I am the author of this book. I hasten to say that I respect anyone's right to dislike my work; that is not, and should not be, any of my business. But the previous review has, to say the least, nettled me, and I would like to defend my work from the charges of plagiarism which I think are being most unjustly levelled here.
I make no secret of the influence of Tolkien - of whom I too have been a longtime fan - in The Gift (readers who persist with The Riddle and The Crow will have a hard time finding such homages; I pays my dues in the first book). But I would like to point out some subtle differences between influence or allusion and outright plagiarism. Jessica points out some similarities between The Lord of the Rings and The Gift, all of which are deliberate - there is even a poem written in Tolkien's invented measure, ann-thennath, which in my book is credited to "the Bard Tulkan", which she fails to mention. But there are very significant differences in how I use the material, and these differences Jessica chooses to ignore entirely. The Elidhu, for example, are very different creatures from Tolkien's Elves, being not the exemplars and originators of civilisation, but deeply ambiguous and unhuman aspects of the natural world: the difference between Ardina's fate and Galadriel's is that Ardina wishes to join her lover in death, but is an Elemental and therefore is not only bound to the natural world but is irredeemably part of it; whereas Galadriel belongs in the Uttermost West, beyond this world, and is banished from her home. The Ice Witch, Arkan, is also an Elemental; I admit to pinching a story from Hans Christian Anderson and adapting it to my own purposes, but he has nothing to do with Narnia or the White Witch. The ideology of my book is several worlds away from Tolkien; the Bards of Edil-Amarandh bear absolutely no resemblance to anything in The Lord of the Rings. And need I point out the total absence of dwarves, hobbits, Ents, magic rings, dragons, orcs or hereditary swords? Or the place that women have in this particular society?
This review ignores the sources from which Tolkien himself drew his stories: he did not simply make them up out of nowhere but used very ancient tales and - as I have with Tolkien's (and many other writings I love) - adapted them for his own purposes. Perhaps Jessica ought to read the epic Norse tales of the Edda, or Beowulf (which features dragons, hoards and a people suspiciously like the Rohirrim without horses) or Milton's Paradise Lost, from which the beginning of the Silmarillion is unashamedly taken; and then perhaps she might be as upset with Tolkien as she is with me.
Perhaps it is petty of me to reply: as I said, I do not expect to please everyone, and believe that people have the right to react as they wish to anything they read. But I do not like being accused of plagiarism, because I think it is not only unfair to the book, but misunderstands something crucial about writing itself.