© Nancy Farmer.
The second of three books in a trilogy, the first being “The Sea of Trolls.” Nancy Farmer has impressed me with her ability to write all kinds of fantasy, and this series is excellent. In “The Sea of Trolls” we met young Jack, living on England’s northeast shore in mediaeval times, son of a poor farmer in a backwater community. In that book, Jack was abducted by raiding Vikings and carried to far northern lands, including those of Norse fable and legend. In this book, Jack is back home with his family, and apprenticed to The Bard, his mentor and teacher in the ways of music and magic. Jack’s sister Lucy, also kidnapped by the same Vikings and returned with Jack, is causing a lot of family strife, and even disrupts an important village ritual, causing a flood of evil events to fall on Jack and his circle. Father Aidan, a local clergyman, suggests they go on a quest to the fountain at St. Filian’s Abbey, whose waters are said to cure many evils. They hope to remove the unknown evil that seems to have taken residence in Lucy.
On the way there, Jack, Lucy, their father, Pega (a freed slave girl) and the priest have some adventures, but nothing can prepare them for what happens when they finally reach the fabled fountain. Jack is struck down with some kind of powerful curse by the spirit of the fountain, Nimue. Despite that, he uses his own magic to free the imprisoned fairy, releasing the pent-up waters of the fountain, as well as a small earthquake.
Soon Jack, Lucy and Pega find themselves being thrown into a deep well, all that remains of the fountain. Underground, they begin a strange and wondrous journey that will bring them to magical lands full of beings both friendly and dangerous, reunite Jack with his Viking friend Thorgil, and eventually take them to Fairyland itself, a place full of deception and powerful magic.
Nancy Farmer’s story takes place in ancient times, and is quite well researched, but her writing style is generally modern. We’re told that the characters are speaking Saxon, but she doesn’t attempt to mimic old speaking styles. Instead she allows modern phrases, as if translating freely. The characters are all quite well developed and interesting, each with his or her personal goals and beliefs, each with strengths and weaknesses, and all very human, except for those that are intentionally not human. The journey of the book is a long and complicated one, but it’s never dull, and it all does eventually come back to many satisfying resolutions at the end. I’ll be getting the third book in the trilogy one of these days. I read this one in e-book form on my phone and iPad, and it went surprisingly quickly for a story with so many twists and turns and events.