Wow. I haven’t come across a book I found difficult to put down in a while. This book, one of a series by Ace Books, of re-tellings of classic fairy tales. The book has an exposition on what a fairy tale is, how they were twisted beyond all recognition by the Victorians (the process continues today with Disney) and why and how this happened as fantasy went out of vogue for an adult readership.
This book tells the Hungarian fairy tale, of a kingdom where the sun, moon and stars have gone missing, and the world is in darkness, and the king of the land has offered half his kingdom and his daughter in marriage to whoever finds and puts the sun, moon and stars back in the sky.
In short, a traditional fairy tale.
The author has incorporated this into a modern day setting, where a group of artists rent a studio, and struggle to create, define and find meaning in art. The protagonist, who is Hungarian, tells the tale to his group, while going on as artists do: struggling with creation, accepting and giving critical feedback, fighting, worrying about money, arguing about art, and “selling out” and staying true to the calling.
The struggles, anguish and self-doubt of the protagonist as he creates a painting are so marvelously portrayed, they made me stay well up past my bedtime to finish it. Highly recommended. And you have been warned.