Where is the Queen, and where is her throne? Down in the stone O, but not in the stone.
Kate Sutton, handmaid to Queen Elizabeth, is exiled by Queen Mary to a castle called Perilous Gard, a place inherited by Sir Geoffrey.The people who live in and around Perilous Gard tell Kate of the legends surrounding the place, that it was once haunted by fairies.These fairiesare not the silly, miniature Victorian fairies you might be thinking of. They are the tall and terrible otherworldly beings of Celtic and British lore and legend, the kind that enslave young girls, replace babies with changelings, and lure unwary fiddlers under the hill to play at their dances, only to spit them back out a hundred years later.
Christopher Heron, the younger brother of Sir Geoffrey, was watching Geoffrey's young daughter Cecily when she disappeared at the mouth of the Holy Well. Christopher blames himself for her death. But when he and Kate discover that Cecily has been snatched up by the Fairy in order to be the teind payer—the living sacrifice on All Hallows' Eve—he gives himself up to the Fairy Folk in exchange for her return. Kate, an incriminating witness, is also taken away to be a slave at the Fairy Queen's court. Desperate to find and free Christopher before All Hallow's Eve, Kate must navigate the twisted depths of the Hill—and the even more twisted paganism of the Fairy Folk—to claim the teind payer.
While the plot is eerily suspenseful (the claustrophobic underground fairy court will send shivers down your spine), Kate and Christopher meet their trials head-on, with courage and not with terror. Their relationship is genuine and amusing; they are both very honest with each other, which leads to conversations full of sharp and witty banter. Kate regards Christopher with a lot of respect (even when she wants to give him a good scolding for his tendency to mope.) Her growing attraction to him is shown obviously and gradually, blossoming out of shared hardship and mutual respect. The accurately portrayed time period provides a rich and detailed backdrop to the whole story, smoothly incorporating the fantasy elements.
Perilous Gard uses itsintriguing setting toexplore the clash between paganism and Christianity. But it does so with a light enough touch that it veers away from objectification of Christ's power—using Christian lore and symbols as merely weapons in a power struggle with evil spirits—but without simply ignoring Christianity altogether. Christopher cries out to God for help, and other characters (good and bad) talk about their fear of or reliance on the Church. Christianity is treated with respect, and is boldly contrasted with the darkness of the Fairies' heathen religion.
Perhaps the best example of this is one of the confrontations between the Lady (the Queen of the fairies) and Kate. The Lady is explaining to Kate why the teind must be paid—it is the blood sacrifice from which life will spring. Kate tells the Lady that Christ's death was the ultimate "teind," that His sacrifice for us means that no more sacrifices are necessary. The Lady does not understand, but the reader does. The heathen ways must (and will) fade away, for Christ has conquered darkness. This message, surprisingly well done for a fantasy story, combined with the eery setting and the real and empathetic characters will have this book haunting you long after you've read it.
Review by Lauren Shearer
Lauren Shearer writes words for fun and profit. She also makes films, but everyone knows you can't make a profit doing that. Her other hobby is consistently volunteering way too much of her time. You can read more of her reviews here
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