairy tales, this fairy tale features characters who are more archetypes than people. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I like to have some distinctiveness even in my fairy tale characters. Lirazel, the Faerie Princess, in particular seemed to lack any personality whatsoever, and served the story as a prize moreso than a person.

Net total this is a very good book which is a cornerstone of the genre. You just need the patience to deal with it’s old-timey faults.


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