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A haunting series of interrelated short stories tells the reader the history of the small village of Neverness and its inhabitants who experience superstition, magic, love, and sorrow. The book begins and closes with a village tradition that is their own version of Beltane, a gorse-maze, and girls who shoot arrows into the maze for the young men of the village to find and be matched for a kiss or more. As the book opens, we meet the ill-fated Crab Skerry and at its close see the fate of the girl he had wanted to kiss, Madden, whose soul is woven by a spell with that of a soaring kite.
These are folktales about island folk, mixing classic British Isle fae entities like the water bull, similar to a kelpie, luring young women to a watery death, and simple people with their everyday lives on their farms and in a fishing community. Beyond the elements of familiar folklore, Gilbert has given us truly poignant characters with heartbreaking stories. Ervet and her beloved mawkins, Verlyn, a man with a wing, and his unrequited love for a girl named after a bird, Linnet. There are also images of memorable power like that of a boy named Finch, arms outstretched, covered in bees, green sap emerging from a scratch on his neck.
This is a rich an beautiful series of stories that read like a novel. Blending folklore and magical realism, it's a unique book to be savored.