Fairies are always up to no good, at least in my reading experience. “They’re mischievous creatures, I daresay, and best left alone,” says wise, old Hempie in Lud-in-the-Mist by Hope Mirrlees.
The town of Lud-in-the-Mist is dull and ordinary in what sounds like an extraordinary world, with dragons and unicorns existing elsewhere, referenced only as side notes. The leaders of Lud-in-the-Mist aspire for the town to be a respectable place, free of fairy fruit or anything relating to fairies. The most disrespectful thing to call someone is “a son of a fairy” and most disreputable thing to do is eat fairy fruit. The town has been fighting a seedy, illegal trade in the fruit, but it typically does not affect the more prominent families. That is until mayor Nathaniel Chanticleer’s son displays some strange behavior at a party, prompting the discovery that he may have eaten some of the forbidden fruit.
I realize the description sounds silly. This book does not take itself too seriously, and I found myself laughing at the characters who frequently do take themselves far too seriously. The author seems to be poking fun at the fears of the ruling class and their ideas about propriety and superiority. While the book is fantasy, many of the characters do everything to resist anything fantastical.
The best heroes are flawed and unlikely. Nathaniel Chanticleer, the hero of Lud, is most definitely both. I found his role in the story unexpected, and I usually enjoy the unexpected.
What I enjoyed most was seeing how this book has inspired others like Stardust and Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell that feature a fairy world. I think there is a parallel between the character of Duke Aubrey in Lud-in-the-Mist and the Raven King in Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. They are both characters who have become almost mythical in their world and are tied to a past time of magic.
I rated this book a 4 out of 5 stars. I would recommend it to other fans of this genre. There is a possibility I will read it again when in need of a good fairy tale.