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The Reviews :: Fire and Hemlock
Reviewed by Che Monro

What if you suddenly found that you had a secret life that you couldn't remember? What if everything you thought you knew about your life turned out not to be true? 19 year old Polly, the heroine of Fire and Hemlock by Dianna Wynne Jones, has exactly this problem as she packs up to prepare for the move to college.

Polly seems to remember sneaking into a strange funeral at the rather creepy house down the street with her friend Nina at age ten. She seems to remember a warm yet slightly bizarre friendship with an older man called Thomas Lynne, despite the disapproval of her Mother and Grandmother.

Polly remembers making up stories and pretend adventures with Thomas, stories which had the eerie and exciting property of coming true as they least expected it. Yet what is the secret enchantment that binds together two people of such different ages and backgrounds? Are Thomas' relatives really as threatening as they appear, or is there some darker mystery behind Polly's newly emerging memories?

Fire and Hemlock is a true gem of a book for many reasons. It's an excellent young adult adventure but one which deserves a wider adult audience. It's a book which talks movingly about many of the things which children's books are "supposed" to talk about: Relationships, divorce, talking to strangers, mental illness and growing up - Yet it never loses sight of its dark, deep-rooted fantasy origins. This is a book which deliberately blurs the line between its fictional "reality" and "fantasy." It's a book which will leave you wondering about the nature of truth and lies and magic. Finally, it's a book which explains the importance of fairy tales and why they are worth reading.

Fire and Hemlock is a book which explores the dark side of the Fae legends. It's a story of Fairy abduction after the legends of Tam Lin and Thomas the Rhymer. This is a classic fantasy and not to be missed by anyone who likes a dark tale of dreams and imagination and magic.

I enjoyed this, What else would I like?

Dianna Wynne Jones has written many excellent books of fantasy, most which are classified as children's or young adults reading. The Chrestomanci series are excellent, as is the Dalemark Quartet. I recommend Dark Lord of Derkholm and Year of the Griffon, and Howls Moving Castle.

Tales of fairy abduction and imprisonment are very ancient indeed. Here are a couple of modern ones: Faery Tale by Raymond E Feist and Carolan's Concerto by Caiseal Mór.

Tales which blend "fiction" and "reality": Resume with Monsters by William Browning Spencer. Try also the work of Philip K Dick.

What is there on Elfood like this?

I have written a story about fairy abductions which is notably similar to the tale of Tam Lin. The Girl who had no Dreams.

Shawn Patrick Reed has written a story called Truth's Cage which features the same kind of blending and mixing of fiction and reality as in Fire and Hemlock.

Seen any art or stories that I should be aware of for my reviews and recommendations? Know any good Elfwood stories which explore the legends of Fae Abductions or which blur the line between fiction and reality? Email me!


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Author: Dianna Wynne Jones

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