Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Book Review: The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope

Book: The Perilous Gard
Author: Elizabeth Marie Pope
Published: 1971

Kate Sutton has always existed in the shadow of her lovely sister. When she earns the Queen’s disfavor for something Alicia did, it’s just business as usual. But this time, she gets exiled to the wilds of Devonshire. Her new home is a strange place called Elvenwood, haunted by a mysterious Lady and legends of merciless Fairy Folk under the hill. More recently, it’s haunted by Christopher Heron, the younger brother of her new guardian, whose sudden disappearance is taken as just another uncommon event in Elvenwood.

When Kate is taken by the Fairy Folk and held prisoner under the hill, things look bad. They’re worse when she realizes that Christopher Heron is being held for a human sacrifice on All Hallow’s Eve, just a few weeks away. Now all Kate’s got is her wits and her nerve. It’s not much to save both their lives, but it might be just enough.

Kate is the kind of person who would be difficult to like in real life, but whom you can’t help rooting for in a story. Tough-minded, stubborn, practical in the face of whatever horrors the Fairy Folk can throw at her, Kate’s strength and charm lies in her contrariness.

Elizabeth Marie Pope herself was an academic specializing in Elizabethan England, and you can see the influence of various theories regarding fairy folk tales in her portrayal of the cruel Fairy Folk. They seem mostly to be regular mortals, practicing an ancient and barbaric religion, although the origins of the Lady are more in doubt. However, readers can take the Fairy Folk whatever way they want to and enjoy this story of a damsel who’s more than capable of getting herself out of distress.

P.S. For the ludicrously romantic out there, the last few pages are worth reading multiple times. They’re so true to character that it makes me grin maniacally every time.

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