The King of Elfland’s Daughter by Lord Dunsany

Title: The King of Elfland’s Daughter
Author: Lord Dunsany
Date Added: June 16, 2016
Date Started: May 16, 2018
Date Finished: June 15, 2018
Genre: Classic, Fantasy/High Fantasy, Fairy Tale

The King of Elfland's Daughter coverPages: 203
Publication Date: 1924
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services LLC
Media: eBook/Kindle

The poetic style and sweeping grandeur of The King of Elfland’s Daughter has made it one of the most beloved fantasy novels of our time, a masterpiece that influenced some of the greatest contemporary fantasists. The heartbreaking story of a marriage between a mortal man and an elf princess is a masterful tapestry of the fairy tale following the “happily ever after.”

Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett, 18th Baron of Dunsany was considered one of the greatest writers in the English speaking world during the 1910’s.  More than 90 of his works were published in his lifetime, but today he’s best known for The King of Elfland’s Daughter, a novel that explores life after the “happily ever after.”

The lord of Erl is told by a parliament of his people that they want to be ruled by a magic lord so that their land could go down in history, so the lord sends his son Alveric to fetch the titular fairy princess, Lirazel, who goes with him willingly.  As time passes slower in in the fey lands than they do in the real world, Alveric returns many years later to discover he has inherited the lordship after his father’s death.  Alveric and Lirazel have a son, Orion, and Lirazel tries to adapt to a mundane life, while still keeping some of her fae traditions.  Alveric; however, discourages this and admonishes her for her “un-Christian” ways.  He tries to make her less fae and more like the court ladies, but she is what she is.  Eventually, Lirazel uses the rune her father gave her, returning to him in Elfland.  Lovesick Alveric goes after her, leaving their son to be raised by his witch nursemaid.  Abandoning his kingdom for the hopeless quest, Alveric is eventually betrayed by his own men who hold him hostage and keep him from Elfland out of their own jealousy.  Meanwhile, Lirazel becomes lonesome for her mortal husband and son, and, seeing she’s unhappy, the king of Elfland uses up the rest of his runes to engulf the land of Erl, transforming it into a part of Elfland and bringing about half the wishes of the old men who wanted Erl to have a magic lord, but as the land passed out of the human history due to this act, no one in the mundane world would ever remember it or know.

This was…interesting, oddly interesting though the writing was so dry and plodding (a common “complaint” of classics).  You are still drawn into how it all will end.  Will Alveric find Elfland?  Will Orion heed the call of its horns?  Will Lirazel return of her own accord?  The story is a literal classic “Be careful what you wish for” tale with the elders of Erl wishing for a magic lord so that Erl would be remembered for its greatness, but in obtaining their desire, they lost what they hoped to gain from it.  Erl passed out of all living memory in its absorption by Elfland.  To this end, as well, all of the years of Alveric’s searching are washed away as Elfland finds him instead of the inverse.

The King of Elfland’s Daughter was incredibly hard to read at times.  If Soulless was endowed with dry humor, this novel was just dry.  The text functions more as poetry in the language used, as well as in how it repeats.  Dunsany frequently mentions “the fields we know” and “the fields we don’t know” to reference earth and Elfland respectively.  It’s not annoying, but the prose has a winding way about it that can be hard to follow if you’re not paying attention.  The value of this novel comes more from the foundation it laid in showing the modern subversion “happily ever after” is older than I thought.  The happy ending occurs in the first two chapters where the rest of the book is dedicated to the aftermath.  It’s the difference between conquering a kingdom and ruling one, which is not my most feminist metaphor, but it serves to show how enamoring a princess isn’t the same as maintaining a relationship.  Since this was published in 1924, over a decade before Disney’s release of Snow White (1938), Elfland proves that subversion of fairy tale tropes predates the mouse’s co-opting of them.

This is worth exploring for the sake of education, research, or posterity, but I wouldn’t recommend it to the casual reader.

4 stars.

All’s Well That End’s Well by William Shakespeare (DNF)

Title: All’s Well That End’s Well
Author: William Shakespeare
Date Added: September 15, 2017
Date Started: January 26, 2018
Date DNF: March 3, 2018
Genre: Play, Classic, Drama

All's Well That End's Well coverPages: 336
Publication Date: 1602
Publisher: Latus ePublishing
Media: eBook/Kindle

Helena, a ward of the Countess of Rousillion, falls in love with the Countess’s son, Bertram. Daughter of a famous doctor, and a skilled physician in her own right, Helena cures the King of France-who feared he was dying-and he grants her Bertram’s hand as a reward. Bertram, however, offended by the inequality of the marriage, sets off for war, swearing he will not live with his wife until she can present him with a son, and with his own ring-two tasks which he believes impossible. However with the aid of a bed trick, Helena fulfils his tasks, Bertram realises the error of his ways, and they are reconciled.

This was the first play I finished in my goal to read/reread all of the Bard’s plays.  I didn’t finish it because it annoyed me, but apparently I also didn’t review it either, which is odd, since I usually still review literature I DNF.

Bertram, the son of a countess, is a snobbish ass and Helena, the low-born ward of the same countess, could do so much better.  He refuses her marriage offer even after the king of France says he’ll fix any title issues Bertram has with the union, which seems to be the only problem: he doesn’t want to marry below his station.  Helena has fulfilled her promise to the French monarch in healing him, and the king has the power to raise her beyond her “low breeding as a physician’s daughter,” which is (ironically for that judgment) the reason she was able to cure him in the first place!  Granted, at this point in history, doctors weren’t looked up in high regard, so this assessment wasn’t inaccurate.  If this is Bertram’s only reason for not wishing to wed Helena, it’s a poor one at that.  Obviously, no one should be compelled to marry against their will, regardless the cause, and that’s exactly what the king forces Bertram to do.  While he weds her, he doesn’t bed her, instead sending his unwanted bride back to his estate and informing his mother how much he hates her.

Excuse me what the fuck meme with very wiggly, grey guyI became bored with the story at this point and decided to DNF it, but thanks to the internet I know what else happens, and yes, it is twisted.

Continue reading

The Metamorphosis and Other Stories by Franz Kafka

Title: The Metamorphosis and Other Stories
Author: Franz Kafka
Date Added: June 12, 2017
Date Started: September 14, 2017
Date Finished: December 1, 2017
Reading Duration: 78 days
Genre: Fiction, Classical Literature, Satire, Short Story

The Metamorphosis and Other Stories coverPages: 224
Publisher: Barnes and Noble Classics
Publication Date: July 1, 2003 (first published 1915)
Media: Paperback

Virtually unknown during his lifetime, Franz Kafka is now one of the world’s most widely read and discussed authors. His nightmarish novels and short stories have come to symbolize modern man’s anxiety and alienation in a bizarre, hostile, and dehumanized world. This vision is most fully realized in Kafka’s masterpiece, “The Metamorphosis,” a story that is both harrowing and amusing, and a landmark of modern literature. 

Bringing together some of Kafka’s finest work, this collection demonstrates the richness and variety of the author’s artistry. “The Judgment,” which Kafka considered to be his decisive breakthrough, and “The Stoker,” which became the first chapter of his novel Amerika, are here included. These two, along with “The Metamorphosis,” form a suite of stories Kafka referred to as “The Sons,” and they collectively present a devastating portrait of the modern family.

Also included are “In the Penal Colony,” a story of a torture machine and its operators and victims, and “A Hunger Artist,” about the absurdity of an artist trying to communicate with a misunderstanding public. Kafka’s lucid, succinct writing chronicles the labyrinthine complexities, the futility-laden horror, and the stifling oppressiveness that permeate his vision of modern life.

This is going to be more of an analysis than a review due to the classic nature of the work.  Spoilers will not be marked.

Most writers write about themselves.  It is both an inherently selfish and selfless act.  To speak too much of oneself is narcissistic, but to share that self with the world in the hopes someone might understand upon reflection requires a vulnerability most narcissists cannot bear.

Franz Kafka’s works were greatly influenced by his relationship with his father, Hermann Kafka, who is described as “authoritative and demanding.”  We’re introduced to this paradigm in “The Metamorphosis,” and it manifests even more in “The Judgment.”

Kafka’s writing is brilliant in its absurdity.  While ridiculous and surreal things happen to his characters, the author’s message is far from it.  He uses the absurd to speak of the profound beginning with “The Metamorphosis,” where the main character Gregor awakens one morning to discover he’s been transformed into a gigantic bug.  It’s interesting to note that Kafka never wanted any depictions of the creature, because its appearance didn’t matter.  It was a “gigantic vermin” that poor Gregor had the ill luck to now be.  He’s confined to his room and often fed by pushing sustenance beneath the door.  The sister or the mother would sometimes and warily venture in to clean, and Gregor usually hid himself to not terrify them.  He is unable to speak, no longer possessing a human mouth, though his mental faculties remained the same.

Continue reading

The State of the Reader: 1/4/17

<–The State of the Reader: 12/28/16          The State of the Reader: 1/11/17–>

A weekly post updated every Wednesday detailing my current reading projects and where I am with them in addition to what new titles I’ve added to my to-read list.  Title links go to Goodreads to make it easier for interested parties to add any books that might strike their fancy.  I attempt to use the covers for the edition I’m reading, and I’ll mention if this is not the case.  If you have a Goodreads account feel free to friend me!  I’d love to see what you’re reading and/or planning to read.

Books Currently Reading: 4

Title: The Mabinogion Tetralogy
Author: Evangeline Walton
Date Added: August 24, 2014
Date Started: July 31, 2016

Medium: Paperback
Progress: 48%

I’m pretty sure I read a bit of this this week, but not enough to move the percentage needle.  I’m currently at a part where the greatest concern seems to be a false king and a secret paternity.  The prince of the new tribes believes his father to be one man, but he’s actually someone else, and this particular individual (along with the prince) is one of seven survivors of the Welsh’s war with the Irish.  Intriguing much.

Title: A Court of Thorns and Roses
Series Title: A Court of Thorns and Roses
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Date Added: June 15, 2016
Date Started: November 20, 2016

Media: Paperback
Progress: 61%

You know it’s bad when the first sex scene between the characters does nothing for you, and their parting doesn’t move your heart one bit.  I don’t feel too bad giving this away, since it’s a general staple of romance narratives.  They fuck and they part, though not necessarily in that order in every narrative.  My biggest issue with this story is how abruptly Feyre and Tamlin fell in love.  It went from her having no interest in him to being head over heels for the High Lord.  There was little to no progression in the feeling, nor was any attraction painting prior to Chapter 18.  The one good thing I can say about this (and it’s kind of selfish but…) is I’m going to be extra diligent about such a paradigm when I reedit my own paranormal romance.  My biggest fear with stories like that is the romance doesn’t seem authentic, and that’s the problem I’m running into here, because there wasn’t adequate build up in the beginning.  I’m more than halfway through and still curious about what’s causing the blight.  The dialogue is at least well written and fairly witty, so there’s that to its credit.

Title: The Raven Boys
Series Title: The Raven Cycle
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Date Added: April 21, 2015
Date Started: January 1, 2016

Media: Kindle
Progress: 10%

I received a Kindle Fire for Christmas from my in-laws, and I absolutely adore it.  I was looking into purchasing one myself, since they’re only around $50, which is more than fair for a tablet.  I don’t see the need to drop $300-$500 on an iPad, when I’m really just paying for the name.  The Fire has 16G of space, and I’ve been using it to read and watch Let’s Plays on YouTube.  I downloaded a few apps as well, and may get one of those games you can play with your cat, because I’m that kind of person.

I prefaced with this because the KF is how I’m reading the above book, and I absolutely love it.  The main character Blue is a non-psychic in a family of female clairvoyants, but she’s always brought to a churchyard every year with her mother as the soon-to-be-dead march past.  She’s apparently an amplifier, even though she can’t see them herself. Well that changes (of course) this year when Maura (Blue’s mom) is replaced by Neeve, Blue’s aunt.  Blue sees a dying boy named Gansey who goes to the rich kid’s school in their town of Henrietta.  She usually stays away from them, but of course now the young woman is drawn into their world.

I’ve always been a fan of Ms. Steifvater’s writing ever since I read the first few chapters of Shiver.  It was a gift for a friend so I was never able to finish it (it, too, is on my extensive list).  The instant I read the sample for this, I knew I’d have to download it, and since I’ve taken to reading a chapter (or more) on my lunch break, I’m certain I’ll finish soon.

Title: The Illustrated A Brief History of Time/The Universe in a Nutshell
Author: Stephen Hawking
Date Added: June 25, 2016
Date Started: January 2, 2016

Media: Paperback
Progress: 8%

Lately to escape how terrible things are (and going to be) down here on Earth, I’ve been watching/listening to YouTube videos about quantum physics, astrophysics, dark matter, dark energy, the origin of the universe, neutron stars, the end of everything, and the like.  It makes my brain waves flutter especially when I consider eternity and the fact that nothing really matters (but ironically within that everything does).  While I erroneously think I’m smart enough to study such things, I at least know I need a remedial crash course, and Mr. Hawking’s Universe in a Nutshell is a fine beginning.  I actually started reading this book years ago, but like many things, put it to the side, and didn’t pick it back up until now.  It’s written in very rudimentary language for the average person to understand.  It’s a good starting point if you’re curious about life, the universe, and everything.  I’d also recommend reading Douglas Adams’s Live, the Universe, and Everything, as well.

Fanfictions Finished: 0

Fanfictions Currently Reading: 1

Title: I’m the Darkness, You’re the Starlight
Author: runicmagitek
Fandom: FFVI
Pairing: Celes Chere/Setzer Gabbiani

I’m seriously worried about my friend runicmagitek, and I sincerely hope that she’s just been so busy with the holidays that she hasn’t had time to check her tumblr.  It’s the only way I have of contacting her (especially since AO3 doesn’t have a messaging system).  This is what is a bit sucky and often terrible about online friendships.  If something happens to someone you only have the barest of information about, you’ll never really know.  Not that I’m a stalker or a creeper, but I am a worrier.  Here’s to hoping I hear something soon ;_;

Fanfictions Added to TBR List: 0

Books Added to Goodreads TBR List This Week: 6

Title: Dissonance
Series Title: Dissonance
Author: Erica O’Rourke
Date Added: December 30, 2016

This was a lucky find as I was scrolling through my Goodreads.  I’m fascinated by alternate universes and sort of subscribe to the multiverse theory.  I believe it’s a possibility, and there’s been some scientific evidence to support.  Until such a day when we have concrete proof, I shall take these inventive little tales about a heroine who can navigate between these realities, keeping the dimensions in harmony.

Title: Gilded Cage
Series Title: Dark Gifts
Author: Vic James
Date Added: December 30, 2016

The commons serving the elite is nothing new in story or reality.  The only difference in this tale is the elite’s power is magical as well as monetary.  All commoners must serve them for ten years, and the protagonist, Abi, is in servitude to England’s most powerful family.  In true Stockholm Syndrome fashion, she falls for one of the noble-born sons (ah hypergamy).  I’m not averse to stories with well used tropes.  I feel that messages can become more powerful in repeat.

Kim of By Hook or By Book brought up a decent critique about diversity in her review here (which is why I added this in the first place), but I’m hoping that won’t detract too much from the overall message of the story.

Title: The Blackwell Family Secret: The Guardians of Sin
Author: Jonathan L. Ferrara
Date Added: January 1, 2017

After finishing The Ghost of Buxton Manor, I went to Mr. Ferrara’s Goodreads’ page, following him as an author and added his other book.  I also tweeted him my love of his story, followed his (and Aaron’s) YouTube page (I already follow their WordPress), and discovered there’s going to be a sequel to Ghost.  In the interim, I believe I’ll read up on the true history of Rupert Buxton and Michael Davies, while I work on my Ghost review.

The Guardians of Sin appears to be another paranormal adventure involving spirits and secrets, also guardian angels, serpents, and the unleashing of the Seven Deadly Sins, so I’m now even more interested.

Title: The Count of Monte Cristo
Author: Alexander Dumas
Date Added: January 4, 2017

The most memorable reference I have for this book is from the movie V for Vendetta, where the titular character, played by Hugo Weaving, shows it to his “captive” Evey, played by Natalie Portman.  I know it has a happy ending (or at least the movie does), and I know from the blurb it’s about a man falsely imprisoned.  The reason I added it now is because of a comment on Deviant Art about The Broken Rose.  One of my readers was wondering if the story was going to take a Monte Cristo angle to which I (internet) laughed and responded that I’d never read it, but I’d have to add it to my TBR list (huh…the abbreviation for “to be read” and The Broken Rose are exactly the same.  That’s hilarious).  She replied that the novel was a bid stodgy, and I might want to entertain myself with the movie.  I figure I’ll give the book a try though.  I could always use more classics for my list.

Title: The Lie Tree
Author: Frances Hardinge
Date Added: January 4, 2017

A tale of a tree that will give you truth for every lie, and the bigger the lie, the greater the truth.  I’m also interested in the incongruence of a main character named Faith who thirsts for science and secrets, and the secret of the tree is too great for her to resist.  Drawn into the search by her disgraced father’s journals, Faith enters a world of lies, danger, and the truth that can unbind it all.

Title: The Bear and the Nightingale
Author: Katherine Arden
Date Added: January 4, 2017

The book channeled both a Cinderella vibe with the dead mother replaced with a cruel stepmother and ASOIAF with it’s fairy tales about Frost, a blue-eyed winter demon.  It seems to spin itself like a meta-fairy tale.  There’s an even deeper ASOIAF connection as Vasilisa and her siblings’ nursemaid warned them to keep the old rituals and honor the spirits of house, yard, and forest in order to protect their home from evil and keep dark things at bay (e.g. Craster in Song), but the stepmother forbids it.  The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa seems to know that more hinges on the rituals than mere rote.  I’m a sucker for a good fairy tale, and I love stories that mix paradigms with others I already love.  I have a feeling the stepmother may be an agent of Frost or something like that or Frost may not be as terrible as he seems.

Total Books on Goodreads TBR List: +6
Change from Last Week: 540

Books Added to Goodreads To Be Reread List This Week: 0

Books Purchased This Week: 10

I received all of the books I ordered from Amazon in between last week’s post and this week’s.  I believe I usually do the full breakdown, but owing to the fact I have ten books to add, I’m just going to cite the title, author, brief comment, and a link to the SOTR where I included it, if available;  I’ll just link to Goodreads if not.

  1. The Sword of Maiden’s Tears by Rosemary Edghill – I remember exactly why I wanted this one.  Check this description in the blurb:  “He was tall, with long, silvery hair, catlike eyes…” DONE.  That’s all I needed.  Added and bought as soon as I could find it.
  2. A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab – I recall downloading a sample of this and loving both the language and the story.  Even though I didn’t finish that excerpt, with books I’m sure of, I don’t always have to.  There are three realities, and the protagonist can traverse them all (this sounds similar to the Dissonance added above.  Again, I love stories of the multiverse).
  3. The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill – There are just way too many amazing things about this book to adequately put into words, and I haven’t even read it yet.  It twists the story of the wicked witch, the stolen child, and the admirable hero on its head, throwing in magic by moonlight, and the “girl” in question looks brown on the cover.  Yassss.
  4. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness – Thanks to social media, I already know what the allegory for this is about, and I’m hoping that’s not going to spoil it too much.  I won’t reveal what I know just in case it is, since knowledge given can never be taken back.  Ah, I just read the blurb about the main character’s mother receiving her “treatments,” so it may not be as big of a spoiler as I thought.  The last line of it still twists cold through my heart.  “This monster is something different, something ancient, something wild.  And it wants the truth.” *shivers*
  5. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente – I have a hit or miss relationship with Ms. Valente.  Okay, so really on one miss (Palimpsest), and one I’m going to give another chance (In the Cities of Coin and Spice [The Orphan’s Tales #2]).  The title itself intrigues me, and while I was a bit lukewarm on the sample, I still have high hopes.
  6. Prospero Lost by L. Jagi Lamplight – It wasn’t just the silver haired lady on the front cover (though I have to admit that was a draw), but also my love of stories set in modern times with historical, magical undertones.  Because let’s face it, those immortal beings are still going to be around, and how would they fit into our current age?  Also, the title is a clear homage to Milton’s Paradise Lost so there’s that.
  7. Dying of the Light by George R R Martin – Of course my favorite author is going to have a place on this purchased list.  My goal is to read all of his stories (not necessarily this year, but in my lifetime).  Like many of Martin’s stories, this one contains a jilted lover set on a world similar to ours just slightly off kilter.  The oddity in Dying is the perpetual twilight, a trope I’ve seen used in Final Fantasy IX with the city of Treno, and in WOFF as well.  I’m actually in the Eclipsed Region right now.  If there was every a land for me, that would be it.
  8. When the Moon Was Ours by Anna Marie McLemore – Another moon based fairy tale steeped in roses, silver, and magical realism.  There aren’t nearly enough books of that latter ilk.  It’s difficult to do.  To ride that line between fantasy and reality.  Make people believe the wonders are just out of sight.  What a lovelier world this would be if that were only so.
  9. Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter – Something about the title of this sparked my interest.  If you couldn’t tell from the moon based stories I have on this list, I’m a bit of a night creature.  If you dig enough to peel off the first layer, it’s easy to see how my two favorite series (Final Fantasy and ASOIAF) are quite a bit moon obsessed, too.  It’s not so much the moon per se as the night it often lights.  I also have this fascination with “night in the city” motifs.  What am I talking about?  I don’t really know how to explain, but as much as I love bucolic settings in fantasy, I do enjoy urban ones if done to my specifications.  I’m not really a fan of urban fantasy, rather I like when urban settings are made fantastic, if you get what I mean.  Magical cities a la mythopoetic New York as seen in Helprin’s Winter’s Tale.  Vassa seems to hum to that same melody invoking Russian folklore and what appears to be a manifestation of Baba Yaga.
  10. Locke & Key, Vol 1: Welcome to Lovecraft by Joe Hill & Gabriel Rodriguez – I need to up my comic book reading game, and there’s no time like the present.  I was actually in a comic book store on New Year’s Day and saw this along with Saga.  I considered picking up Saga, but it was $50 for the first volume!  I guess the Saga will not continue.  I’m not sure how I’m going to fit comics/graphic novels into my reading cycle.  If I’m going to read them alongside my regular four or use them as my fantasy/general fiction.  The latter is sounding more feasible unless the elder gods compel me otherwise…

What are you currently reading and/or what’s on your radar to read next?  What would you recommend based on my current and recently added?  As always I look forward to your comments and suggestions!

<–The State of the Reader: 12/28/16          The State of the Reader: 1/11/17–>