Victorian missionaries travel into the heart of the newly discovered lands of the Fae, in a stunningly different fantasy that mixes Crimson Peak with Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell.
Catherine Helstone’s brother, Laon, has disappeared in Arcadia, legendary land of the magical fae. Desperate for news of him, she makes the perilous journey, but once there, she finds herself alone and isolated in the sinister house of Gethsemane. At last there comes news: her beloved brother is riding to be reunited with her soon – but the Queen of the Fae and her insane court are hard on his heels.
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File Under: Fantasy [ In Arcadia | Seek and Hide | The Queen of Moths | Lands of the Damned ]
Ng's intriguing but unfocused debut follows 19th-century British sibling missionaries serving in the recently discovered fae lands. Laon Helstone is the second missionary sent to Arcadia, where goblins, fairies, and other magical creatures dwell and nothing follows the rules and logic that humans are used to. His sister, Catherine, worried after he stops sending communications back to England, goes searching for him with the reluctant backing of the Missionary Society. Installed in the castle that Queen Mab provided for Laon, Catherine chafes at the requirement to stay inside with only the company of snide changeling Miss Davenport and the troubling theological questions of Arcadia's only Christian convert, a goblin named Benjamin. As Catherine discovers the strange journals of the prior missionary, which recount his mental disintegration, the castle turns more gothic than fairy tale. Catherine's curiosity and self-possession and her inner war against the restrictions of propriety point to other feisty Victorian heroines. Her brother's sudden reappearance and insistence that she return to England immediately get thwarted by the arrival of Queen Mab, who makes high-cost promises of safe passage to the heart of Arcadia. As the revelations, twists, and mythologies pile up, the plot becomes unwieldy, but the period touches satisfy. Ng doesn't quite achieve her ambitions, but the possibilities of her remade world are fascinating.