“Things there are in the world which have never loved Men, which have been in the world far longer than humankind, so that once when Men were newer on the earth and the woods were greater, there had been places a Man might walk where he might feel the age of the world on his shoulders.”
So begins The Dreamstone by C.J. Cherryh. This was a surprise Half Price Books find, a shorter work by my favorite author, and straight fantasy (of which I had yet to read by Cherryh). All of which made it a book I was excited to read.
In brief this is the story of Arafel, whose Faery land of Eald is the last holdout of Faery kind in the ancient British Isles. Mankind approaches everywhere and through fear and superstition – as well as her friend Lord Death – Ealdwood is kept safe from their incursions. Arafel lives largely in a world apart, able to transition from her own Ealdwood – a beautiful, rich forest whose edges continually shrink due to Mankinds growth – to the Ealdwood of our own world, which is a tangled, dangerous place that men fear to go.
The story follows a man named Niall and his descendents, whose lands lay next to Eald and whose lives come accidentally in contact with that of Arafel. Though content in her lonely world, she finds herself drawn to mankind and drawn to aid Niall’s family in their very human struggles. But the consequences of the interaction between Faery and humanity are wide-ranging: Arafel’s help stirs other creatures of myth and legend, and if unchecked, they would bring destruction to far more than Niall’s lands.
This was…a weird book. Though slim (187 pages), it was actually divided into two very distinct “books” within the book and the whole first section, “The Graugach,” seemed preliminary. It wasn’t until the last half to third of the novel where it really seemed to pick up pace and make progress towards a plot line and story arc. Though I enjoyed it, and it is written with characteristic brilliance, it was certainly not my favorite Cherry book (though I’ll undoubtedly seek out the sequel someday).
|Violence||3||The dark ages were fairly violent and, though there is really only one significant battle scene, the general tenor of brutality comes through in the narrative.|
|Sex/Romantic Themes||1.5||Minimal. Notably, Arafel is not the expected “beautiful, seductive elf” of which fantasy can be saturated.|
NOTE: As always, my content notes are for informational purposes, not judgmental ones. For a full explanation of my Content Notes and the scale, click here.