Friday, November 5, 2010

Thomas the Rhymer - Ellen Kushner

Reviewed by Jo Walton over on This is a retelling of the fairy tale of True Thomas, and it is just beautiful. It is set in the past - Scotland in the 1300s - and the story is told in four voices. First we have Gavin, an old farmer, telling us about Thomas, the brash young harper who has wandered into Gavin's heart and home on his travels. Then Thomas continues the story as he is taken into Fairyland and lives there for 7 years as the consort of the Queen of Fairyland. Then Meg, Gavin's wife, takes up the tale when Thomas returns from Fairyland and tries to learn how to live life as a man again. Finally we have Elspeth, in love with Thomas before he vanished, and coming to love him again on his return - although this isn't easy as they have both been changed by the passage of time and the events of life, telling the tale of his life as a man unable to lie - and with the ability to see into the future.

The story is beautiful, and the style in which it is told is just wonderful. I love that it doesn't end with Thomas returning from Fairyland, and that the world has not stood still while he was away. People have changed, and Thomas has changed, and adjusting to these changes is not easy for anyone. Elspeth certainly didn't sit around waiting for Thomas to come home. Gavin has a great deal of trouble accepting that Thomas has been in Fairyland and isn't simply making up a new story. The personalities of the four main characters are wonderful, and having them each narrate different portions of the story is wonderful. You get to know each of them, but without the discontinuity of changing narrators every chapter as most stories would do. Thomas's adventures in Fairyland are also fascinating, but not quite as compelling as the rest of the story, however the song he writes while he is there is fabulous.

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