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The King of Elfland's Daughter

3.84  ·  Rating Details  ·  4,204 Ratings  ·  322 Reviews
The poetic style and sweeping grandeur of The King of Elfland's Daughter has made it one of the most beloved fantasy novels of our time, a masterpiece that influenced some of the greatest contemporary fantasists. The heartbreaking story of a marriage between a mortal man and an elf princess is a masterful tapestry of the fairy tale following the "happily ever after."
Paperback, 240 pages
Published July 6th 1999 by Del Rey (first published 1924)
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The Hobbit by J.R.R. TolkienThe Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. TolkienThe Two Towers by J.R.R. TolkienThe Return of the King by J.R.R. TolkienWicked Lovely by Melissa Marr
The Best Books about Elves or Faeries
34th out of 692 books — 954 voters
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis CarrollThe Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank BaumDracula by Bram StokerPeter Pan by J.M. BarrieThe Complete Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen
Pre-Tolkien Fantasy
6th out of 182 books — 182 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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J.G. Keely
Jul 16, 2012 J.G. Keely rated it it was amazing
In fantasy, I've seen magic used in many ways: as plot device, curio, religious allegory, and the personification of morals, but rarely do I find a book where magic is truly magical. Too often, it's a convenience, a cliche, but for Dunsany, magic is pervasive, mysterious, unknowable, and lovely. He captures a sense of the 'sublime': something so unbelievably beautiful that it becomes overwhelming, even frightening.

Dunsany wrote his stories with a handmade quill in a single draft. His language is
Sep 18, 2015 Traveller rated it it was amazing
Recommended for: Those who have patience and are comfortable with Victorian and poetic styles in prose, who have romantic souls, and people who enjoy reading poetry and who enjoy introspective, speculative, and exploratory literature and fanciful fantasy.

Not recommended for : Those who prefer fast-paced action and down-to-earth and gritty prose styles and label some styles "too flowery"

The name:" Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett" has a rather strange ring to it, doesn't it? I think "Lord Dunsa
Apr 11, 2016 Markus rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A magical realm with elves and trolls. A boundary of twilight separating it from the world. And a prince of men moving through the mists on a quest to wed the King of Elfland’s daughter. All the ingredients needed for a delightfully stereotypical fantasy tale.

The King of Elfland’s Daughter is arguably the apogee of pre-Tolkien fantasy. A legend of the genre from the early twentieth century. And in my eyes, it is definitely the best from the early modern fantasy era.

Most aspects of the book are a
mark monday
a tale out of time: an old myth reinvented; a new myth born. a wayward bride, a forlorn husband, their son - a pitiless hunter. a defiant old woman; a melancholy old man. trolls delight in delight; unicorns are for slaughter. question: what is Time in Elfland? answer: a fantasy! twelve men want magic. madmen shall take captive a king. borders shall be crossed and boundaries may be as fleeting as dreams. be wary of what you wish for! love shall conquer all and death shall be no more.

prose like po
Aug 24, 2014 Mark rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone yearning after enchantment
Recommended to Mark by: Mark Monday
Shelves: fantasy, favorites
What can i say ? Absolutely wondrous. I adored this and it is the perfect book to read when you live by yourself because its another of those that demand to be read out loud. The cat was very entertained.

It is the story of a mortal going in search of a means to bring magic to his valley at the request of his father, the Lord of Erl because the Lord's parliament of 12 men asked for magic. The boy, Alveric, seeks Elfland and, in finding it, encounters the love of his life, Lirazel the Elf Princess
A beautifully-written, Edwardian faerie story for adults - not that there's any "adult" content, and were it published today, it would probably be classed as YA (despite some rather unpleasant hunting). However, it only gets 3*, as a reflection of my enjoyment of it; I prefer things a little darker, even though the moral is perhaps "Be careful what you wish for".

It is essentially a tale of young love across a cultural chasm (human Alveric and elfin Lirazel), the quest of Orion (not the Greek
Feb 23, 2013 Kyle rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Forget that leathery old man on the beer commercials with two giant "X's," he's a nobody. The real most interesting man in the world is Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett, or at least he would have been in his time. And by the way, that's Lord Dunsany to you! As the 18th Baron of Dunsany, he had the opportunity to simply relax, attend parties, and generally take life easy. But that would have been a waste, would it not? I mean, we only live once; so dammit, live like you want to live! Instead of ...more
Aug 21, 2013 Algernon rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2013

Brought to my attention by this note on the cover : "Introduction by Neil Gaiman." I've been on a good roll where Gaiman is concerned with Neverwhere and The Sandman read this year, so his glowing praise for Lord Dunsany made me put this classic fantasy forward in my queue:

"His words sing, like those of a poet who got drunk on the prose of the King James Bible, and who has still not yet become sober."

The style is the first thing that struck me about the novel, archaic yet elegant, the language
Dec 18, 2014 Rod rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy, owned

If this book were written today, it wouldn't be a book, it would be a seven-part series with each volume consisting of 800 to 1,000 pages. Every character would have a first and last name and an elaborate backstory. There would be extensive genealogical charts and detailed maps of every nook of its gigantic world, because, you know, "world building." And it would be incredibly tiresome.

What the good Lord Dunsany gave us was something much more wonderful, a poetic, elegiac fairy tale of 240 pages
Jan 14, 2016 Simon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I think this is the first Dunsany book I ever read and it was high time that I went back for a re-read. Doing so is always risky, especially when it is one you had such fond memories from because invariably they fail to live up to your expectations. I am happy to say that this was not the case this time. I loved it all over again.

My memory of the plot points was quite sketchy it had to be said but really this story isn't about the plot. Nor is it about the characters that one might be tempted to

The King of Elfland's Daughter is one of the most perfectly beautiful fantasy novels ever written. Yet, in the sea of J.R.R. Tolkien and G.R.R Martin clones it appears to be a forgotten relic. This is a shame - not only because of the sheer aesthetic delight of Lord Dunsany's writing - because many fantasy authors could learn from this novel, the value of subtlety and artful storytelling. In a sea of blatant plots and unmagical magic structures, Lord Dunsany's work is a wondrous and magical deli
Not going to happen. The first 70 pages are as beautiful as it gets. And then things began to drift. An endless hunt for a unicorn (which was kind of boring), and a troll meditating on the nature of time. At this point I threw it across the room. Seriously, I felt somewhat duty bound to read this, since Lovecraft loved LD (and I like Lovecraft). Like Lovecraft, Dunsany works, IMHO, best in the shorter bites. If you like (archaic) poetic language and high fantasy, I highly recommend Eddison's The ...more
Oct 22, 2009 Miriam rated it liked it
Recommends it for: people who like lots of description
Shelves: fantasy
I am a little hesitant to give this a 3, for Dunsany writes wonderfully. His prose is by turns lyrical, clever, humorous, insightful, and moving. However, I don't so much enjoy reading long descriptive passages with very little action or even plot. Although the plot elements were solidly put into place, they then don't do much for the bulk of the book, and by halfway through I mostly stopped caring. Dunsany seemed far more interested in landscape and atmosphere than characters.
Feb 21, 2014 Kristen rated it did not like it
Shelves: book-club
WARNING: This review contains SPOILERS. Lots of spoilers.

I should begin this review by saying that I wanted to like this book. On paper, I should have. And I tried to have some degree of historical relativism while reading it, but honestly the whole book was so maddening I could hardly stand it. There is NO character development whatsoever -- none. Aside from this, I'll try to detail out just some of the things that I think go wrong with it:

1) The very premise of the book is flimsy and unengagi
Jul 28, 2014 Nikki rated it it was amazing
I can't really understand people disliking this book. Well, no, I can: the language is olde worlde, the phrase 'the fields we know' is used far too many times, it's more of a fairytale like story than modern fantasy, though it's sold as being one of the defining moments for the genre, and if you're looking at it from a modern point of view, the characters and their motivations are hopelessly unsatisfying.

I thought the language was beautiful, though: Dunsany struck just the right note for me, and
Feb 26, 2014 kaśyap rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
A wonderful poetic fairytale that is very rich and detailed. WIth his descriptive and lyrical prose and the leisurely pace of the story, Dunsany can transport you to a world of wonder.

The story starts in Erl, a medieval England like setting with the parliament of Erl petitioning their lord about their wish for a magic lord to rule them. The lord of Erl then bids his son Alveric to go to Elfland, a mythical and magical world filled with elves, unicorns, trolls and other magical creatures, and mar
Leni Iversen
Apr 13, 2016 Leni Iversen rated it it was amazing
I have read that Lord Dunsany wrote all his many works with an old fashioned quill pen and ink pot, and that he always wrote only one draft of everything. I don't know what power he was channeling, or what magic there flowed through his ink, but his writing is so enchanted that I believe his shopping list could make me yearn wistfully for groceries.

I have previously read some of his short story collections, but this was my first full length Dunsany tale, and I was curious to see how he works in
Feb 16, 2011 Alex rated it it was amazing
A modern reader should not come into this book expecting an an intricate and interwoven plot. The storyline is solid, but it is not greatly more complex than a fairy tale. It makes sure to take its time, and it might feel like a lull at certain places - especially if you read the book in sections like I did, taking hurried bites before rushing off elsewhere to whatever. But if you're able to suppress your expectations of omg LARGE DRAGONS and EARTH-DEVOURING ARTIFACTS and CARS WHOSE GAS TANKS WE ...more
Mike (the Paladin)
Sep 30, 2012 Mike (the Paladin) rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
At times during the reading of this book, like Alveric I felt that I must have "lost Elfland". Reading Dunsany's prose is often much like reading poetry and it took me a while to get back into the rhythm. While in many ways this is a book not to be missed, read it when nothing presses..not time, not life, not circumstances. The outside pressing in will take away from this volume as it's more an experince than a story.

For those who haven't read Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett the eighteenth Bar
Chance Maree
May 11, 2013 Chance Maree rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy

This was a pleasure. I read in the evenings and for this novel, I always looked forward to returning daily to the poetic prose and magical landscape of Elfland. The writer, you can tell, is mature and steady in his craft, beautiful minded, and simply perfect. His voice is calming and rich. Something interesting--I loved Infinite Jest too, but that novel is 180 degrees different from The King of Elfland's Daughter. Foster's voice, while clever and insightful, felt unstable, wobbly, and exploring
Feb 11, 2010 Mohammed rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Fans of literary fantasy,fans of quality literary in general
Not the most original story but the writing,the wit,the beauty of the story is so great that it fills you with awe.

I still think Lord Dunsany is even stronger in short story form,he does other forms of story in his short stories like no other i have ever read.

Novel or short form, he is literary giant,stylist that must be read.
Jun 10, 2011 Werner rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Readers interested in pre-Tolkien fantasy
Shelves: fantasy
Aside from one of his short stories, this is (to date) my only experience with Lord Dunsany's work; but along with William Morris and George MacDonald, he was one of the three principal shapers of the English-language fantasy tradition before Tolkien. This is usually considered one of his more important works. It's set in an alternate England sharing a numinous, and permeable, border with Elfland and at times visited by stray unicorns (you have to take the premise on its own terms, not subject i ...more
Apr 02, 2012 Sesana rated it really liked it
I kind of feel like this story started to get away from Lord Dunsany. It starts beautifully, with perfect fairy tale styling. And there are, throughout, some incredibly beautiful passages. I especially loved the witch's response to being asked for a spell to banish magic. But about midway through it starts to drag, with the unicorn hunt, and it lost some of that magic for me. It's a shame, because Dunsany was a very talented writer, with a knack for descriptions. (Of which there are many, and lo ...more
Mary Catelli
A classic of the fantasy genre.

The parliament of Erl comes to their Lord -- they want a magic lord. So the lord, obediently, sends his son off to find the title daughter. He succeeds. And this book goes on to chronicle what happens after.

It involves the ceremony of marriage for mermaids who forsake the sea, a dove cote, a hunt for the unicorn, the horns of elfland, a sword made of thunderbolt iron, and more, but the real reason for reading Dunsany is, of course, the crystalline singing prose:

Feb 10, 2016 Margaret rated it liked it
The King of Elfland's Daughter was written in the 1920s, yet feels much older. The town Erl lies on the edge of Elfland, and when Alveric, a human prince, marries Lirazel, an elvish princess, the line between the mundane and the magic begins to blur.

I found this quote by Jo Walton that sums up my feelings on the novel: it "is probably best described as good but odd. [Dunsany] isn’t at his best writing characters, which gets peculiar at novel length. What he could do, what he did better than anyo
Feb 17, 2016 Jalilah rated it liked it
This book is important for its historical significance. If one is expecting a fast paced epic fantasy they will be in for a disappointment. In my case it is not at all that I only want to read action packed stories. However for novel length books I prefer more in depth characters. One dimensional characters do not bother me in tales, but I expect more in novels.
I find I would have enjoyed the style of writing in this novel had it been shorter. I do appreciate the language and also the fact that
Mar 22, 2015 Leonie rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
I like this kind of fantasy, like George Macdonald and William Morris and Hope Mirlees, so much more than Tolkien and Tolkien-influenced stuff. I've never made it very far through Lord of the Rings, so I'm not quite sure what it is that's wrong with Tolkien except that it doesn't interest me. Anyway, this is an attempt to transfer the world of fairy tales and poetic epics into the mode of the novel, and I think that's one of the things that interests me about this kind of thing; the authors are ...more
Nov 30, 2015 Michael rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: wollschläger
Als ich die Königstochter 1978 las, sagte mir der Name Lord Dunsany noch gar nichts. Gekauft hatte ich das Bändchen, weil es bei Klett-Cotta in der Hobbit-Presse Edition herausgebracht wurde, die damals sehr "In" war (vor allem wegen der Herr der Ringe-Trilogie, die überhaupt nicht zu meinen Favoriten zählt). Die Aufmachung ist sehr fein und ich habe damals die sagenhafte Geschichte gerne gelesen.
Es mussten weitere 10 Jahre vergehen, bis diese deutsche Ausgabe eine andere Bedeutung für mich gewa
Printable Tire
A scathing critique of organized religion and immigration policies.

I have a real review, but it can only be told of in song.
John Nestor
Nov 12, 2012 John Nestor rated it it was amazing
I had the odd good fortune at the time to not be able to purchase a copy of it. So, I went off to the local library, which had the book secreted away in it's archive, where it might have been residing for decades.

Between the prose, the soothing yellow color of the paper contained in the hardback shell, the smell, the turning of the page like those who read this very same volume before me did--it was a treasure in both process and content.

I love my Kindle, but it simply can't give me that. Nor,
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Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett, 18th Baron of Dunsany was an Anglo-Irish writer and dramatist, notable for his work in fantasy published under the name Lord Dunsany. More than eighty books of his work were published, and his oeuvre includes hundreds of short stories, as well as successful plays, novels and essays. Born to one of the oldest titles in the Irish peerage, he lived much of his life ...more
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“And little he knew of the things that ink may do, how it can mark a dead man's thought for the wonder of later years, and tell of happening that are gone clean away, and be a voice for us out of the dark of time, and save many a fragile thing from the pounding of heavy ages; or carry to us, over the rolling centuries, even a song from lips long dead on forgotten hills.” 40 likes
“And at that moment a wind came out of the northwest, and entered the woods and bared the golden branches, and danced over the downs, and led a company of scarlet and golden leaves, that had dreaded this day but danced now it had come; and away with a riot of dancing and glory of colour, high in the light of the sun that had set from the sight of the fields, went wind and leaves together.” 28 likes
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