Lud-in-the-Mist by Hope Mirrlees

Date of Publication: 1926 (my edition: 2001, Cold Springs Press)

Number of Pages: 239

Synopsis (from back cover): Lud-in-the-Mist, the capital city of the small country Dorimare, is a port at the confluence of two rivers, the Dapple and the Dawl. The Dapple has its origin beyond the Debatable Hills to the west of Lud-in-the-Mist, in Fairyland. In the days of Duke Aubrey, some centuries earlier, fairy things had been looked upon with reverence, and fairy fruit was brought down the Dapple and enjoyed by the people of Dorimare. But after Duke Aubrey had been expelled from Dorimare by the burghers, the eating of fairy fruit came to be regarded as a crime, and anything related to Fairyland was unspeakable. Now, when his son Ranulph is believed to have eaten fairy fruit, Nathaniel Chanticleer, the mayor of Lud-in-the-Mist, finds himself looking into old mysteries in order to save his son and the people of his city.

Review: This is a very delightful story, and one that meets every reader’s expectations of what should happen. In terms of good versus evil, right versus wrong, innocent versus guilty, every expectation is met. One may think that this sort of predictability would make the story dull and stale, but in fact, it elevates the story to a higher plane.

One of the most important themes in Lud-in-the-Mist is the unreality of our reality. Life is a story that we have control over. If we have control, why shouldn’t the innocent be vindicated and the guilty punished? Mirrlees points out, rather uncomfortably, that we has humans, choose to believe in what we believe in, but nothing is at all certain. Is Fairyland a myth, or our all-important belief in Law and Order actually a myth? Our hold on reality is tenuous at best, and in order to regain control, sometimes we must choose to believe in things once cast aside, which is exactly what Nathaniel Chanticleer does.

One of my favorite authors, Neil Gaiman, wrote the foreword to Lud-in-the-Mist writes that this book “is, most of all, a book about reconciliation – the balancing and twining of the mundane and the miraculous.” Mirrlees achieves this balancing act superbly, and she deserves a much higher place among the ranks of modern fantasy writers. I recommend this book to any fan of fantasy, or to anyone looking for a great story that helps to disrupt the monotony of daily life.

One warning: the Cold Springs Press edition, which is the most common, is fraught with typos. Please be patient when reading.

Rating: 8/10

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