And Then I Read: THE WAY HOME by Peter S. Beagle

I wasn’t sure about buying this, as I already had the first story, “Two Hearts,” but bought and read it anyway. These stories are connected to one of Beagles best and earliest books, “The Last Unicorn,” and “Two Hearts” is one of my favorite stories by him. A small, remote village is being terrorized by a Griffin, who is picking off the livestock, and then the children one by one. Delegations to the King have brought back champions who vowed to kill the Griffin, but none survived those encounters. When a young girl, Sooz, loses her best friend to the beast, she decides to go to the King herself to insist he come and help. On her way, she meets and travels with two characters from “The Last Unicorn,” Schmendrick the Magician and Molly Grue, now both quite old, who are also going to see their quite old friend the King. Sooz reminds the King of his duty, and he agrees to take on the Griffin himself. When they return to Sooz’s village for that, a heartbreaking but satisfying conclusion to several stories emerges. Sooz is a wonderful character, and her narration brings the story to life brilliantly.

The second story, “Sooz,” is much longer, with twelve chapters. Sooz is now seventeen, and learns some painful things about her own origins and family. Her parents had a daughter, Jenia, before she was born who was stolen by fairies. Sooz’s father has never gotten over the loss. And Sooz herself is not really their daughter…she was found as an infant on their doorstep. The girl’s life has been turned upside down by this knowledge. What is she, really? Is she a fairy child left in exchange for the stolen one? Then Sooz sees a beautiful girl in the woods she feels certain is her lost sister, and her father confirms it. Sooz decides to enter fairyland and track down the stolen girl to find out the truth. Along the way she’s treated brutally by strange men, and makes a new friend of Dakhoun, a strange woman who seems to be made of living stone, and those two wander through weird lands and meet the mockery of the fairies as they try to find the lost child and the truth.

I didn’t like this story as much as the first one. It rambles, and seems to change directions and ambitions several times. I never felt convinced by the lost child’s actions, and even those of Sooz were less believable here than in “Two Hearts.” Still, this is worth reading for Beagle fans, particularly if you haven’t read the shorter first story before. Recommended.

The Way Home by Peter S Beagle

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.