I first read this book just because I owned it. Then I re-read it three years ago, when I thought the Victorian book would be the next one I wrote in the Onyx Court series, before detouring through In Ashes Lie and A Star Shall Fall. Now I’m re-reading bits and pieces of it for reference, because this, ladies and gents, is the nineteenth-century answer to Katherine Briggs’ Pale Hecate’s Team. Briggs was analyzing fairy folkore and its literary expression in Shakespeare’s day; Silver is doing the same for the Victorians.
She breaks it down thematically: the origins of fairies, changelings and abductions, fairy brides, “racial myths and mythic races,” fairy cruelty, and flitting, the departure of fairies for their own lands (or sometimes Australia). Furthermore, she questions what these things meant to the Victorians, why these kinds of stories became popular; in the case of changelings, for example, she talks about disease (both physical and mental), and about social response to deviant behavior, and about the class-based and racial tensions within Victorian society, that strongly affected the way these stories were told and received, and who was doing the telling and receiving.
In other words, pretty much everything you’d want to write a Victorian fairy novel.
If I have one complaint, it’s that I want this book to be bigger. Only 234 pages, counting the endnotes; I’m sure there’s more to be said here, and I wish Silver had said it.