Legends of the fae are baked into the DNA of modern Western fantasy, to the point that sometimes it seems we’ve seen every variety of fairy story imaginable—until a writer comes along and happily proves us wrong. Today, that author is Jeanette Ng. Later this year, Angry Robot Books will publish her debut novel, Under the Pendulum Sun, a fae fantasy that mixes those ancient tales with a startlingly unique premise: what happens when Victorian-era missionaries attempt to spread the word of God to magical creatures whose mere existences conflicts with church dogma? We’re guessing things don’t go super well.
Billed as a dark Gothic fairy tale, Under the Pendulum Sun is steeped in magic and horror, and we can’t wait to read it. Ng should know her stuff—originally from Hong Kong, she lives in Durham in the UK and has a master’s in Medieval and Renaissance Studies, which fueled her interest in missionary theology. (She also runs live roleplay games and used to sell costumes for a living, so her worldbuilding should be on-point.)
Unfortunately, the book doesn’t arrive until October. In the meantime, we’ve got a guest post from the author, who shares a few of notable portrayals of the fae in literature that helped shape her narrative. You’ll find that following the back cover synopsis.
Victorian missionaries travel into the heart of the newly discovered lands of the Fae, in a stunningly different fantasy that mixes Crimson Peak with Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell.
Catherine Helstone’s brother, Laon, has disappeared in Arcadia, legendary land of the magical fae. Desperate for news of him, she makes the perilous journey, but once there, she finds herself alone and isolated in the sinister house of Gethsemane. At last there comes news: her beloved brother is riding to be reunited with her soon—but the Queen of the Fae and her insane court are hard on his heels.
Fairy Tales That Helped Shape Under the Pendulum Sun
In my novel Under the Pendulum Sun, the siblings Catherine and Laon Helstone enter fairyland as missionaries—and discover that the fae are bewitching and bizarre beyond anything they could have expected. Sheltered by their small lives in England, the pair must navigate the mad whims of their deadly fae hosts.
Faeries—especially dark, sinister faeries—have always fascinated me. The fae of Under the Pendulum Sun owe an incalculable debt of inspiration to amazing previous works. All I could really do is list a few books filled with fae that I have loved.
Brian Froud’s books on fairies are stunningly beautiful, and his is the mind behind much of the goblin designs in the 1986 Labyrinth that gave us David Bowie as the Goblin King. Good Fairy/Bad Fairy is still jaw-droppingly gorgeous, so if sinister beauty is your style, I heartily recommend that too. I am personally far more drawn to bizarre and comically grotesque antics of the goblins. Presented as the work of Dashe, a goblin portraitist, The Goblin Companion introduces you to the inhabitants and habits of the Labyrinth, including goblin knitting an extremely dangerous and foolhardy sport that sort of resembles jousting except not really. Replete with high quality puns, The Gobin Companion is a constant delight.
Historic thinkers have often wondered about the place of fairies in Christian theology. The attempts of my missionary siblings to bring their faith to the fae is a modern take on an old idea.
Lady Augusta Gregory’s Gods and Fighting Men has a chapter of St. Patrick arguing with Oisin, trying to convert the old poet who had once dwelt in the land of fairies. St Patrick tries to convince Oisin to pray for the great Finn mac Cumhail, for he would be in Hell. Oisin laughs and retorts that Finn would simply fight his way out. Aside from this theologically fascinating and amusing conversation, Gregory’s work is well worth a read.
Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell reads with the same languid pace and delicious language as the best in Victorian literature, complete with charming digressions in the footnotes. The fairies within it are mysterious and very creepy, existing in a world behind mirrors and madness, but more than that, the fae world is a heighted version of the real. The bonds and bargains of exploitation and predation that the fairies deal in are but mirrors of that within the human world, making it all the more compelling a read.
Catherynne M. Valente’s Fairyland series began as a storybook described by the narrator of Palimpsest, read to her by her mother when she was a child. Unlike the darkly lush Palimpsest, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland In A Ship Of Her Own Making is delightfully light. I cannot help but see shades of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan in the opening, when September is invited away by the Green Wind, and I was charmed within pages. Fairyland has a certain offbeat internal logic that runs on wordplay and whimsy.
Zen Cho’s Sorcerer to the Crown imagines fairyland as a source of magic but more than that, it is a foreign power with its own sovereignty that desires to bargained with. Sanctions are placed on magic by the seemingly fickle fairies and English supplies dwindle. Pressure is thus placed on the new Sorcerer Royal to negotitate. A delicate balance between the wonderous and earthly is being struck, as fairyland is both other and yet not.
Under the Pendulum Sun will be available October 3, 2017.