Peter S. Beagle
The Innkeeper's Song
ROC 1993

"There came three ladies at sundown:
one was brown as bread is brown,
one was black, with a sailor's sway,
and one was pale as the moon by day.

The white one wore an emerald ring,
the brown led a fox on a silver string,
and the black one carried a rosewood cane
with a sword inside, for a saw it plain.

They took my own room, they barred the door,
they sang songs I never had heard before.
My cheese and mutton they did destroy,
and they called for wine, and the stable boy.

And once they quarried and twice they cried-
Their laughter blazed through the countryside,
The ceiling shook and the plaster flew,
and the fox ate my pigeons, all but two.

They rode away with the morning sun,
the white like a queen, the black like a nun,
and the brown one singing with scarlet joy,
and I'll have to get a new stable boy."

This song, which the innkeeper very strongly denies having written, tells the whole story of the book - and still almost nothing about what really took place. This book is about the struggle between two mighty wizards and the relationships between the three women - Lal, Lukassa and Nyateneri, all three of them mysterious ladies with dark secrets indeed - and the stable boy, Rosseth. And it all, more or less, takes place at or around the countryside inn.

"Innkeeper's Song" is very well-written. It could as well be placed on the literature shelf in the bookstore as on the fantasy shelf. With every new chapter the point of view shifts: sometimes the stable boy tells the story, sometimes one of the women, sometimes even the fox ("Yesyesyesyes, I smell him. I smell them all. Pigeons, too" - foxes are excellent story-tellers!). But the story is also "literary", focused more on drama than adventure. If you're into that kind of stuff, this might be a good choice. I personally prefer my fantasy books a bit more adventure-, sociology-, religion- and politics- oriented. But of course, it can be nice to read this kind of book for a change once in a while.

Karl Henriksson

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Henriksson & Henriksson 1996.