Harris weaves together a complicated but well-planned story in this sweeping fantasy based on Norse mythology.
Set mainly in the “fairie” realm, this novel follows a cast of colorful characters that includes 900-year-old Mab, who becomes a fairie queen; Norse deity and eventual elven king Freyr; and mortal slave Nigel. Told from an omniscient point of view that allows readers to see the unfolding drama from a number of perspectives, the book begins with the arranged marriage of Freyr and Mab. But when Mab’s beloved father, Sargon, is murdered, the marriage plans are scrapped due to Freyr’s dissatisfaction with the way things are run in the fairie world. Mab spirals into a dark, violent insanity, as rival courts plot to strip her of her power. Political machinations and the endless accompanying deceits and unstable alliances help drive the novel forward, while action consisting mainly of battles and bloodshed—including Queen Mab’s many cruel and violent abuses of power—and colorful, detailed descriptions give the novel its sense of movement and place. Harris offers rich details of appearances and dress worn by the various players as well as lively descriptions of castles and other buildings: “Jaidev had decorated his castle with dozens of golden, red-tipped, orange and light green leaves in gray receptacles.” The huge cast of characters and ever-shifting alliances can be a bit overwhelming at times, but fantasy fans will likely have little difficulty following the different threads even if there’s a certain sameness to many of the interactions.
An inventive new twist on some familiar mythologies makes for a fascinating, adventure-filled tale.