The White Hart by Nancy Springer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
It's hard to judge a novel like this, decades after its time, when the archetypes upon which it draws have become cliché and the style has become something most modern readers don't appreciate. To me, I love the lyricism, the flow, the stylized language - it is one part novel, one part poem / ballad / ode. It feels mythical, even though the land in which events occur is invented. This book draws deeply upon Celtic, specifically Welsh, mythic sensibilities. (I read this first as a child - in hindsight, it's easy to see why I adored it, coming out of The Prydain Chronicles, which are themselves a loose retelling of Welsh mythology. It's certainly part of my lifelong affinity for all things Welsh.)
This novel relies heavily upon destiny, fate, and the motion of powers beyond ourselves - powers against which even gods have trouble standing. For the most part, the power of the language carries these elements and makes the reader (or at least me-as-reader) feel the mystery and inevitability. However, there are other places where, with more modern fantasy sensibilities, I'm just not sold on the inescapable nature of events. As a child, I was wholly swept away; as an adult, there are places where I can only say, "Bevan is a jerk."
I also have to say that the prophecy, written as all such things are, about the future line ending with a character named Hal ... that made me giggle. Because when I hear the name Hal, I picture a balding plumber. (This would actually be a great story, but I'm sure the like has been written.)
That said, this is a lovely work, as long as you treat it as half story and half poetry; there is a kind of fairytale logic to it. It shows its age, but it is based on some of the elements that give fantasy its power, and those are timeless.
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