I knew, just by reading the back cover blurb, that King of Morning, Queen of Day was right up my alley. Women with mystical powers? Check. Faeries? Check. Ireland? Check. In fact, I think the only reason I didn’t discover this book earlier is that it was published in 1991, and I only started reading fantasy sometime in the late nineties.
The story begins with Emily, a bratty but endearing girl of fifteen, poised on the edge of adulthood in the early 20th century. Emily knows she is special — set apart — and when she sees the faeries in the wood by her family’s home, she knows she will never be satisfied with ordinary life. Emily makes a colossal mess of things, as bratty fifteen-year-olds will do, and sets in motion events that will affect generations to come.
What follows is a fairy tale, but not precisely a tale of faeries; it’s more of an exploration of the nature of reality and of myth, as seen through the eyes of Emily and two other women: Jessica, a glib-tongued teenager of the 1930s whose tall tales have an uncanny way of coming true; and Enye, a woman of the late 1980s, torn between everyday life and a battle with supernatural forces from the world beyond.
King of Morning, Queen of Day is a stunning story and one that I’ll probably reread over and over again. It doesn’t suffer one bit from the ailment that afflicts so many multigenerational novels — the tendency for one or more of the intertwined stories to lack luster. All three of the women, and their lives and times, are vivid and passionate. And I must say, there are few male authors who can write such nuanced and three-dimensional female characters. Get your hands on a used copy of this. I wish they’d reprint it…