This was an amusing shaggy dog story made from well-heeled werewolf and vampire tropes, with unexpected laugh-out loud moments: a wolf is bitten by a werewolf and turns into a man once a month. I was delighted by the author's imaginings of a wolf's mind, but somehow it was his female character -- Darlene -- who was the barely believable mythical creature in this book. She's more than a little neurotic and strange about dating, to say the least.
Also, this book was staged in 1989 New York, pre-911. You wouldn't think that makes a difference, but it does. Airports and computers and cell phones have certainly made our world a different place. The world is moving on.
Lessons about writing: I don't think this book was written to be anything other than fun, but if such a nice premise had really been put through its paces as fully as it could have been, this would have been a seminal book for the genre. It wasn't. I guess that's the lesson --
If you don't want to be totally depressed about how little you have done with your life, do NOT read Lord Dunsany's biography. Dunsany, or Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett, had such an august life that in addition to writing 60 books and many well-received plays, the Irish baron was pretty much a superstar in any other ring he decided to toss his hat. Don't read his biography. You don't want to know. Just trust me.
And of course, this fantasy, written in 1924, was a seminal influence for many, many great authors: Tolkein, Beagle, Lovecraft, Leiber... that list goes on and on. For god's sakes, Neil Gaiman just about lifted the entire story line for Stardust from here, though it did not keep him from writing the introduction for this book.
The King of Elfland's Daughter is about a mortal man taking an elfin princess from elfland as his bride, losing her, and finding her again. It is beautiful, imaginative beyond compare, and is written in a cadence that sounds like it should be sung in an opera. There are hunted unicorns, lands that move like sea tides, ancient runes, witches and trolls, and stars so glorious they must be worshiped. The comparisons between the land of men, which always changes and the immutable elfland, were also sonorous to read: He saw through cracks in old shutters the stars go moving by; he saw them pale: he saw the other light spread; he saw the wonder of sunrise; he felt the gloom of the loft all full of the coo of the pigeons; he watched their restless ways: he heard wild birds stir in near elms, and men abroad in the morning, and horses and carts and cows; and everything changing as the morning grew. A land of change!
Lessons learned: Be careful with endings. They can sully even the finest of books. (The ending was not as interesting as I thought this story deserved... but it may also be a mere inflammation of raw jealousy on my part.)
Don't read about Lord Dunsany. Just don't.
In 2011, I began reading a list of 100 Great Fantasy Novels. I am listing them on this page.