There’s an art to telling fairy tales, the way they use stereotypes and tropes and specific, rhythmic, almost formulaic language. It makes them exceptionally hard to write (in my opinion!). This story sometimes read more like notes for a fairy tale than the finished version itself: Still a good read, but not quite hitting the mark for me.
Great-King Donnil lost the Chalice of Plenty and now his great-grandson Great-King Bardo has commanded the Masters or Mistresses of every House to go on a quest to find it again. Most houses didn’t follow the command, but House Dilvan did, despite (or perhaps because…) its young Mistress Beldaria being only 16 years old. But Beldaria is not the focus of the story, rather, that’s Enzi, her maidservant.
Two things I really liked about this story: One was the sharp, deft way that Leibowitz depicted class distinctions, how one and the same quest could be experienced so differently by the gentry and by their servants. It’s easy to feel sympathy for Enzi and to disapprove of Beldaria and the other Masters and Mistresses. The other was what actually happened on Aerdwen Green, and the way in which the reader was held so long in ignorance of the significance of those events. It was magical.
I was taken by this story from the very first line. The crisp, straightforward narrative voice along with a lively pacing instantly hooked me. There was not a word misplaced in the entire story, a perfect gem of Gothic horror.