I might have been a little generous with my rating on this one because Beagle just got so much more right with his teenage girl narrator than the previous author I’d read, Marsha Moyer, did with hers. And this with the added complication of it being a nineteen year old narrating her experiences as a thirteen year old, although in Beagle’s capable hands it became an added pleasure (such as the embarrassment the older girl feels in reluctantly relating some of her younger feelings and actions). Although at times the blended family is a little too perfect, I think the way Beagle painted the resentment and gradual movement to acceptance of her new home and family was deft, insightful and affecting.
It was better than the ghost story too. Fortunately the ghost element was surprisingly secondary, although the more it became central the less I enjoyed the book. It started well enough, with fascinating hints of distinctively British ghosts, with their back story. But as the villain became more important, the book got more and more silly. He just does all sorts of things without any explanation: why are the other ghosts any less powerful? Why can he order the hunt about? Why does the Lady of the Elder tree all of a sudden decide to step in? The climax was dramatic, sure, but senseless and random. Moreover, why has Edric been running in terror for all these centuries? The hunt must be pretty pathetic if they’ve never caught him yet. Alternatively, have they caught him again and again – so why is he running? If the torment has been so overwhelming, how can this (surely completely insane by now) character give Jenny a wry wink the moment he strolls free?
Beagle writes extremely well. His evocation of Jenny was a triumph. He can evoke a mood, and his ghostly characters were generally capably painted. His climax was ridiculous, but a small enough part of the book to not ruin it.