I'd started reading without any idea what it was about (usually I read synopses or GoodReads reviews before committing to reading a certain book). The fact that it was 800+ pages? I figured if it was absorbing then it was worth diving in. The beginning (A Journey. A Quest. but of course!) was easy enough to follow, and soon the Victorian magic part reminded me of Jonathan Norrell and Mr. Strange, with Mrs. Underhill et al. illustrated by Charles Vess. Then it was like I suddenly took a misstep and ended up in a world that was confusing and constantly shifting around me. Part house of mirrors, part fairyland/wonderland, I trudged on, the book teasing me, like if I'd just read a little further on then understanding would be just around the corner. Then just when I think I've gotten a foothold, it shifts again.
Parts I liked: the story about the Meadow Mouse and Brother North-wind (Winter's secret), the story of August and the fairy bargain, the story of the female stork, the changeling, some parts about Ariel Hawsquill. And maybe the nods to Alice in Wonderland, and Midsummer Night's Dream. I guess I like the parts with actual straightforward enchantment or fantasy going on, versus the family going through their angst side. Although, I did love the portrayals of the relationships between family members: the sisterhood of Alice and Sophie, the love of Violet Bramble and John Drinkwater, the strained father-son relationship of Smoky and Auberon. Those parts are so sad and true and human.
I wanted to love this more, but maybe it's a strain of fantasy I'm not quite used to, yet. Or maybe I have to think about it more, mull over it a bit, before it hits me how brilliant this is, and eveything clicks. I'm guessing everyone who rated this with 4 stars or more got that feeling, and I feel a little jealous. Maybe it's a meta-book(???), and the confusion I felt is like how Smoky Barnable felt (or even the older Auberon), living in a house with all the Drinkwaters and always feeling left out on their ancestral secret. He just doesn't have the eye, or the Frida eyebrow, or that extra sense or something. They see/feel the magic, and Smoky (and I, the unperceptive reader) can't. Like, what the heck, so what happened to the grand Faery War?
Still, an enjoyable, though rather long Tale, at least the parts that I understood.
By the way I'm an amateur Tarot card reader/collector, and several times in the book all I could think of was that I'd like to get my hands on a Little, Big
inspired Tarot deck. :)