Locus Focus: Take One Hundred and Twelve!
We're still doing the Return to Faerieland challenge, with settings from retold faerie tales. Today's featured novel is a book I won in a giveaway years ago and didn't have a reason to read until this month. And it occurred to me that I should match my Locus Focus themes to my "TBR pile" more strategically, if I ever hope to make a dent in the latter! =P
by Heather Dixon
It should have frightened her, thinking of the palace as once evil and magicked, with the candelabras and ceiling murals alive, but it didn't. It was hard to be frightened of a building that smelled of old toast. Once, Azalea guessed, it had been intimidating and grand, with magic walls you could walk through and flues that didn't have birds nesting in them. When the High King was killed . . . Harold the First had somehow unmagicked the palace, rebuilt it, and made it a decent home to live in.
Only bits of magic remained . . .
"My father used to speak of magic in the palace," said Lord Bradford . . . "The D'Eathe mark, when it's on brick, marks a hidden passage. Did you know that? You can open it by rubbing silver on it . . . If I recall, though, he said they were only used as storage rooms now . . ."
Some faerie tale settings don't have to be completely reimagined, like last fortnight's sinister take on the enchanted castle in Beauty and the Beast; it's enough for them to be explained. So if you've ever read The Twelve Dancing Princesses and wondered just how there came to be a secret passage from the girls' bedroom to an underground world big enough for two forests, a lake, and a palace on an island, then Heather Dixon wrote Entwined just for you!
But note that such secret passages don't exist in a vacuum: they're connected to rooms, which are connected to buildings, which are connected to a society, which is connected to history, which, in this case, is connected to a royal family. The Wentworth princesses' first royal ancestor won the crown after King Harold I overthrew the High King D'Eathe (Oh, now I get it . . .), who had been using magic to hold the entire kingdom in thrall. Along with the "unmagicking" of the latter's palace, the House of Wentworth established a parliament that limited the crown's powers . . . as well as the amount of money that the royal family could spend on luxuries, like satin dancing shoes! For a faerie world, it's downright prosaic--that is, until the princesses discover that there is more to their bedroom than they ever guessed.
I don't find Dixon's world building totally believable, though I do love that an LDS author felt that the royals in her Fantasy story should be Catholic. =P But I can't fault her on the palace, with its secret passages reminiscent of the portal in C.S. Lewis's famous wardrobe, its sensitivity to silver, and even its shabby gentility in an age when parliament insists that it is "governmental property." In Entwined, magic seems to be a metaphor for tradition!
That's why I feel a little sad at the story's implication that magic is for tyrants, while more mundane methods of government are for truly just rulers. When the royal palace becomes the setting for a clash between the otherworldly and the ordinary--which is also a clash between the past and the present--it is clear which one will have "to give" in order for the "forces of good" to win. And well, it's just not my sort of moral.
Thankfully, there are other centuries-old traditions, more beautiful than necessary, that the royal family are instrumental in keeping alive. The palace may not always be magical, but for a while longer it will be a place for dances that preserve the beauty of form.
Question of the Week: If your own house had magical properties, what material would be most likely to activate them?
Image Source: Entwined by Heather Dixon