Can Catholic Fantasy work? This book is a resounding yes. I picked it up out of curiosity, and was not disappointed. I have been accustomed to a lack in plot when reading christian fantasy post C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. After the masters there hasn't been much in this area worth reading. Then I ran across a gem.
The language used by Emily Snyder takes some getting used to. Once you get passed the first couple of pages it transports you to a world of courtly manners and valor.
Niamh is a princess of such beauty that no man could withstand her presence. She was half fairy, half human and the only daughter born to Gavron and Rhianna the king and queen. For her, there could be no groom but one, a man with beastly appearance rumored to live beyond the dark wood. He was known simply as the hermit Duncan. His pure heart was hidden by his leonine head and eagle taloned hand. He wooed the princess with kind words and a little help from a couple of eagles. She looked foward to meeting him. On the night before her wedding disaster struck. A cruel duke, who'd been lying in wait to seize power in the kingdom, convinced her that her perilous beauty could be diminished to make her approachable by her groom to be. He convinced her to roll in the fire in her room and thus cover her brilliance in ashes. The innocent princess did so, falling to temptation much like Eve to the Serpent. Her father caught the duke in her rooms and banished the princess, not recognizing his daughter in the black shadow that clung to his legs begging him for mercy.
Duncan arrived to the castle after his long sojourn, to find that the princess had fled. He vows to pursue her and bring her back to the arms of her mother and to marry her. His pursuit is a journey through conversion for himself and Niamh, who also learns to be whole again after a time. The story's richness is enhanced by the side stories of Niamh's closest friends, and the lives Niamh and Duncan touch as they journey to their marriage at the end of the book.
The author also added to the story by creating an appendix at the back of the book with maps and music relating to the songs mentioned in the book, as well as a list of characters and their back grounds. Any one who is accustomed to quality fantasy like Robert Jordan's, "Wheel of Time" and Anne Mc Afferey's "Dragon Riders of Pern" series, will enjoy this refreshingly pure and honest Fairy tale. It wasn't a tale that was syrupy in the least. Niamh faces darkness so deep she almost forgets who she is. Duncan though pure of heart is not without his faults. These two figures are as raw and gritty as any one can be, and the story they weave together is one that you or I could be a part of.
I don't reccomend this book for any one under the age of fourteen to read. The imagry of the evils that befall Niamh can be quite disturbing. The evil duke also uses some objectionable language when taunting his prison guards. I recommend parents read this book first before giving it to a young teenager. I enjoyed it immensely however it will be some years before my children read it for themselves.