King of Morning, Queen of Day
Ian McDonald

Winner of the Philip K. Dick Award and the Prix Imaginales: Three generations of women share a mysterious power—one that threatens to destroy them

In early-twentieth-century Ireland, life for Emily Desmond is that of the average teenage girl: She reads, she’s bored with school, and she has a powerful imagination. Then things begin to change. Her imagination is so powerful, in fact, that she wills a faerie into existence—an ability called mythoconsciousness. It’s this power that opens a dangerous door that she will never want to close, and whose repercussions will reverberate across time.

First to be affected is her daughter, Jessica, who, in the mid-1930s, finds that she must face her mother’s power by using the very same gift against her. Then, in the near future, Jessica’s granddaughter, Enye, must end the cycle once and for all—but it may prove too powerful to overcome.

King of Morning, Queen of Day book cover

“But being an inevitability does not make it a joy. Dying is the inevitable of inevitables, but that does not make it into a thing to be looked forward to.”

I didn’t know what I was going to make of this novel; the synopsis intrigued me and I was hooked and spellbound from the very start. Somehow, Mcdonald’s managed to blend three very distinct, very separate, indeed very disjointed women into a masterpiece, a complex and powerful gestalt which, although it didn’t quite hold me to the edge of my seat all the way through (Enye took a while for me to warm to) nonetheless compelled, impelled, forced me to keep turning the pages to resolve the story and see how it all came out.

Of particular appeal to me was the geography, Bridestone Wood, it being “Not quite haunted, but not quite not”, and returned to generations hence by these different, different women. Each of whom see things through the views of their own times and ages, of course. And the language. The poetry, the cadence, the rhythm of things. Phrases like:
* “Mr. Caldwell’s expression one of grim resolution in the face of withering revelation, like a member of the Russian royal family on the night of the Revolution”
* “after monetary inducement of a proportion that even the piratical proprietor of the Munster Arms Hotel would have baulked at”
* “An Operatically flamboyant sunset”
* “The pith of her spirit”

These pretty, witty, catchy turns of phrase struck chords with me, lodged somewhere in my brain, connected me to the work in a way rare and pleasant and delightful.

So, yes. An experience, not just a reading. I loved the language best of all, and I’d reread the entries from Dr. Edward Garret Desmond’s Personal Diary over again, just to marvel at and relish in the language of the period. Most of the phrases that caught my eye, that set themselves a tinkling and twinkling in my head were from the second section, and seeing Mcdonald’s handling of a future generation was interesting, even if I didn’t click with Enye as I did with the other MacColls.

Is it worth you reading it? well, that’s not for me to say. But if I could go and tell myself to read it a year ago, during a humdrum book or dry literary spell, I’d do so in a heartbeat – my only reservation being that precluding my own enjoyment of it this week.

Published by Sean Randall

I am an avid reader, technologist and disability advocate living in the middle of England with my wife, daughter and pets.

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