I fell in love with the layered plots, vivid characters and complex worlds of Juliet E. McKenna more than a decade ago, when she was a Guest of Honour at Istrakon in Croatia. I had very little patience for series and even less for fantasy one, but that strange need to give a chance to a Goh at a local convention prevailed and I bought a book.
And swallowed it. Then I bought the other four, and after I found Juliet as charming and interesting in real life as I found her writing, another series, too. When a friend told me McKenna would be publishing an urban fantasy with a mystery plot, I was ecstatic. I read The Green Man’s Heir and did not stop being ecstatic.
I could write that The Green Man’s Heir is a superbly written mystery, with a lot of suspense, lovely characters and interesting twists, and such gentle worldbuilding. I can sing its praises – and it deserves many – but other reviews and reviewers have done that.
I like Juliet and I like her writing, so there I am throwing any pretence of objectivity out the window right here and now. There was that feeling of low key dread as I was first reading the novel – will I like it; will I hate it; will I adore it? Will it be just as much fun as all the others? That is the trouble with returning to favourite writers.
It is also the luck of returning to read living writers you read ten or fifteen years ago with pleasure – they mature with you. That was The Green Man’s Heir for me, pushing all the buttons I needed pushed at that particular moment in time.
Finely written prose – check. Words to marvel at and to study if you can remember while reading. But I will admit, not until the second and third reading. Just the joy of reading the first time around.
Single tome urban fantasy piece – check. I get discouraged at cliffhanger endings and series. I do not have the time, the patience and the stamina for them these days, but that does not mean I want to read novellas only – novels are fun.
Cool characters with depth and a window into a mind that is entertaining, believable and loveable – check. Murder mystery plot, the kind I love the best – check. A touch of horror, to keep me on my toes on my way to the bathroom in the middle of the night when I cannot put the book down – check. Gentle worldbuilding, where I can, as the reader, connect the dots if I know how, but without any pressure to, if I want to just see the mystery solved – check. Symbols all around, I am quick to catch them – check.
And the setting. OMG, the setting. Rural England has always had this fairy tale like tinge for me, despite all the murders that kept happening in them in all the TV shows. It is just that villages in England seem to be on another planet when compared with what I thought of villages – places people could not wait to get away from, because they were either a set of small, stone houses on top of mountains, surrounded by snakes, goats, gullies and strong winds, or green hilltops with nothing around for miles, other than streams, sheep and poverty.
In the last couple of years, I have discovered I like to get lost in the woods and reading a fantasy steeped in woods and in the contemporary world really clicked with me. And – despite what I said about series – I am kinda hoping to be hanging out with Daniel the carpenter some more in the future. Preferably in some wood, relaxing on a blanket.
I have only one regret about The Green Man’s Heir. Somehow, it did not end up among the Hugo finalists this year. And it really should have.
You can buy it here.