Title: The Innkeeper's Song
Published: Souvenir Press 1998
Purchased: Borders, Cambridge, 2004-01-24, £9.99
Beagle is not a well known writer, probably because he doesn't appear to have written very much. However, The Last Unicorn is often said to be one of the best fantasies ever written, so it was with some interest that I bought this. And it's a charmer.
The plot actually appears, 20 lines of lyrics, before the prologue, and it does sort of cover the story. However, the fun is seeing how it develops. The story starts with Tikat, a village lad just 18, walking out with his beloved Lukassa on the first day of spring, witnessing her drowning and then her revivification by a passing warrior woman, who whisks the soggy girl away.
Naturally, being totally besotted with his love, he steals a horse and pursues. But the warrior woman is on business of her own, and isn't going to stop and explain.
And a third woman joins the two leading.
Eventually, he does catch up, when they've reached the Gaff and Slasher, the Inn of the title, but Lukassa doesn't remember him - all she remembers is her death, nothing before that.
Most of the rest of the book revolves round the Inn. We see the innkeeper Karsh, an honest but otherwise ungracious character. We see Rosseth, the stable boy. We meet travelling players who don't seem to be travelling too much right now. The point-of-view switches between quite a few different characters, and sometimes this is a problem, when one character just doesn't know something that we have already seen, but on the whole it works very nicely.
In the end, we see love redeemed, and the power of confession, right at the end after the main story has finished, when we learn the Innkeeper's awful secret.
This was an excellent fantasy. No great battles (some pretty hard little ones), and the tone is determinedly rural, but utterly charming.