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on 11 June 2016
Dorimare is troubled by its border with Fairyland, which is a land of delusion and the dead, but also of the sublime and the tragic. There has been no traffic with Fairyland for generations, but....

This is a charming book. It's inventive, humorous, and the prose sparkles as if written by a wistful Raymond Chandler (with a better command of grammar), if such a thing can be conceived.

It's not perfect. There is a limited sense of jeopardy and the climax leaves the deep mystery of Fairyland unexplored. Perhaps this is unavoidable, given the metaphors that are set up, but I would have been disappointed had I not expected such a manoeuvre. We do at least get a peak over the border to the strange and the wild.

The real joy here, though, is the magic that is revealed in the superficially prosaic land of Dorimare: the inner lives of the apparently staid; the wonder at the heart of the commonplace.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 28 November 2013
I discovered this old and rare jewel recently and reading it was a quite unique experience. The beauty of this book is not so much in the action, but in the general atmosphere and in the masterly use of English language. After ending it I thirsted for more - but it was in vain, as Hope Mirrlees didn't write any more fantasy books.

Written in 1926 this book was for a long time out of print and forgotten before being rediscovered in the 90s, to the greatest happiness of fantasy lovers. This element only adds to the aura of mystery surrounding Lud-in-the-mist, the imaginary town in an alternative world where most of the action takes place. I swallowed this book fast the first time and then I read it a second time, in a deliberately slower way, to enjoy it even more. I warmly recommend it to anybody who likes fantasy but also to a wider public, willing to discover an old, half forgotten treasure.

I must however add one - very limited - ounce of criticism. I didn't like the last three chapters (XXX to XXXII). I do not want to take off one star for that, but in my modest opinion this book would be perfect, if it have stopped at the last line of chapter XXIX. So if I can offer an advice, the first time you read this book, stop at that moment, then give yourself a couple of days to savour this experience, and only then read the last three chapters. If you like them, fine. And if you do not, well, you will have always the memory of your first impression...

This is an excellent book, a rare jewel - to buy, read, keep and pass to your children.
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on 30 July 2006
Lud-in-the-Mist is a small town nestled in a rural idyll, between the mountains and the sea. One of its two rivers, the Dapple, runs out of the Debatable Hills, the boundary between the normal, mundane world and Fairyland. Strange and exotic fruit occasionally floats down that river. The Ludites have assiduously avoided this fruit for centuries - ever since booting out the fairy-fruit eating Duke Aubrey and establishing a republic, thereby swapping a system of magical chaos for the rule of law. But the denizens of Faerie haven't given up on Lud. They have agents working to smuggle the fruit (which induces weird and disturbing mental aberrations in those who eat it) and feed it to the unsuspecting citizens of the republic. Mayor Chanticleer has a tricky job on his hands, finding the culprits and solving an old murder mystery. In the meantime, the promoters of magic are having some success and the law is fighting a losing battle.

About 30 years ago, when I was working in Spain for a few months, a friend lent me a couple of books from his fantasy collection. We couldn't easily get hold books in English so all we Brits passed round whatever we had, treated the books with great reverence and returned them promptly. These fantasy books were particular treasures and their owner lent them only very reluctantly. The other book was William Morris's "The Water of the Wondrous Isles". I've been looking for the books for years. It was hopeless. I couldn't remember the title or the Author of this book. I could remember the cover picture (red fruit floating on water) and I remembered two names from a little ditty that's haunted my mind since first reading it: "Before the cry of Chanticleer, Gibbers away Endomyion Leer". Putting the two names into a search engine found me this book - back in print at last, as is Morris's book (that's now ordered). Mirrlees is such an elegant and witty word-smith, it's no wonder this book has stuck with me all these years. What a pleasure to read it again!

I would say a little something about this particular publication: the Wildside Fantasy Classic version. I'm too grateful for having found the book again to be very critical but I'll warn you in any case that this edition seems to have been copy-typed rather badly from an earlier version. It's full of typos and other mistakes and was filtered through an American spell checker. Clearly, it wasn't proof-read before going to print and even though Hope Mirrlees used British English, this book has been "translated". Also, there's no list of contents or introduction. My 5* rating is for Mirrlees' book (still very readable and enjoyable as long as you can ignore the typos etc), not for this particular Wildside version.
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HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERon 16 January 2009
The oddness of this story can be detected just by checking out the main character. Most fantasy heroes are not round, stodgy, middle-aged men who are respected pillars of the community.

But Hope Mirrlees' enchanting fantasy "Lud-in-the-Mist" defies many such fantasy cliches, written as if "The Hobbit" had been spun up by Lord Dunsany. It's a sweet pastoral story that slowly blossoms out into a very unique story -- there's a little murder mystery, an amusing village of hobbity people, and a quicksilver dream of beautiful fairyland and otherworldly danger.

Fairy is forbidden in the town of Lud -- not just fairy creatures and their exquisite fruit, but mentions of them, the dead who walk with them, and the Duke Aubrey who left with them.

But all his life, the steadfastly dull Mayor Nathaniel Chanticleer has a lingering longing/fear for a strangely magical musical note. Despite all this, life remains boring and rather pleasant -- until Chanticleer's son Ranulph begins acting strangely, claiming that he's eaten fairy fruit.

After Chanticleer sends his son off to a farm for a vacation, the teenage girls at Miss Primrose's Crabapple Academy suddenly seem to go pleasantly nuts, and then race off into the hills. Life seems to seep out of the old town,and Nathaniel must connect the present crises to a past conspiracy, all of which hinges on Fairyland, fairy fruit, and the sinister doctor Endymion Leer. The journey to discover the truth will take him out of the everyday world -- and change him forever.

Haunting music, mad dancing, and ethereal meadows filled with fairy people and strange flowers. All through "Lud-in-the-Mist," there's the underlying feeling that there's a frightening, exquisite world that is barely separated from ours. Rather than cliche elves with pointy ears, it relies on a dreamlike atmosphere and faraway lands that are only glimpsed in passing.

Originally written in 1926, Hope Mirrlees' third book is an utterly unique experience -- it takes place in a pleasantly ordinary British town and charming pastoral towns, with fairy magic seeping into the cracks. And it's something of a love ode to "fairy" -- even though the inhabitants of Lud cherish their prosperous, staid existance, the the strange and exquisite blooms over the course of the book.

And Mirrlees' writing is capable of bringing that to life -- she intertwines a fantasy, a murder mystery and a personal journey into one. The first part of the book is written in a pleasantly cozy, mellow style that focuses on the colourful, staid town of Lud. But as the story blossoms into a tangle of crises and mysteries, Mirrlees' writing becomes more lush, exquisite and haunting. All this, and she manages to inject plenty of humor into the story as well.

Chanticleer is very reminiscent of Bilbo Baggins -- he's pleasant, boring, stodgy but has a brave, eccentric interior that helps him become a very unusual hero. And the other inhabitants of Lud are similarly engaging and just a little bit quirky -- fairy-struck teenagers, snippy old ladies, the haughty farmer's wife, the quietly malevolent Endymion Leer, and the happily mad people.

"Lud-in-the-Mist" emerged before the mold was made for fantasy novels, and its exquisitely funny writing shows why it's an enduring classic.
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on 23 April 2008
This is a really special book to me. I first read it nearly thirty years ago, and I've re-read it most years since then. To me it's chief pleasure lies not in its narrative and setting (although both are enjoyable and entertaining) but in the author's discussions and digressions, most of which revolve around the book's theme of the interdependence of the prosaic and the fantastical: how a full life requires both imagination and practicality. No question, if I was stuck on a desert island, this is the book I'd want with me.
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on 6 November 2001
Another fine book in the admirable line of Fantasy Masterworks - marred by the bizarre mis-ordering of the contents in its Dunsany omnibus, but that's another book. Even the introduction (by Neil Gaiman) is unusually intelligent, and far less self-indulgent than is now the norm for literary introductions.
Intelligent, spiky, witty, and with an extraordinary line in dislocating supernatural terror.
Very good, very odd, and even now quite unlike almost anything in English; just possibly slightly more like John Crowley's "Little, Big: or, the Fairies' Parliament" than it is like anything else, but that says more for its excellence than for its specific character. Buy, read.
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on 24 September 2001
It would be hard to find fault with this beautifully written book. Hope Mirrlees, an English scholar, uses language with flamboyant precision to produce a richly textured world full of vitality and wonder.
Larger than life characters inhabit Lud-In-The-Mist, a bustling town from which all influence of faerie has been banished long ago. The mere mention of anything magical is considered taboo and offensive, whilst the existence of the land of Faerie, just beyond the Debatable Hills, is pointedly ignored.
They are therefore ill-prepared when strange, fey behaviour starts to afflict even the most respectable of Luds citizens, beginning with the pupils at Miss Primrose Crabapple's Academy for Young Ladies...
Mayor Nathaniel Chanticleer, whose own family is affected by the crisis, finds his deepest fears becoming reality.
A truly magical work, the like of which we will probably never see again; made all the more remarkable because it was Ms. Mirrlees only ever fantasy novel.
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VINE VOICEon 2 May 2009
I've just finished this book, and found it absolutely delightful, charming and whimsical. It's left me with a real smile, inside and out - well worth buying and reading. The writing style is charming although a little hard to get into, but persevere with it and you will be richly rewarded.

Highly recommended!
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on 12 December 2000
This is a beautifully written book and I'm really glad to see it in print again. I picked up a battered second hand copy by accident around 10 years ago, and have re-read it many times since. The story centres around Nathaniel Chanticleer and the way he changes when he gets jolted out of a comfortable, unimaginative life as Mayor of Lud-in-the-Mist by a plague of faerie. This book is also interesting in that the faeries owe much more to folklore than is usual.
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on 27 March 2009
A half-lost classic of British fantasy - I discovered it as part of the Fantasy Masterworks re-issues. It doesn't fit in the post-Tolkien fantasy landscape too well (except perhaps with other oddities like Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell) but so much the better as far as I'm concerned. If you're bored of sword-and-sorcery, or if you can't stand the quality of writing accepted in much of the genre, then this will come as a breath of fresh air.
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