The Weirwoods by Thomas Burnett Swann
Ace, 1967 (originally published 1965), 125 pp.
This review originally appeared in Scrolls of Legendry #1.
In the days when Rome was young, a forest populated by fantastic creatures stood near the Etruscan city of Sutrium. Lars Velcha, a nobleman of Sutrium, abducts a Water Sprite named Vel for his daughter Tanaquil to use as a slave. Tanaquil and Vel befriend Arnth, a wandering minstrel, and together contrive a plan to free the Water Sprite. Arnth travels to the lake in the Weirwoods and enlists the help of Vegoia, the Water Sprites’ sorceress. Things go awry when Vel carelessly misuses Vegoia’s magic, leading to the destruction of Sutrium. Arnth and Tanaquil must escape through the woods from the rioting slaves and Weir Folk (Centaurs and Fauns).
“Well-written” is a frequently used (yet hardly meaningful) adjective that is inadequate to describe The Weirwoods. Swann’s fanciful prose is reminiscent of… no one, really. The characters are not one-dimensional and a great deal of attention is paid to the relationships between Arnth, Tanaquil, and the non-humans. That last fact might be a deterrent to those looking strictly for action-packed adventure, but everything else is done well enough (including the wonderful cover art by Gray Morrow) that it could hardly be considered a shortcoming. Recommended.