This book is a masterpiece, hands down. It conjures the magic of the best LeGuin and Tolkien's the Tale of the Children of Húrin into a tragic story set in a semi-mythical Britain just coming out of King Arthur's reign and before the definitive triumThis book is a masterpiece, hands down. It conjures the magic of the best LeGuin and Tolkien's the Tale of the Children of Húrin into a tragic story set in a semi-mythical Britain just coming out of King Arthur's reign and before the definitive triumph of the Saxons. There are dragons and ogres, but like most of the masterworks of fantasy and sci-fi, they're just the dressing, or the sometimes allegorical means to point to our humanity. I get what Ishiguro meant when he didn't want his work to be labelled "fantasy". It IS definitely within the fantasy genre, but he probably didn't want his audience to be limited to the hardcore fantasy readers. He wanted everyone who has grown out of fantasy to come back to it, for in myths there is power.
The story is pretty straightforward, though, as in all of Ishiguro's works (I read everything of his except "A Pale view of Hills") there's a deep undercurrent of things left unsaid. In this case, the story is told in third person so Ishiguro doesn't use his signature unreliable narrator. Instead, the things left unsaid are due to a magical mist that robs people of their memories. It's a good tool to use, which allows for him to keep things mysterious until the very end, and is probably the whole justification for the fantasy setting of the book.
It is, anyway, a love story between two older people who set out to look for their estranged son, knowing only that he "moved to another village less than a day away". In the way, they meet ogres, dragons, saxon warriors and even an elderly Sir Gawain. But if the plot sounds like an adventure story, it's not like that at all. It's a melancholic work, filled with sadness from the first page to the last, as Ishiguro foreshadows and implies what came before, always trapping the reader in the same mist as its protagonists, giving us just enough light to walk ahead but not enough to discern the path.
In the end pages, I wanted to cry. I didn't, though. I don't know if it was a failing of emotion on my part, or the book just lacked that final shove to push me over the hump of emotions. But the journey was well worth it, and made me appreciate things differently and to get out of the couch and hug my wife and son, because in life there's never enough of that. The book moved me.