Sep 3, 2013

The Kingdoms of Elfin

by Sylvia Townsend Warner

A collection of short stories about the Elfin kingdoms as Sylvia Townsend Warner imagined them. These elves are not gentle or necessarily wise and definitely not jolly or cute. They are cold, austere, often cruel and careless. Elegant and dazzling for sure but not lovely. They live centuries and have completely different, alien customs and values from ours. They are another race altogether and their depiction in these pages is fascinating. Language is a beautifully crafted thing and by itself enthralled me here. If you like intricate descriptions, that is. The stories are mostly about the elves themselves, and their various courts and aristocracies but sometimes about humans who have been captured by them or tricked into an exchange. I wish I could tell you some of the threads of the stories but have unfortunately forgotten them (it's been years since I read it). The impression lingers, though- of a dim, glittering world in a forest far away and yet close enough to be parallel, a place where beings live their own lives in a strange way, touched differently by time...

Another book I'd like to revisit someday, if ever I could find a copy (borrowed once from a public library when I lived elsewhere; not available in mine own here now). Anyone else read it? What was your impression?

Rating: 3/5 ........ 221 pages, 1977

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Susan said...

I've been meaning to read this for several years now, and I finally found a copy recently. I got the feeling it might be along the lines you describe, not very action-oriented, though beautiful and descriptive and evocative. I do want to try it.

Jeane said...

Yes, that's just it- gorgeous language, intriguing scenarios, but not much actually happening. I'd like to reread it myself, if I can someday. Hard to find though.

Katherine K said...

I'm a big fan of Warner and lucky enough to own copies of this and others of her books. I find the Elfin stories breathtakingly beautiful and exquisitely precise yet they sting. The psychology is wickedly apt. Thanks for bringing them to your readers' attention, including mine. I know what I'll read this evening!