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The King of Elfland's Daughter

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  4,873 Ratings  ·  401 Reviews
All fantasy and horror fans owe it to themselves to read Lord Dunsany (1878-1957). The sword & sorcery genre was born in his early stories, and high fantasy was indelibly transformed by his novels. His profound influence on 20th-century fantastic fiction is visible in authors as dissimilar as Neil Gaiman, H.P. Lovecraft, and J.R.R. Tolkien.

Lord Dunsany's best-known no

Paperback, 240 pages
Published 2001 by Gollancz (first published 1924)
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J.G. Keely
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
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
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
Apr 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 12, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 p

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
Oct 06, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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
Apr 16, 2009 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
Feb 12, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
May 10, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jillian Haas
Feb 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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:

Mike (the Paladin)
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
Mar 25, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Mar 22, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Jan 04, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aric Cushing
Really great book if you have the patience. Today's audiences may find it superfluous on many levels, especially in a variety of descriptions. But there are so many times in the book where Dunsany achieves true greatness. This is a fairy tale for the literary crowd, with amazing images, and a classic for the die-hard fantasy/fairy audience of today.
Nov 20, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
3.5 stars. This was a charming little tale of magic and love between a human prince & an Elf princess, and the quest the former embarks on when she disappears as a result of difficulties adapting to human ways. It can be a tad too sugary at times, but the prose is lovely and the plot well developed.
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.
J.Aleksandr Wootton
Nov 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 5-stars
Absolutely beautiful storytelling. Dunsany helped bridge us from fairytales to modern fantasy; stylistically, Tolkien owes to Dunsany the haunting lilt of his best English phrasing. This story delights and surprises, and turns upon rather a different theme than readers are led to expect. Highly recommended.
Aug 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Lord Dunsany's "The King of Elfland's Daughter" is a classic fantasy novel that I'd been hearing of and reading good things about for years. Friends had recommended it, the book appears in Cawthorn and Moorcock's overview volume "Fantasy: The 100 Best Books," and one of my favorite authors of all time, H.P. Lovecraft, gushes about its author in his scholarly piece entitled "Supernatural Horror in Literature." In that piece, H.P. famously writes that Dunsany is "unexcelled in the sorcery of cryst ...more
Mar 22, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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  • Lud-in-the-Mist
  • The Broken Sword
  • The Well of the Unicorn
  • Black Gods and Scarlet Dreams
  • The Emperor of Dreams
  • Gloriana
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  • The Wood Beyond the World
  • The First Book of Lankhmar
  • The Green Pearl and Madouc (Lyonesse, #2-3)
  • The Mabinogion Tetralogy
  • The House on the Borderland and Other Novels
  • Thomas the Rhymer
  • The Complete Compleat Enchanter
  • Darker Than You Think
  • Sea-Kings of Mars and Otherworldly Stories
  • Viriconium
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
More about Lord Dunsany...
“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 happenings 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.” 48 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.” 30 likes
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