I picked up this book because I thought that a fantasy story set in the London of Elizabeth I would be an interesting read. While I enjoyed it, I soon realized that such an extraordinary mix of genres and themes could not appeal to a very wide audience. One finds in this world a very historical novel trying to merge with a typical fantasy story of the fairy world. In the novel itself the merge is more of a clash than a smooth blend, and the same can be said for the literary style. Given that I am a student of history and literature as well as a fantasy fan, I rather enjoyed the concept and had fun making my way through the process.
In the book, one is presented with a picture of Elizabethan London. Court intrigue, meetings in pubs, bookselling rights, and the scare of the plague all are part of the basic setting. The author has done her homework and seems at times to almost go out of her way to include some interesting tidbits of history. Real figures from history, such as Christopher Marlowe and Thomas Kyd, make their way into the story. (But fear not, while the author does take liberties with these personalities, they are not subject to the same brutal misrepresentation as befell Chaucer in A Knight's Tale!) Amidst this historical cast, one encounters Alice Wood - a widow who is struggling to keep her husband's business of bookselling running. It is her missing son, Arthur, that draws the fairy folk to London and involves her and her friends in the battle between the light and dark fairy.
It took me awhile to really become involved in this story. There are so many subplots at the beginning that one doesn't know which to follow or become attached to. Nevertheless, they all are witty and entertaining and eventually one sees how they all fit together. I enjoyed the story as it developed and appreciated the rich description and philosophical musings as well. This book is not for everyone, but for those who find Elizabethian London and the fairy realm fasinating, I would highly recommend it.