Award-winning author and radio personality Ellen Kushner’s inspired retelling of an ancient legend weaves myth and magic into a vivid contemporary novel about the mysteries of the human heart. Brimming with ballads, riddles, and magical transformations, here is the timeless tale of a charismatic bard whose talents earn him a two-edged otherworldly gift.
A minstrel lives by his words, his tunes, and sometimes by his lies. But when the bold and gifted young Thomas the Rhymer awakens the desire of the powerful Queen of Elfland, he finds that words are not enough to keep him from his fate. As the Queen sweeps him far from the people he has known and loved into her realm of magic, opulence—and captivity—he learns at last what it is to be truly human. When he returns to his home with the Queen’s parting gift, his great task will be to seek out the girl he loved and wronged, and offer her at last the tongue that cannot lie.
Based on the famous ballad of the medieval minstrel who was abducted by the Queen of Elfland, this romantic fantasy is a happy blend of discreet scholarship and literary style. A Boston-based radio producer, Kushner ( Swordspoint ) is at ease in Middle-Earth where Thomas, insouciant harper and rhymer, appears at the humble dwelling of a weathered crofter and his wife. Dazzling them with stories of the king's court, the damsels he's won and the sights he's seen, he also enthralls young Elspeth, a neighbor. Their mutual attraction is frustrated when Thomas suddenly disappears, and for seven years is held captive by the silken Queen of Elfland, who releases him with a questionable gift, the inability to speak anything but the truth. As Thomas renews his earthly life with Elspeth, the gift leads to interesting complications. Kushner creates a lavish microcosm where riddles and runes and magical transformations govern.