The King of Elfland's Daughter

Lord Dunsany
The King of Elfland's Daughter Cover

The King of Elfland's Daughter, A Review


A pleasant, although not wholly satisfying read.

I first came in contact with Lord Dunsany in an anthology of fantasy containing his short story "The Sword of Welleran". I enjoyed it well enough that I purchased In the Land of Time & Other Tales, edited by S.T. Joshi (Penguin Classics). In the Land of Time begins with The Gods of Pegana, a collection of prose that is tedious and dull with only the occasional gem. (The Gods of Pegana is essential a liturgical chant to fantastical gods.) Thankfully I persevered; when Lord Dunsany is good, he is very good. His stories "The Fall of Babbulkund", "The Fortress Unvanquishable, Save for Sacnoth", "Idle Days on the Yann", "The Coronation of Mr. Thomas Shap", "The Wonderful Window", "Thirteen at Table", and "The Bureau d'Echange de Maux" are all superior. His collections The Sword of Welleran and Other Stories, A Dreamer's Tales, The Book of Wonder, and The Last Book of Wonder are all wonderful and offered free on Amazon's Kindle. (Time and the Gods and The Gods of Pegana are also offered for free.) I found The Sword of Welleran and Other Stories particularly enjoyable, and I highly recommend it to anyone looking to read Lord Dunsany for the first time.

Now to the book

At times I felt Lord Dunsany's The King of Elfland's Daughter was one of the best books I've ever read, and at other times I felt it was well below average. In the end I settled on good, just short of very good. In the introduction of the Del Rey Impact edition Neil Gaiman describes the The King of Elfland's Daughter as a "rich red wine", an assessment that is spot on in a myriad of ways, mainly it is not a novel for the binge reader. Or rather to say, it is not a novel to be binge read. As a hearty red wine is best enjoyed at a leisurely pace, so too is this novel. I was forced to fight off my desire to read the book straight through and slow down. In truth, a chapter or two at a time was the only way I could read the book; often beautiful and just as often dull The King of Elfland's Daughter does require a degree of patience. It is a patience well rewarded; the imagery created by the novel is well worth enduring its more sluggish moments. It is a novel of extremes, filled with great heartbreak, joy, and magic.

Including the Lord Dunsany short story collections listed above I image those who enjoyed The King of Elfland's Daughter would also enjoy:

The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien

Lord of the Rings (Trilogy),JRR Tolkien

Lyonesse (Trilogy), Jack Vance

Stardust, Neil Gaiman

For what it's worth I find the Tolkien and Vance novels listed above superior to Lord Dunsany's novel, and think Dunsany's best work is found in his short stories.