The Forgotten Beasts of Eld is an adult fairy tale, reminiscent of Stardust (or rather the other way round, since this was written in 1974).

A wizard lives in an isolated castle on top of a mountain. With his mind, he calls great mythical beasts to himself, and binds them to live with him. At one point he also calls a woman, who bears him a daughter and then dies. The daughter, Sybel, grows up and continues in the same vein: living in isolation, with only beasts such as a riddling boar and an intelligent lion for company.

Sybel is happy on her own, but when she becomes the carer for a princeling, she is – inevitably and mostly against her will – drawn into the affairs of ordinary humans. She is beautiful and powerful, and men would love to possess her for both of these.

The book is beautifully written, with a lyrical, dreamlike language. Deep and quiet and yet fast-flowing. It feels ancient, as if it was a fairy tale. While it has its share of standard fantasy elements – sorceresses and warring kings and talking animals – it uses them in a refreshingly different way. There are no grand quests, no kingdoms to save, no dragons to kill. There are just human relationships.

To use a tired cliche, it’s a jewel of a book: small and simple, and yet sparklingly, preciously beautiful.

Amazon UK, Amazon US.