THOMAS THE RHYMER by Ellen Kushner


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Romantic fantasy based on the famous ballad and not-so-famous doings of the real-life 13th-century Scottish minstrel; from the author of Swordspoint (1987--not reviewed). Young, modestly successful minstrel Thomas, an orphan, adopts old, poor, childless crofters Meg and Gavin as his parents. During his many visits, Thomas becomes enamored of their young, beautiful but willful neighbor, Elspeth. But then Thomas falls asleep on Huntlie bank, whence he is abducted by the lovely and terrible Queen of Elfland, and carried off to her magic kingdom. Here, Thomas will serve as the Queen's lover for seven years, aging not at all--though the Queen requires him to speak to none but herself. But, during his sojourn, Thomas is challenged to the riddle game by the Queen's dark, angry, mysterious brother, Hunter. Thomas wins--he can still sing and play, though not speak--and so, at the end of the seven years, the Queen bestows upon him the gifts of prophesy and truthsaying. Dazzled and dumbfounded by his experience, Thomas slowly puts his life back together, relearns his human art (his Elfland music being of a different order altogether) and, finally--as if there were ever any doubt--marries Elspeth. Drab and unmagical, feeble and enervating, with no plot or characters worth the mention (the four different first-person narrators don't help), and a flatly unevocative historical backdrop. Altogether anonymous.

Pub Date: April 24th, 1990
Publisher: Morrow