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The theme of this post is Thomas the Rhymer/Tam Lin.

Thomas the Rhymer (Ellen Kushner)

It took me a while to get into this version of Thomas the Rhymer. The story is told in four voices: the voice of an old man who takes Thomas in almost as his own son, Gavin; the voice of Thomas himself; the voice of Gavin's wife, Meg; and the voice of the mortal woman who loves Thomas, Elspeth. The part in Gavin's voice didn't grip me so much, but when I came to Thomas's part, I could barely put the book down. It's not full of action, and Elspeth doesn't play a part in Thomas coming back from Faerieland. Instead, it's full of emotion, which builds right through the story until the final line -- so innocuous on its own -- makes my heart ache. Without saying any more about it, I love the end.

There are some beautiful passages in the book, and some smaller lovely stories -- the story of the dove, for one, and the story of Thomas' invisible servant, for another. And some of the characters are really wonderful, particularly saucy Elspeth.

It's an interesting take on the story of True Thomas, Thomas the Rhymer, and I'm glad I kept on with it, after not really getting into Gavin's part of the story. I thought it was rather magical, really.

Winter Rose (Patricia A. McKillip)

Winter Rose is written in a very lyrical style, but on reflection, not much really seems to happen. I quite enjoyed the style, but in the end, I can't really think of much substance to it. It was a bit Goblin Market-esque, I suppose, with the two sisters, and one pining away, and the other doing all she could to make things better... And of course, there was the story of Tam Lin. But I got a bit confused with who was related to who and how -- at one point I thought Corbet's father was also Rois' father, somehow...

It was also a bit of a slow read, despite being so short -- there wasn't much to push one on with the plot, and so much of it was dream sequences, or the same worrying, over and over, about Laurel wasting away as their mother did. And the end was a bit indeterminate.

So all in all, I'm not really sure what to think of it, even after several hours of pottering around doing other things. I definitely wasn't wildly in love, but there were parts of it I loved.

An Earthly Knight (Janet McNoughton)

An Earthly Knight is based both on the story of Tam Lin, and on the aftermath of the story in a ballad (or, well, a group of ballads) called 'Lady Isabel and the Elf Knight'. It's interesting how it weaves those two stories together, and also pulls in the threads of historical fiction. I don't know how accurate the historical fiction aspect of it is, given that it's totally not my area of history, but it seemed reasonably believable for the period, and it didn't feel like it was too info-dumpy -- except perhaps when it came to the part about jousting. If I want to read about the ins and outs of jousting, I'd be reading Sir Thomas Malory or suchlike.

Anyway, I enjoyed the story quite a lot. I read it in three chunks, interspersed with a mission that's frustrating me on Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood -- I'd happily have read it in one go, if I hadn't been trying to get full synchronisation on that damn mission (Hell On Wheels, if anyone's curious -- one of Leonardo's war machine missions). It wasn't the most in depth version in the world, but it was very easy to read, and the characters were, if not exactly all fully fleshed out, at least believable. Jenny in particular, given her conflicted feelings and her tendency to act out. She seemed like a spoiled brat at times, which, well, she kind of was.

It did seem to resolve very easily. The first two hundred pages felt like set-up, and then the last sixty pages hardly seemed enough to resolve everything. They did, at least reasonably well, but I felt like it came too easily, somehow...

Still, glad to read it -- although I don't think I'd reread it.


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October 2013

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