|A Pagan Fairy-Tale|
Author's website www.rflong.com
The Treachery of Beautiful Things by Ruth Frances Long is a stunning pagan fairy-tale, it being a very clever rendition of the pagan myth of the skirmish between the the Oak King (the light half of the year) and the Holly King (the dark half of the year) in their bi-annual battle for seasonal supremacy.
In pagan legend this battle takes place each solstice; the Oak King wins the battle at winter solstice and the days grow longer, leading into spring and summer. As we are currently heading towards summer solstice the Holly King will win and the nights will begin to draw in again, bringing in autumn and winter.
This is a Quest novel, as the heroin Jenny goes on an epic journey through the Fae Realms to find her brother who was snatched away and forced to become the Queen's piper. It is action packed and the story moves on at a very fast pace, leaving the reader almost breathless. It is filled with characters from pagan mythology and legend including the Greenman, the May Queen, Puck, Mab and the Sidhe, the faerie courtiers of the Queen. There is also a handsome Nix whose song ensnares, whose kiss is deceptively seductive. Like all water elementals he is a dream weaver, drawing in his prey with the sound of his voice and his harp.
The Wild Hunt also makes a couple of appearances, though in this story it is lead by the Fae Queen, dressed in a long gown, her gossamer hair flowing out behind her as she rides. Being an equestrian I really enjoyed this kind of imagery and the feminine take on the legend. Traditionally the The Wild Hunt is lead by an aspect of the Horned God, so Cernnunos or Odin. In my song The Wild Hunt (on the Moon Chants album) it is lead by Herne the Hunter of English folklore.
One of the things I most liked about this book is that it makes full use of popular pagan characters, so it feels very familiar; yet the author has turned them all on their head so it also quite surprising too. This is exactly what the Realm is supposed to be; captivating, ensnaring, beguiling - nothing is as it seems, one cannot afford to trust what one knows, for in this Realm different rules apply.
The Trickster is everywhere, leaping up throughout the novel when you least expect him, in different guises, just as he does in life, inflicting the biting sting of repeated betrayals. In a forest full of Princes, how does one identify the Trickster among them? How does one find the knight with a true heart? That is Jenny's, and therefore the reader's, quest.
I have so much enjoyed reading this book that I feel bereft of the Realm now that I've finished it. But perhaps it's just as well as one cannot afford to linger too long in the world of the Fae King and Queen. The title is perfect for the book and it holds a life lesson for us all...In the Realm beautiful things cannot be trusted. In life the Traitor is always the one you just don't see, the one you keep close from bonds of love and friendship.
It really is a marvelous book...it will sweep you away from the humdrum into a beautiful world of Faerie Enchantment. I'll leave you with a spell from the book;
"Never harm, nor spell, nor charm, come our lovely lady nigh..."