Book Review: The King of Elfland’s Daughter

The King of Elfland’s Daughter
By Lord Dunsany

In the kingdom of Erl, the citizens appear before the king and ask for a magic lord to rule over them, thinking that magic will make Erl known throughout the world. Though the king knows they will come to regret their decision, he agrees to send his eldest son to marry Lirazel, the king of Elfland’s daughter.

The borders of Elfland are a day’s journey from Erl, and the son, Alveric, sets out the next morning with a magic sword to defeat the elvish weapons. After passing through a magic wood inside the borders of Elfland, Alveric met the princess and they fell in love.

The king’s knights attack Alveric, but he defeats them with his magic sword. Alveric and Lirazel leave the land of the elves, returning to the world of men before the king of Elfland can try to stop them. Upon their return, Alveric discovers his father has died and he is crowned the new king of Erl. Alveric and Lirazel are married immediately, and soon a son is born to them.

Over time, Lirazel begins to grow dissatisfied with the strange ways of men. She longs for her life in Elfland, and her father prepares a way for her to return. Speaking the rune, she is magically transported back to her father and the borders of Elfland disappear from the lands near Erl. Heartbroken over the loss of his wife, Alveric sets out on a quest to return to Elfland and bring back his queen, leaving his young son in the care of his nurse.

The King of Elfland’s Daughter is a classic and one of the major forerunners of modern fantasy fiction. The works of Lord Dunsany have inspired many fantasy authors, including J.R.R. Tolkien. I really enjoyed this book and I was unable to put it down. I finished it in a matter of hours, but it’s also not as thick as many modern fantasy novels.

The writing style is different from that of most modern fantasy works, adopting a more conversational tone reminiscent of The Hobbit or The Chronicles of Narnia. Some readers may find this style boring as it allows for less character interaction, but I found it refreshing. It felt like I was reading an actual fairy tale rather that a novel. I would definitely recommend this book to all lovers of fantasy and fairy tales. Even if you don’t care for the conversational style, it’s interesting to see the roots of modern fantasy.

This review originally appeared 2 February 2013 on

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