Midsummer Night: One of the most enchanting fantasies I’ve read in years

Freda Warrington The Aetherial Tales 2. Midsummer Nightfantasy book reviews Freda Warrington Midsummer NightMidsummer Night by Freda Warrington

When you love a book as much as I do Freda Warrington’s Elfland, there’s always a little bit of fear mixed in with the anticipation for its sequel. Finding a book that resonates with you on many levels at once is like falling under a spell. What if the second book isn’t as good; what if it breaks the spell? Now that I’ve read Midsummer Night, though, I can report that I’m still happily ensorcelled. Midsummer Night lives up to the quality of Elfland and is a terrific novel in its own right.

If Elfland was about love and being oneself, Midsummer Night deals with themes of guilt vs. redemption, loss vs. healing, and the intersection of art and magic. The two point-of-view characters are Gill Sharma, a former world-class runner who has just lost everything she thought defined her; and Dame Juliana Flagg, an imperious sculptor whose perfectionism hides a tangle of guilt and fear. Wanting to get away from everyone and everything, Gill moves into a cottage on Juliana’s remote property of Cairndonan. Before long, Gill finds a hidden path in the forest that leads to a place that simply shouldn’t be there, and when she returns to Cairndonan, a frightened young man follows her.

This young man, called Leith, sets Juliana’s household into an uproar. He might be a shell-shocked WWI soldier who vanished from the estate in 1919; he might be a child who was lost more recently, now grown to manhood; and he might be mentally ill and in need of help. A charismatic man claiming to be Leith’s brother comes looking for him, raising the question of whom to trust. Gill, Juliana, and a vivid cast of secondary characters are swept into an Aetherial power struggle and a mystery that has haunted Cairndonan for generations.

Midsummer Night is beautifully written and gives the reader the sense that Warrington’s world is hiding just one wrong turn away from ours. Gill and Juliana and Cairndonan felt more real than reality for the several days it took me to read the book, and for days afterward I caught myself glancing at trees and old houses and just wondering. There is yet again cause to rejoice that Warrington left some of the Otherworld to our imaginations in Elfland; this means that we have new places to explore through Gill’s and Juliana’s eyes that we haven’t already seen through Rosie’s and Sam’s.

Like Elfland, Midsummer Night makes use of some “family saga” plot elements such as adultery and secret parentage. Unlike in Elfland, many of these elements are set in the novel’s past rather than its present, though their fallout is still being felt. Midsummer Night has a sort of “sadder and wiser” feel compared to Elfland, and the book is not as romantic per se. Yet it’s not without hope, and I really liked the way the character arcs developed.

This book has everything: a big complex plot, emotionally compelling characters, evocative writing, gorgeous settings, a sense of wonder, a bit of humor, great use of tiny little details that might not seem important at first, and a few scenes that will scare your socks off! It shares a cosmology (and a secondary character or two) with Elfland, but can stand alone. You’ll want to read Elfland anyway though, as it’s wonderful; the AETHERIAL TALES are some of the most enchanting fantasies I’ve read in years and I highly recommend them.

Midsummer Night — (2010) Publisher: A sensuous, suspenseful modern fantasy of love, betrayal, and redemption. Decades ago, in a place where the veil between our world and the world of the Aetherials — the fair folk — is too easily breached, three young people tricked their uncle by dressing as the fey. But their joke took a deadly turn when true Aetherials crossed into our world, took one of the pranksters, and literally scared their uncle to death. Many years later, at the place of this capture lies a vast country estate that holds a renowned art facility owned by a visionary sculptor. One day, during a violent storm, a young woman studying art at the estate stumbles upon a portal to the Otherworld. A handsome young man comes through the portal and seeks shelter with her. Though he can tell her nothing of his past, his innocence and charm capture her heart. But he becomes the focus of increasingly violent arguments among the residents of the estate. Is he as innocent as he seems? Or is he hiding his true identity so that he can seek some terrible vengeance, bringing death and heartbreak to this place that stands between two worlds? Who is this young man? The forces of magic and the power of love contend for the soul of this man, in this magical romantic story of loss and redemption.

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KELLY LASITER is a mild-mannered academic administrative assistant by day, but at night she rules over a private empire of tottering bookshelves. Kelly is most fond of fantasy set in a historical setting (a la Jo Graham) or in a setting that echoes a real historical period (a la George RR Martin and Jacqueline Carey). She also enjoys urban fantasy and its close cousin, paranormal romance, though she believes these subgenres’ recent burst in popularity has resulted in an excess of dreck. She is a sucker for pretty prose (she majored in English, after all) and mythological themes.

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3 comments

  1. Heehee! I was actually surprised to see this in my RSS feed! I read it in what, June? And I was so used to thinking “oh, that one’s a long way off!” November really snuck up on me this year.

  2. Great to hear! I have Elfland on my want list and this sounds like a great addition to it. :) I know the feeling of worry with sequals and the rest of the series when you love the first book. Great! Thanks!

  3. They’re both great reads. I actually read most of this one in one day, even though it’s a long book. (I’d traveled to visit a friend, who ended up getting sick and missing most of the first day of my visit, and so I spent some quality time with my book instead.) They make me want to make a wrong turn in the woods and wander into strange places…

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