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A Green and Ancient Light Hardcover – June 7, 2016
"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? Cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, and instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise. Learn more
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* "This gentle, engaging, and very personal coming-of-age story is mythic in its universality." (Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW)
* "Durbin gives his story an old-fashioned fairy-tale feel...and imbues his settings with a languorous sense of being outside of time. This is a magical book that will appeal to those who loved Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane and John Connolly’s The Book of Lost Things." (Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW)
"Durbin’s gorgeously atmospheric novel solidly shares the fantasy-and historical-fiction genres...a delicate dance between reality and fantasy, ominous soldiers and late-night fairy music. Fans of John Connolly’s The Book of Lost Things will enjoy this bittersweet fantasy with a mystery at its core." (Booklist)
"This is a lush and wonderful tale of discovery, relationships and mystery that is perfect for young adults or any grown-up who remembers what it was like to learn that not everything is always as it seems....If you like being pulled into a story, enjoy characters that spring off the page and revel in a tale that makes you ache for more, A Green and Ancient Light will certainly shine for you. On a scale of five stars, give this a five, brightly." (The Perry News)
"A Green and Ancient Light combines beautiful writing, romance, war, mystery, and faery fantasy into one compelling, delightful story suitable for grownup or not so grownup readers alike." (Champaign News-Gazette)
"Not unlike reading your first beloved book as a child...Durbin’s tale of childhood, family, truth, and bravery certainly captured a piece of [my heart]." (Chicago Review of Books)
"The same magic flows in its veins as does in those of the classic The Last Unicorn or, more recently, Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane...I left a piece of my heart with A Green and Ancient Light." (B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy blog)
About the Author
Frederic S. Durbin is a writer and novelist of fantasy and horror. His first novel, Dragonfly, was published by Arkham House in 1999. It was nominated for an International Horror Guild Award for Best First Novel.
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There are few books to which I eagerly return again and again. They are classics from my youth, or works that remind me of these classics: Tolkien's and C.S. Lewis’s books, of course; “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer”; Natalie Babbit's “Tuck Everlasting”; “The Once and Future King”. Books discovered outside of my youth would be William Hope Hodgson’s works, Hope Mirrlees’s “Lud-in-the-Mist”, H.P. Lovecraft’s and Robert E. Howard’s tales.
Fred’s latest book is shelved with these.
It does feel a bit weird to be friends with someone who now has written one of my classics, though it can't be much different than how C.S. Lewis might have felt after reading “The Hobbit” or “The Lord of the Rings”. Fred’s book is a classic in that it not only is a deeply engrossing story but that it teaches wisdom. I have learned a lot this summer, with this book, and through my friend. And I expect I will learn even more through the years, as I age, as I reread.
This is not lightly worded. Just like the grove of monsters -- a mysterious, overgrown garden whose brushes and brambles occlude many an awe-inspiring statue -- this book hides elements of wisdom, reflections and observations about much of life's experiences. You might have to look for them. More often they seem to jump right out of the thickets at you, surprising and astounding, while you only were making your way, drawing aside vines and foliage while you were trying to find a path through the brake.
One of these surprises is the nature of Faery (Fred’s spelling) itself. In my forty-some years of reading, I have become a scholar of the faery in literature. I would expect that I had no more to learn, and yet Fred taught me more.
A strength of this book is that the magic is kept right on the marge of faery land. To stay too long in that magical realm--or to start one's crossing at noon rather than at the right twilight time--is dangerous. Because Fred mutes these elements, the magic conversely becomes all the more real. Because Faery IS real. It's in aspects of the natural world all around us, and if anyone fully goes to the other land, as in this book, that person doesn't come back. Anyone claiming to do so and describing more than just glimpses and rumors is telling stories.
I have seen that some readers have been put off by the redacted names in this book--a device not all that uncommon in eighteenth century literature but perhaps alienating for the modern reader. Many reviewers have recognized the benefit of this feature: that Fred's story, though real, is universal in its experience, mythic in its scope. Fred's refusal to specify time and place and people makes it a story for all of us. For indeed, as he says, there is no us and them, no enemy and ally, in the sacred wood.
And yet the clues are there! If a reader truly wants to, why not speculate on the when and where and who of it all? This book contains a puzzle and there are clues for its solution. Similarly, in true literary tradition, the book itself might be read as a puzzle. This is the definition of the literary concept of form equals function. Besides, all names, all letters, are mere signifiers anyway. Is it really all that different or difficult to identify a character through R---- rather than, say, Roderico?
Fred's latest work is a literary masterpiece and, in my library at least, permanently categorized in the mythopoeic canon. Read it.
Because the author does not name where the story takes place it allows the reader to imagine this could happen anywhere and/or anytime. Also, by not giving the names of the characters the author allows the reader to imagine they could be anyone, possibly, even us. It's genius, really. If the story had been set in England I would've thought 'magic happens in England' or 'love happens in England'. Instead, I think 'magic happens everywhere' and 'love happens everywhere'.
I enjoyed the time I spent with these characters as they went along their journey and I was sorry to leave them.
Although the beginning takes a while to fully develop, the story overall is a beautiful example of literary fiction, satisfying on the immediate, surface level as well as on the subtle, artistic level. The beauty of this story lies in its subtly.
The story takes place on a remote island during WWII, but there are fantasy elements. I wouldn't call it magic realism, but it's not hard-core fantasy either. The most powerful antagonist is not identifiable until the end, and many elements seem so subtle that it almost feels as if the story isn't coming together. All the while, however, the reader is being slowly drawn, the strands of the story masterfully woven, until the entire scope of the story becomes visible in one heart-wrenching, soul-touching moment. I was so affected that I now consider this book to be one of my life-long favorites. A definite must-read.