Thomas the Rhymer
Winner of the World Fantasy Award & the Mythopoeic Award
A minstrel lives by his words, his tunes, and sometimes by his lies.
“Elegant and beautiful . . . a magical tour-de-force shot through with strange melodies. I loved it.” – Neil Gaiman
“Dazzling, immediate and as unflinchingly honest as if it came from the mouth of True Thomas himself. This is the book that other faerie stories must be measured against.” – Holly Black
Award-winning author and radio personality Ellen Kushner’s inspired retelling of an ancient legend weaves myth and magic into a vivid contemporary novel about the mysteries of the human heart. Brimming with ballads, riddles, and magical transformations, here is the timeless tale of a charismatic bard whose talents earn him a two-edged otherworldly gift.
A minstrel lives by his words, his tunes, and sometimes by his lies. But when the bold and gifted young Thomas the Rhymer awakens the desire of the powerful Queen of Elfland, he finds that words are not enough to keep him from his fate. As the Queen sweeps him far from the people he has known and loved into her realm of magic, opulence—and captivity—he learns at last what it is to be truly human. When he returns to his home with the Queen’s parting gift, his great task will be to seek out the girl he loved and wronged, and offer her at last the tongue that cannot lie.
“This beautiful and scholarly book pays passionate homage to the Scottish Border ballads, and culminates in a duel of harps to rival the brilliant duel of bagpipes in Robert Louis Stevenson’s Kidnapped. Kushner plays very close attention to the sounds and rhythms of her prose, with the result that the book comes across as a musical composition as well as a story. And she’s very good at conveying the strangeness and the overwhelming eroticism of Elfland, exactly as it figures in the spookiest old songs.” – Dr. Rob Maslen, Convener of the Master of Letters in Fantasy, University of Glasgow
“Thomas the Rhymer is simply one of the best standalone modern fantasies written. A moving tale of betrayal and forgiveness.” – Andrew Musk, Starburst
“The book explores the importance of the little white lies people frequently tell each other, and how knowledge of the truth can be a burden. … It is this depth of character and emotion that Kushner brings to her retelling of the ballad. She has successfully humanised its characters and crafted a compelling and sensitive reimagining of a classic piece of folklore.” – Jonathan Thornton, Fantasy Faction