Thomas the Rhymer
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Thomas the Rhymer

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3.83 of 5 stars 3.83  ·  rating details  ·  2,070 ratings  ·  109 reviews
Award-winning author and radio personality Ellen Kushner’s inspired retelling of an ancient legend weaves myth and magic into a vivid contemporary novel about the mysteries of the human heart. Brimming with ballads, riddles, and magical transformations, here is the timeless tale of a charismatic bard whose talents earn him a two-edged otherworldly gift.

A minstrel lives by

...more
Mass Market Paperback, 256 pages
Published November 15th 1991 by Tor Books (first published 1990)
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Minli
Thomas the Rhymer is a worthy and beautiful novelization of the ballad, elegantly told from the perspective of four people--Gavin and Meg, the elderly couple who takes on Thomas as a surrogate son, bookend Thomas's own experience in Elfland, and the fourth by Thomas's mortal love, Elspeth, after he returns to the human world with his 'gift' of soothsaying. Kushner's language is so subtle, lyrical and magical, some passages near left me in tears. She has such a flair for words (and this book is a...more
Susan Barchard
This is my all time favorite book about Faerie. I've been reading about and studying Faerie since I was a small child. And I am an AVID reader. Ellen Kushner has done more to bring the world of the Fae alive than anything else I've ever read.

Critics of this book need to understand that Thomas the Rhymer or Tam Lin is a legend. It is what it is. For Kushner to have made him pleasing to all would have been to stray from the legend. For the book to have had a more climactic ending would have been...more
Nikki
It took me a while to get into this version of Thomas the Rhymer. The story is told in four voices: the voice of an old man who takes Thomas in almost as his own son, Gavin; the voice of Thomas himself; the voice of Gavin's wife, Meg; and the voice of the mortal woman who loves Thomas, Elspeth. The part in Gavin's voice didn't grip me so much, but when I came to Thomas's part, I could barely put the book down. It's not full of action, and Elspeth doesn't play a part in Thomas coming back from Fa...more
Margaret
This is an elegant and romantic retelling of the ballad of Thomas the Rhymer, a harper who was taken by the Elven queen to spend seven years in Elfland and came out with the gift of telling only the truth. I was somewhat unsatisfied with the events of the novel, and with the character of Thomas himself, who was sufficiently self-centered that I had a hard time sympathizing with him, but the language was beautiful, as Kushner's always is, and it was overall a good read.
Rebecca
More than enough has been written about bards and elves (although not as much back when this book was written). The two have always gone together. But this one does stand out. It's an odd book—there's very little in the way of actual plot. It's told in four parts, from four different perspectives. A bard befriends an old couple and falls in love, gets swept away to Elfland for seven years, comes home, and eventually grows old and dies. That's about it. There are no grand quests or major battles,...more
Alice
This was such a disappointing book.

I really liked the premise, of combining myths and folklore and songs. But Kushner seems to have forgotten to tie that in with a character I wouldn't loathe. Thomas was self-centered, vain, selfish, dishonest, and unable to think about anything other than his penis for longer than an hour. He says at one point that he was enchanted to follow the "Elf Queen" (hated that "elf" and "fae" were interchangeable) to her domain, but I really didn't see him putting up a...more
Suzanne
I'm maybe half-way through Thomas' interminable time with the Queen of the Elves, and I just can't force myself to read any further. I really can only echo others who say that the first section, Gavin's, was entrancing. The character himself was charming (if a bit of a female fantasy of what a good husband should be), his descriptions of the other characters make them come alive, and the action moves at just the right pace. Thomas, on the other hand is, as others have said, arrogant, smug, shall...more
Lisa Jensen
Ellen Kushner takes a traditional Scottish ballad and weaves it into something magical and beguiling in this lovely, haunting tale. The ballad sings of a minstrel lad abducted to Elfland for seven year's to serve as the Elf Queen's lover, then returned to the mortal world. A footloose and carefree young minstrel, Thomas gives himself up to the quicksilver Elf Queen and the succulent delights of her bower. Yet, he is tormented by her small, careless cruelties, by the elves' constant game-playing,...more
Rosamund Hodge
A faithful retelling whose style actually catches some of the flavor of a traditional ballad--and has a few other ballads melded in, which was an unexpected delight. I enjoyed it a great deal. Though I don't think I reacted to the ending the way the book meant me to. (view spoiler)...more
Katya
Another take on the legend of Thomas Learmounth. Beautiful language, absence of violence - these are the book's pluses. However, that is about it. The story itself lacks something very important - the point. I do not mean the point of the legend of True Thomas, but the point of this very book. Thomas lives here and then he lives there... so what? What was the point of his stay with the Elves? What did the riddle he had resolved while living among the Elves have in common with the rest of his lif...more
Christine
This is a relatively short novel - about 260 pages. The last ~40 pages of the book are really just excerpts from Ms. Kushner's other works. The novel might have benefited greatly from those additional 40 pages, as the characterization leaves much to be desired. Thomas & company are ciphers - they have names, and some of them have some kind of motivation, sometimes, but mostly they are just pale shadows of what they could be.

I didn't really care much about what happened to any of the charact...more
Furio
I sincerely envy Ms Kushner's writing skills: she is a wondrous writer, she handles her language with a subtlety unheard of and still she manages to avoid any overwriting or mannerism.

This story, though, is far from great. Some reviewers say it is true to the legend: should it be really so, part of the problem might lie in the original plot and yet the author could have done something to amend that.
Be it as it may, her characters are exceptionally dull -except for the elderly couple- and Elfland...more
Just_ann_now
I confess I rushed through this book the first time I read it; I wanted it to be another Swordspoint, and was disappointed when it wasn't. Older and wiser now, I've just finished rereading, and can now appreciate this gem on its own merits. Certainly there are characters and scenes very reminiscent of the Swordspoint verse: Thomas, newly returned from Elfland, has much of Alec Campion's restlessness; Elspeth, at her husband's deathbed, is very much a sister to Sophia. But these reflections add,...more
Doug Tattershall
A well-written fantasy that depends too much on the reader having interest in vaguely- and repeatedly-described sex between elf and human. I knew there was a problem with this book when a minor character, the knight-turned-dove, had a better story to tell than the author. By the time I got toward the end of Meg's chapter, I had stopped caring about what would happen to the relationship between Thomas and his earthly love, Elspeth. This is a book with wonderful moments but without the thread of a...more
phaedosia
I wanted to love this. Romance based on an old English ballad of True Thomas. But, it was just okay. The author has a beautiful way with words and I was definitely swept up in the story. But Thomas was kind of a thoughtless jerk who could only think about one thing (ahem) and Elspeth really got the short end of the stick over and over again. I had heard that this was a love story and maybe it was between the Queen of the Fairies and Thomas, but poor Elspeth sure didn't rate much consideration.
Matti Karjalainen
Ellen Kushnerin "Thomas Riiminiekka" (Vaskikirjat, 2008) on vanhaan skotlantilaiseen balladiin pohjautuva fantasiaromaani harppua soittavasta naistennaurattajasta, joka tutustuu maalla asuvaan pariskuntaan, ja heidän kauttaan nuoreen Elspeth-neitoon. Suhde saa kuitenkin traagisen käänteen, kun Thomas kohtaa nummilla keijujen kuningattaren, joka suudelmallaan sitoo bardin itseensä seitsemäksi vuodeksi. Thomas lähtee uuden valtiattarensa mukaan keijumaahan, ainoana ehtonaan olla puhumatta siellä k...more
Dorothea
I didn't expect the matter of this book -- a bard captured by Fairyland -- to be my cup of tea. I read enough about Fairyland in high school to last the rest of my life, and I tend to think of bardic protagonists as the fantasy genre's version of writer protagonists in literary fiction -- the exception to my rule of enjoying whenever someone writes a story about their own job.

However, perhaps because Ellen Kushner is a sort of bard herself, as well as a writer, I did like reading about the prota...more
Mjf10025
Thomas reminds me of Goldmund (Hermann Hesse/Narcissus and Goldmund), whose pursuit of pleasures proves unfulfilling in the absence of love and purpose. Thomas the Rhymer counterposes two couples; in one, each partner is blessed by a harmony of heart and mind; in the other, each partner’s heart is pulling in a direction opposed by mind. Anna Karenina works similarly, but unlike Tolstoy’s story, which uses the contrast judgmentally, to argue a moral point, Thomas the Rhymer is more forgiving; the...more
RogueHireling
i started reading this book, only to slowly realize that it was all too familiar. Turns out I read it a while ago, only it hadn't been remarkable enough to recall.

Romantic story, but a bit stilted. Enjoyable enough, but not a book that made me stay up all night to finish.
Bruce
A masterful tale told in four parts by the four main characters, the farmer Gavin, who relates his mistrust of the callow minstrel, then by Thomas himself of his time Under-the-Hill with the Faery Queen and his adversary, the Hunter. Then by Goodwife Meg upon Thomas' return and his struggle to restore his forgotten life and lastly by Elspeth, the girl he loved and finally wins. The story was vague, an English king with a French queen ruling a medieval land. Kushner weaves a tale worthy of Keith...more
Shelton TRL
Character-driven, World-building. Atmospheric, Bittersweet.

A fictionalized account of Thomas the Rhymer and his experiences in the Fairy Land and his position as the best bard in either realm. The story is told from the point-of-view of Thomas and those mortals who knew him best. A captivating story that allows us to observe Thomas as he journeys from the over-confident womanizer he is at the beginning of the book to the wiser family man he has become at the end of the book. The fae are portraye...more
Nicolas
Ce roman nous raconte la vie de Thomas. Ménestrel, séducteur et grand vivant, il vécut une vie riche avant d’être emmené par la reine des elfes pour vivre dans leur beau pays pendant sept ans. Et son retour ne fut peut-être pas aussi facile que ce qu’on peut en croire, pour un homme ayant reçu des cadeaux des elfes.
Il est des livres qui, tout en en racontant beaucoup, ne nous disent que peu de choses. Thomas le rimeur est exactement l’inverse. Pour un livre qui en raconte aussi peu, cette histo...more
Patrick
The more I read, the quicker I think I can judge books. I’ll read a handful of pages, and think I can predict what I’ll find. Sometimes I’m even right.

Unfortunately, this was not one of those times.

I had thought this book would be brilliant. There was a voice, solid characterization, a clear understanding of the setting (especially the aspects related to time period and fairy lore), and (most basically) ample evidence that the author was truly competent. But, unfortunately, authorial skill does...more
Stephanie Sinaga
It's hard for me not to compare it with Swordspoint, the 1st of Kushner's book that I read.
The fast paced Swordspoint is full of tenebrous characters that gives the story the feel of 17th century French novels that prohibited by the church. The pacing is excellent for every page is an enticing drama. The ending is true to the characters and the whole ambiance of the novel.

This book, is good. I have to encourage myself to give it more description other than good. I, myself, kept on reading for th...more
Joshua
Jan 28, 2008 Joshua rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who like ballads
I have always had an affinity for Celtic folklore and ballads. That said, when I passed by this novel at the bookstore, I felt like I was struck by an incendiary device. A novelized retelling of the Thomas The Rhymer ballad that carried so much fascination for me? I quickly bought it and read it, carrying it around with my during school breaks, snatching minutes here and there to read. In the end, I felt as if I was brought back from the fantastic land of the faerie queen with a loud thump.
Per...more
Heidi
Tässä on taas hyvä kirja pilattu todella ankeilla kansilla.. Tartuin tähän vain koska opus oli hyvässä seurassa ehdolla erään palkinnon saajaksi. Silti jouduin potkimaan itseäni ennen kuin viitsin lukea riviäkään. Mutta tämäpä olikin oikein hyvä!
Kirja perustuu vanhaan skottilaiseen balladiin, mikä voisi tehdä kirjasta todella kökön, mutta sen sijaan tekeekin siitä virkistävän erilaisen. Tarina toi mieleen kaikki suosikkisatuni, joita penikkana ahmin. Näiden kirjojen upea kuvitus satumaisista mai...more
Savannah
A fantastically original book, despite its unoriginal subject! This novel takes on the ancient tale of "True Thomas," who spent 7 years in Faerieland with the Queen of Faerie and came back changed and with the ability to speak only truth and prophecy. It is told from the point of view of the four different main characters: Thomas' adoptive parents, Thomas himself, and his mortal beloved, who loses him for 7 years. Needless to say, the most fascinating tale is Thomas' own, who expounds how Faerie...more
Julia
Jul 31, 2008 Julia rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone!
Recommended to Julia by: I read all Ellen Kushner
Shelves: fantasy
Thomas the Rhymer was a medieval bard from Scotland (1220-1297) who disappeared for seven years and said he’d been living with the Queen of Elfland. She gives him a “gift”; he can no longer tell anything but the truth and becomes a seer as well as bard. There are so many ballads about and by him that it may be true. There’s a Thomas the Rhymer tower. Sir Walter Scott owned the tree under which the Queen kissed him.
This is a beautiful little novel; told Rashomon-like by the people who love him....more
Stacey
Ellen Kushner's prose is so evocative and not at all showy, and the writing in this book made the time period authentic, with a very real medieval England and faery world. I love the story, about being foolish, growing up, loss and redemption and loss. The narrators are all written differently, so they really feel like different individuals. It is a true fairy tale, and such a good one.

The story is an ancient one, about a wandering harper who loses himself in the world of faery for seven years,...more
Laelialee
This reminds me of the books of Patricia McKillip. It's the best kind of fantasy- a dreamy fairy tale written for adults.
The characters are so real, and you get attached to each of them. Elf land is a beautiful but sometimes cruel and alien place.
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Into the Forest: Thomas the Rhymer- No Spoilers 7 36 Oct 12, 2012 02:25PM  
Into the Forest: Thomas the Rhymer - Spoilers 2 15 Aug 14, 2012 11:38AM  
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American writer of fantasy novels, and the host of the radio program Sound & Spirit, distributed by Public Radio International.

She lives in New York City with her wife and sometime collaborator, Delia Sherman. Her first novel, Swordspoint (1987), and its sequel (co-authored by Sherman) The Fall of the Kings (2002), are mannerpunk novels set in a nameless imaginary capital city, and its raffish...more
More about Ellen Kushner...
Swordspoint (Riverside, #1) The Privilege of the Sword (Riverside, #2) The Fall of the Kings (Riverside, #3) The Man with the Knives Outlaws of Sherwood Forest (Choose Your Own Adventure, #47)

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“There's the road to heaven, and there's the road to hell, and there? That's the road to Faerie.” 13 likes
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