I’ve been inundated (okay, asked twice) what the novel is about and, sadly, have given the same answer both times: you’ll have to wait to read it to find out. It’s cop-out answer but there’s a good reason for it. Ideas are fragile little things. Like butterflies. Or, if that’s too artsy for you, moths. The analogy will work with either: they’re alright until someone starts poking them. Then they stop flying.
That said, there’s certainly no harm in sharing some of the influences and so here’s a story that’s key to the novel:
Thomas the Rhymer was a young scallywag who fancied himself something of a minstrel and preferred to chase young women rather than do anything resembling work. One day he was lazing by the riverside, plucking at the strings of someone else’s lute when a beautiful woman on a white horse appeared. Struck by her beauty, he asked her name.
“We are the Queen of Faerie,” she replied. He asks for a kiss and she laughs. “Thomas, if you want a kiss you must come with us. We will take you to our land and keep you there for seven years. But for all this time you must say not one word. If you do this, then you shall have a kiss.”
Thomas was not one for doing anything other than his own will but he leapt up onto her horse without a word and thought nothing of the wicked smile that curled her lips. She rode away and he left behind everything and everyone.
Seven years passed and the only company he had was that of other faeries. And for a man whose fondest pastime was spent in the company of others, his enforced silence was a torture. At times he was so lonely he thought of breaking his vow just to say hello, or so angry that he wanted to rage and yell and scream. But for seven years not one sound passed his lips.
At last the seven years were up and the Queen came to him and said, “We are impressed, Thomas the Rhymer. We will set you free now and we will also give you a gift.” With this she kissed him gently and he found himself back home.
He soon discovered what his gift was, for he began to foretell the future. Worse still, he found that he had been cured of lies; he could speak only the truth. But, after all these years of silence, Thomas no longer had a taste for speaking. He found too that human company had little taste for him when he could not offer them the little white lies that polite society demands. And so, one day, when he saw a white horse in a clearing, he wasted no time in mounting it and riding away, back to she who had taken so much from him.
This is based on a real Scottish folk tale and one of the biggest inspirations for the novel. So let the guessing begin!