What a charming story. Written in 1974, it might be a little lumbering and meandering for the modern hectic pace, but the excellent protagonist and the complexity of concept more than make up for the author’s somewhat extra-rich embroidery of descriptions.
In the beginning of the story, seventeen-year old Kate is a maid of honor to the Princess Elizabeth Tudor, before Elizabeth became Queen. For a minor transgression that wasn’t even Kate’s, Queen Mary exiles her to a remote castle known as Perilous Gard. She is to be treated with reverence and afforded every luxury the castle offers but she can’t have visitors or letters and she can’t move farther than 1 mile from the castle walls. She is practically a prisoner in a gilded cage.
Lonely and upset, Kate tries to make the best of her cage castle, but the servants are afraid to talk to her, the villages below the castle treat her like a plague, the lord of the castle leaves on business in another parts of England, and his steward John, left in charge of the castle and its fair occupant, seems a ruthless and shifty fellow. Kate doesn’t trust him one bit.
Then there is a young man Christopher, ridden with guilt. And the fairies, who are not nice at all, residing under the Hill. And the secrets of the old gods, pagan customs, and human sacrifices. And plain human greed, intertwined with the motifs from the Tam Lin ballad.
While Kate navigates though the dangerous pitfalls of the story – an historical fiction mixed with a fairy tale, a touch of romance, a dash of fantasy, and a whiff of Celtic myth – her common sense keeps her grounded. She is kindhearted without being sugary, strong-willed without being mulish, and brave without being stupid. Altogether a delightful heroine.