If Neil Gaiman didn’t champion Hope Mirrlees’ Lud-in-the-Mist as much as he does, I would not have read it. He calls it one of the finest fantasy novels in the English language, and he is right. It’s utterly enjoyable. It has also proven to be well beyond my ability to say something coherent about it.
This thing is, it is an delightful little tale — but nothing especially special in the grand scheme of things. It is just so unlike everything else I’ve come across in quite a while, that I just can’t quite wriggle my fingers around it, can’t quite get grasp what it is that makes it so appealing.
Some people point out similarities between Lud-in-the-Mist and Susanna Clarke’s equally wonderful Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, and I see where they’re coming from: both books deal with a world were magic/fairy used to be commonplace, once upon a time. But now the world has moved on, and people look back at those olden times with a feeling of, well, yeah, sure, there used to be fairies and magic and stuff, but that was then and this is now. Now we’re all normal, logical, responsible people-persons, and we don’t go for that. And then, just to spite them, something magical happens and they have to deal with it. It’s fantasy, but not in the Dungeons-and-Dragons, Quest-for-the-Mountain-of-Doom, Orcs-and-other-Tolkien-genre-trappings sense of the genre. It’s more that world is informed by the magical, rather than magic being the thing that makes the world go round. And I like that sort of tale, but I couldn’t for the love of all things bright and shiny tell you why.
- Book read
- Hope Mirrlees — Lud-in-the-Mist
- First line
- The Free State of Dorimare was a very small country, but, seeing that it was bounded on the south by the sea and on the north and east by mountains, while its centre consisted of a rich plain, watered by two rivers, a considerable variety of scenery and vegetation was to be found within its borders.