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moonlightreader

Moonlight Reader

Lawyer, mother, avid reader. Game host extraordinaire! Partner in crime to Obsidian Black Plague! My bookish weaknesses include classics, fantasy, YA, and agreeing to read more books than is even remotely possible.

The Mirk and Midnight Hour by Jane Nickerson

The Mirk and Midnight Hour - Jane Nickerson

This is a retelling of Tam Lin, a Scottish ballad with which I was unfamiliar until I read this book. I am very familiar with the Grimm tales, but this one was new to me, and that might have prevented me from enjoying the book as much as I had hoped I would.

 

Information about Tam Lin (from Wikipedia):

 

Most variants begin with the warning that Tam Lin collects either a possession or the virginity of any maiden who passes through the forest of Carterhaugh. When a young girl, usually called Janet or Margaret, goes to Carterhaugh and plucks a double rose, Tam appears and asks why she has come without his leave and taken what is his. She states that she owns Carterhaugh, because her father has given it to her.

In most variants, Janet then goes home and discovers that she is pregnant; some variants pick up the story at this point. When taxed about her condition, she declares that her baby's father is an elf whom she will not forsake. In some variants, she is informed of a herb that will induce abortion; in all the variants, when she returns to Carterhaugh and picks a plant, either the same roses as on her earlier visit or the herb, Tam reappears and challenges her action.

 

She asks him whether he was ever human, either after that reappearance, or in some variants, immediately after their first meeting resulted in her pregnancy. He reveals that he was a mortal man, who, after falling from his horse, was rescued and captured by the Queen of Fairies. Every seven years, the fairies give one of their people as a teind (tithe) to Hell and Tam fears he will become the tithe that night, which is Hallowe'en. He is to ride as part of a company of knights, and Janet will recognise him by the white horse upon which he rides and by other signs. He warns her that the fairies will attempt to make her drop him by turning him into all manner of beasts (seeProteus), but that he will do her no harm. When he is finally turned into a burning coal, she is to throw him into a well, whereupon he will reappear as a naked man and she must hide him. Janet does as she is asked and wins her knight. The Queen of Fairies is angry but acknowledges defeat.

 

I really wanted to love this book. It is well-written enough, and set in Civil War, Mississippi. It felt, though, like the author really couldn't make up her mind between writing a straight YA historical fiction romance (like The Caged Graves, which I adored) and an eerie retelling of a fairy tale using the Civil War as a setting and device to tell the tale. This was a rather uneasy blend of both. Of the two, I much preferred the straight historical fiction aspects of the book. I didn't feel that the VanZandts and the part of the book that was paranormal worked particularly well, and would have been happier without those parts of the story, actually.

 

 

I haven't read anything else by this author, although I do have Strands of Bronze and Gold in my kindle library. I liked her writing style, I enjoyed the characters and the dreamy, slightly otherworldly Mississippi setting, so I'm definitely going to give her another try. This book just didn't quite work for me. I'm not sure if this is because I didn't really get the Tam-Lin references, or if it was because she didn't execute it very well.

 

The Mirk and Midnight Hour qualifies as Mississippi for my USA by the Book challenge.