I got this book due to reading some glowing review of it somewhere or other. I don't remember where. The cover blurb is by Neil Gaiman, which is somewhat promising...
When I first got it in the mail, the first thing that struck me was the awfulness of the cover. I don't think I have ever seen a stupider-looking rendition of dragons. I am pleased to report that the dragons (which do appear, albeit very briefly) in the book do not actually resemble the cover art in the slightest.
However, I didn't love this book either. It's a good idea - the Faerie court appears in 16th-century England, bent on retrieving a changeling who is actually the heir to Faerie - and mix up a female bookseller, her associates, and assorted playwrights and such in their doings. I liked the protagonist, Alice Wood, a middle aged widow with an odd mix of naivete and personal strength...
but overall, I felt like the characterization wasn't strong enough, the plot was kind of here and there, and the point-of-view changed focus without warning too much. I wasn't really feeling people's motivations, or the tension, as I should have.
Lisa Goldstein blends fantasy with historical intrigue in this tale of 1590s London with its two competing courts: that of Elizabeth I and that of Oriana, Queen of Faerie. A faery prince is missing, and a man who claims to be the rightful king sets Elizabeth's spies a formidable task. Historical figures (Christopher Marlowe, Thomas Kyd and others) rub shoulders with fictional ones, both fae and human (especially Alice Wood, widowed bookseller, only female member of the Stationers' Company, and mother of a changeling).
In a perfect world this novel would have been made into a blockbuster fantasy epic, and Lisa Goldstein would be bathing regularly in large piles of cash. This is a masterful story that any fan of fantasy fiction will enjoy immensely. It was good enough for Neil Gaiman (who recommended it to me), it's good enough for the rest of us.
I read this years ago. It made such an impression on me that I wanted to own the book which is why I ordered it.
It's a strange and gorgeous fantasy set in Elizabethan London. Always a sucker for "fantastical" fiction, especially magical realism, I fell for Lisa Goldstein's beautifully written book.