This novel presents a dream-like tale of medieval England, a time after the age of King Arthur when ogres and dragons roamed the land. One dragon in particular has cursed the Britons and Saxons of the countryside with a “mist” that erases people’s memories of the past: their children’s faces, the acts of war that recently occurred between the two peoples.
The novel is driven by an elderly couple’s journey to visit their son’s village, a journey that is waylaid when they encounter a warrior and a boy and find themselves on a quest to slay the dragon who is fogging their memories.
I found the language of the novel to be stilted yet ephemeral, archly formal yet not grounded in a recognizable reality. Although some of the set pieces in the novel were compelling — a conversation with a boatman, a journey through an underground tunnel — I had to force myself to read the book quickly to maintain momentum.
The ending was affecting, however, with a thoughtful meditation on death, forgiveness, and vengeance. And I did find myself flipping back to the front of the novel to reread sections that gained a new resonance by the end. Overall, this book didn’t quite do it for me; it wasn’t simple enough to read as a straight allegory, yet it lacked the richness of detail to ground it as a more realist work. The same mist that fogged its characters’ memories also clouded my reading experience.
Availability: COSMOS, USMAI
Review Submitted by: Michael Dunn
Rating: Recommended with Reservations