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The Elfin Ship [Mass Market Paperback]


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Product details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 337 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books Inc.; Reissue edition (1 Feb 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345294912
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345294913
  • Product Dimensions: 17.8 x 10.7 x 2.5 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,008,881 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


This, the first volume in a trilogy, tells the story of Master Cheeser Jonathan Bing who sends his best cheeses downriver each year to the elves, in exchange for elfin treasures for the people of Twombly Town. When things go wrong, Jonathan has to set out to deliver the cheeses himself. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.6 out of 5 stars  26 reviews
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bacon and cheese, a pipe and a book 17 May 2001
By Daniel J. Fawcett - Published on
Format:Mass Market Paperback
As has been mentioned before, the whimsy and fancy of this book should have made it a classic. However, it has been overlooked and nearly forgotten.
As a tale for adults, it stands up well with passages that stimulate the imagination. As a tale for children, it overflows with silliness and fun, but also includes a few moral lessons on the value of work and importance of keeping your word. It is an ideal book for an adult to read to a child. The end veers off into a scene of near Lovecraftian nature, disturbing and frightening in an oddly amusing way. However, the tone quickly returns to light fantasy, and the characters all return home, happier, wiser, and richer. In all, one of my all-time favorite books.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Elfin Ship 16 Jan 2013
By Tommy H Bleasdale - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition
Firstly, James Blaylock is one of my favorite relatively "unknown" authors. Secondly, I think The Elfin Ship is one of his best books. I first found it in the mid-nineties and loved it then. I don't generally read something more then once, but this book and several others that Blaylock has written I have reread maybe three or four times over the last 15 years. Blaylock with friend and sometimes co-author Tim Powers have created, to my mind, one of the most interesting characters in modern fiction "William Ashbless." See the Wikipedia entry on William Ashbless for more about this character.

The Elfin Ship, like much of Blaylock's work, is hard to describe. Imagine if your best friend were a devoted foodie with a good sense of humor and irony and was thrown into an absolutely wild and crazy adventure. Blaylock's characters often seem to dwell in an "uncanny valley" in that they are both realistic, you have probably met people very like them in your everyday reality, yet also exist in an imaginary world. Even set in fantasy the concerns of the protagonist in Elfin Ship are getting Christmas toys for the kids in the village, keeping good trade relations with the people down river, wondering what the elves are searching for in their airship and what the sinister looking dwarf wants with his uncles old watch. It comes across simultaneously as something that could be almost happening in our world while at the same time wildly different.

The "heroes" in this book (as in most of Blaylock's works) are not muscle-bound combatants ready to take on dragons and rescue kingdoms at the drop of a helmet. Instead they are ordinary, if eccentric, people thrust into the middle of extraordinary events. I would almost say "Hobbit-like" but Blaylock doesn't categorize good and evil as clearly as Tolkien or many other fantasy authors do. Though set in a magical world, there is little spell slinging or slashing swords in the Elfin Ship series. Instead characters often take a more subtle approach relying upon their wits, friends and subterfuge. Blaylock obviously draws a lot of inspiration from the fantasy genre yet the atmosphere he creates doesn't "feel" like fantasy. Heroism in Blaylock's work comes reluctantly. His protagonists are genuinely frightened (and rightly so) of the antagonists, but they aren't going to let fear stop them. Instead of outright violent confrontation his protagonists will often take a more oblique approach to defeating the antagonists. Battle in Blaylock's world feels more like a muddled vision drawn from "Zen and the Art of War" and often leaves me wondering how much of that is a reflection of the eccentric nature of the protagonists and how much is actually intended to psych the antagonists out.

The characters put me in mind of some odd relative who has spent a lot of their life travelling the world and whose house is now filled with things brought back from the ends of the earth. Bizarre curios saved from certain destruction by the "such and such" revolution or pulled from the clutching hands of ol' dictator "what's his name" and should probably be in a museum or on a Hollywood film set.

Blaylock's villains are also often interesting in a sinister way. The come across as being almost uncomfortably "real" in that they are not so much bent on world domination but instead searching for personal gain, such as immortality or the ability to bend time, through nefarious schemes. They put me in mind of a once decent person who has made some very poor life decisions and is now walking down a dark path on which the ends always justify the means. Not blameless, but perhaps not inherently evil either.

Blaylock's writing is descriptive but fast paced enough that he doesn't bog down in detail. The style of his prose puts me in mind of Kenneth Gram's "Wind and the Willows" where description was so wonderfully interwoven with action.

I don't think Blaylock's work is for everyone. He defiantly crosses many genres. His works, including The Elfin Ship could be categorized as humor, mild horror, fantasy or maybe even satire. His heroes and villains are complex. It seems like his writing inspirations come from 19th century literature mixed in with modern fantasy themes and a real appreciation for both the mundane and the weird. I think for some readers Blaylock's work may come across as "messy." But, for me, Blaylock's books, and particularly The Elfin Ship, are wonderful balances between those various muses.

At this point I have loaned The Elfin Ship to so many friends I had to get a second copy as the first became too dog-eared for use. Even for my friends who don't really read much The Elfin Ship proved memorable. As one friend said to me last week, perhaps some 5 years after reading the book: "I liked the part where they slept late and stopped to have a good lunch just before they snuck into the sorcerers hideout." How can anyone not like a story where the heroes take such a common sense approach to putting an end to evil?
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Comic Fantasy 31 Dec 2012
By rampageous_cuss - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition
James Blaylock's first published novel is one of his best. In an attempt to save Christmas Jonathan Bing, a master cheesemaker, rafts his own cheeses downriver with the aid of his dog Ahab, his competent but tendentious friend Professor Artemis Wurzle, and the natural fool Dooly Stover. A series of comic misadventures follow as the rafters slowly discover that the real threat to Christmas is a time-controlling wizard named Selznak and his goblin henchmen. Ultimately the rafters find that they must put their faith in Dooly's rascally grandfather, the notorious and effective thief Theophile Escargot, to steal the magic watch that is the source of Selznak's power.

If you like Terry Pratchett you're sure to like Blaylock's Balumnia series, which continues in "The Disappearing Dwarf" and is prequelled by "The Stone Giant." "The Man in the Moon" is the original manuscript that was modified into "The Elfin Ship," and is also highly enjoyable.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Marvelous twice over 26 Nov 2002
By microjoe - Published on
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Reading this book has a wonderful effect on a person, and every one I have ever reccomended to was so grateful after reading it. It is charming, lyrical, and full of whimsey... yet it is an adventure first and foremost. Blaycock has a writing style that makes the words sound delicious in your mind, as each carefully chosen word fits together like a song. He is also at his humerous best here, and will have you chuckling along. That is when your mouth is not watering for the food that he describes here as an intregal part of the adventure. He makes the character a part of you by making it very real and not sparing the details that somehow make you experiance the book with all of your senses. That is if you like the sound smell and feel of warm crackly fires on cold nights, hand ground coffee roasted on the fire, cheese from the Master Cheeser, dark nutty beer, thick dark fresh bread, reading books for hours and hours, and the scent of pipe tobacco as much as this character does.
The sequel is called "The Dissapearing Dwarf" but I saw it listed with a typo at this site as "The Dissapearg Dwarf".
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of my all-time favorites 28 Oct 1998
By - Published on
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Put simply, this is the book I can't wait to read to my son (when I have one). The only other book that has inspired me in this fashion is Treasure Island. The Elfin Ship has somehow been overlooked, but in my mind is a classic. Oh, it's a great read for adults too!
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