After ringing changes on Victor Hugo in Others (1999), Herbert now takes us to a fairyland decidedly not out of James M. Barrie.
Yes, the author does provide some sweetness-and-light and pitter-pattering fairy laughter, but only as they contrast with dark forces of wiccans married to the boiling and shapeless father of darkness. His object is to create a total environment in which the reader can at least half-believe in fairies, elves, undines, and so on, not to mention witches. So he sets before us the Bracken estate with its castle, acres of lawn, deep woods, and rough lanes: an absolutely idyllic landscape for fairies. Thom Kindred, 27, is recovering from a crippling auto accident that resulted from a stroke while driving. His mother worked for Sir Russell Bleeth at Castle Bracken until Thom was seven years old; then she . . . hmm, died? . . . without ever telling Thom who his real father was. Sir Russell, twice a widower and father to big, shapeless, greedy Hugo, lies dying as Thom returns to the estate and takes up life in his mother’s abandoned old cottage. He finds himself attended mornings by Nell Quick, a pretty wiccan, it turns out, whose attentions cause dishes to fly off shelves while some kind of elf or goblin scoots about the floor just out of sight. Soon Thom hears strange musical sounds and sees eerie golden lights floating about, and later he finds himself sucked into the world of little spirits and an affair with beautiful Jennet, an undine. But as his mother would have warned him, affairs between mortals and undines can’t end happily.
Leaf-clogged suspense until a slashing succubus appears to add stress to Thom’s recovery.