Appendix N Challenge: The Book of Wonder by Lord Dunsany

Okay, I’ll start with an apology. I realized a little too late this weekend that I really should have read The King of Elfland’s Daughter rather than this collection of short stories as an example of Lord Dunsanys work. That being said, I’m going to circle back and read that one later, so there’ll definitely be a second review of Dunsany coming your way. Oh lucky you, amirite?!?

Charming. It’s the best word that I could find to describe this collection of short stories. Dunsany writes with an elegance that I found very similar to Bellairs with a voice that’s very pleasing to the inner ear. The imagery was always striking, created with broad yet deft strokes something a lot of today’s ‘popular’ authors seem to have forgotten how to do.

An example? In the story ‘Probable adventure of the Three Literary Men’, he has them killed by a “shocking light” described thusly;

For a moment it might have been an ordinary light, fatal as even that could very well be at such a moment as this; but when it began to follow them like an eye and to grow redder and redder as it watched them, then even optimism despaired.

So much said in a single paragraph. Tell me that’s not elegance. And you can find its equal in every single story.

This is fantasy at the wellsprings head, ideas, and motifs that needed to be out there to inspire other writers. To plant the seeds so to speak. Seriously, if you’re a writer and you haven’t read this guy there’s a massive part of your education missing. Yes, he jumps around idea-wise like a kid with ADHD sometimes, but you get used to it. Think of it as learning a new language.

The language of fantasy perhaps.

Enjoyment wise Dunsany isn’t a patch on Merritt or Brackett, I did find myself taking regular breaks to read a bit more Haggard or an episode of Killjoys. This wasn’t a collection for quaffing that’s for sure. You sip and think and wonder and if you’re lucky connections are made in your mind. Reading it as a writer a huge amount can be learned about style, elegance, and brevity, getting the story across as quickly as possible. Attributes that seem to have been lost recently in an era of bloated epics.

Just a short one today, well it is a bank holiday! I’m off to play make-believe with my Lil Buddy.

Take care, and thanks for reading



3 thoughts on “Appendix N Challenge: The Book of Wonder by Lord Dunsany

  1. John E. Boyle

    I believe you made the right choice in reading the Book of Wonder first. The period between 1905 (The Gods of Pagana) and 1912 (The Book of Wonder) is when Dunsany earned his reputation as one of the finest writers in the English language. In my opinion, this is Dunsany at his fantastic best, because the Great War changed him (he was wounded in the Easter Rebellion and saw service on the Continent). He wrote very little fantasy after the War, as far as I know, and the publication of the King of Elfland’s Daughter in 1924 was his way of saying goodbye, I think.

    I do know that many people find KOED difficult to read; I think it is because it is Dunsany’s farewell to high fantasy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can see how he was able to earn that reputation, he’s easily as good as Saki or M.R.James my two favorites from the same (general) period.
      His use of fantasy was a real shock to the system, its so abrupt, no working up to it, just bang and straight in there. The casual way he throws in references to London, landmarks I recognize and then whoosh, you’re somewhere else entirely. You would have thought Enid Blyton and her far away tree would have prepared me lol.
      Thanks for the insight John, always good to talk to a gentleman and scholar.


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