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The Summer King

by O.R. Melling

O.R. Melling’s accomplished fantasy The Summer King, a follow-up to The Hunter’s Moon, economically creates several vivid worlds – modern Ireland, Faerie, and the Renaissance high seas.

Laurel, a sporty, pragmatic teenager, spends the summer in Ireland with her grandparents to recover from the grief following her twin sister’s death. She soon finds herself the incredulous recipient of fairy visitors who urge her to take on a mission that her sister, Honor, had been assigned before her accident. She must find the lost Summer King of Faerie so he can light the Midsummer Eve bonfire and unite the fairy factions. If her quest is successful, Honor will gain life everlasting in Faerie, and Laurel will see her again. Ian, the troubled, obnoxious youth the twins avoided previously, becomes embroiled in the quest, and he and Laurel fall in love.

The novel is miraculously free from most fantasy genre clichés. Melling’s fairies speak believable English, with an Irish lilt, and Gaelic phrases and folkloric exposition are painlessly incorporated. Making Laurel’s grandfather a folklore professor, however, seems contrived.

Melling’s chief themes, the acceptance of suffering and the transformative power of love, are subtly played out until the climax. Here, however, the excitement promised by earlier scenes is not fulfilled, and the style falters, becoming somewhat repetitive and heavy-handed.

Melling always maintains an adept balance between the external and internal conflicts faced by Laurel and Ian. They escape the crowlike Gruagachs, win over Grace O’Malley, the pirate queen, and interpret the enigmatic advice of their fairy advisers, while simultaneously confronting their darker selves – Laurel’s selfishness and lack of faith, and Ian’s violent urges.


Reviewer: Philippa Sheppard

Publisher: Viking Canada


Price: $22

Page Count: 192 pp

Format: Paper

ISBN: 0-670-88463-4

Released: Aug.

Issue Date: 1999-9


Age Range: ages 9–12

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