Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Just Reviewed Karen Myers’ “To Carry the Horn” at SBR

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Folks, I’ve been sick for quite some time, as most of you know.  This is the main reason I got way behind on my reviewing.

At any rate, I read Karen Myers’ fantasy TO CARRY THE HORN, the first novel in her Hounds of Annwn series, several times during the past month or so.  It’s an intriguing mix of Welsh mythology, the Otherworld of the Fae, and fox hunting.  (Well, hunting with the Hounds of Hell doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to be hunting foxes.  But the thought mostly still applies.)

Our hero, George Talbot Traherne, owns a small computer company and is the whipper-in of the Rowanton Hunt in present-day Virginia.  When one day he follows a white stag, he ends up in the Fae Otherworld, just in time to help out his previously unbeknownst Elven grandfather, Gwyn ap Nudd.  Gwyn’s Master of the Hunt has just been murdered, which is very, very bad as the Wild Hunt must come off in two weeks no matter what.

For those unfamiliar with fantasy, the Wild Hunt usually features demons along with captive souls hunting other souls in peril.  Wisely, Ms. Myers doesn’t take that course; instead, her hounds of Hell are mostly half-dog, half-demon (with a few purebred hellhounds mixed in, natch), while those tending and aiding the hounds are doing so because they want to, not because they have to.

In George’s case, he quickly comes to love the hounds and immerses himself in this new world.  And if hunting isn’t enough to draw you into Ms. Myers’ world, there’s also some good political infighting going on between the rather long-lived Elves, just a hint of magic, shapeshifting, and perhaps even a God taking an interest in His people — that being the Celtic God, Cernunnos.

Now, I couldn’t really discuss the magic at my review because I felt that would give far too much of the plot away.  But I did point out that Gwyn has enemies — the fact that Gwyn’s huntsman gets murdered not three pages into the plot should give the reader a clue — and that the Otherworld itself is a rather interesting, quasi-medieval place.  (I say “quasi” because female Elves have more choices than the nunnery or marriage, which is about all high-ranking women had to choose from during the medieval era.)

There’s some fine characterization here, a nice, solid plotline, and an excellent setup for future adventures, all good.  But there were some minor stylistic things that threw me — for example, quoted thoughts are usually italicized for ease of reading, yet Ms. Myers did not do this.  (The older conventions didn’t use italics in this way, granted.  But for at least the past fifty to sixty years, quoted thought is usually italicized.)  And Ms. Myers uses the word “alright” rather than making it two words, which can be really jarring as George is a well-educated urban professional.  (Seeing “alright” in inner monologue was what really threw me; in dialogue, it sounds the same way so it doesn’t tend to bug me as much.  In general, if you’re using “alright,” your character should be a kid or possibly someone who has very little education or polish about him — and even there, I’d try to use it only in dialogue.)

Anyway, I’m glad I was finally able to get up the review for Ms. Myers’ TO CARRY THE HORN.  Because if you like fantasy and have been looking for something that’s original, inventive, and will keep you reading until the very last page, this book is for you.


Written by Barb Caffrey

June 7, 2013 at 12:27 am

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