The King of Elfland’s Daughter
This romance between a mortal man and the daughter of the King of Elfland sparkles with beautiful prose. The story is at once charming and poignant; fairy-tale love and the traditional obstacles to be overcome are interspersed with exploration of the choice between immortality and mortality, as well as contrasts between the immortal and moral lands. The love-story between a mortal and an immortal is a classic theme, and Lord Dunsany weaves his own version touchingly. The fact that Dunsany wrote in the 19th century, before most modern fantasy writers, makes his achievements in the fantastic realm all the more impressive. His emphasis is not so much on the world-building elements of his story, however, but development of the plot and mood. The book is less a fantasy epic than a fairy-tale set in a somewhat traditional fantastic setting.
Dunsany’s prose is at once distant and eloquent; his characters are the stuff of myth rather than modern psychological drama. The style is slightly archaic, which fits the ancient feel of the story. The plot is simple and not especially deep. But his writing is utterly gorgeous — true prose poetry, with evocative images and a pervasive, convincing melancholy-legend mood.
Morally, the book merits no objections. Although not especially full of insight into the human condition, nor of shining examples of virtue, it is based in a solidly moral world, and traditional values are extolled