The combination of historical fiction and fantasy is a tricky endeavor. The art of remaining loyal to the past while weaving the mystical elements of popular folklore doesn’t always work. But in the book Thread of a Spider by D. L. Gardner (Ian’s Realm Saga, Pouraka), the differing elements are knitted in a fine literary tapestry of plausibility. (See what I did there?)
A couple decades into the 20th century, shortly after the end of WWI, dreadful conflict continued to rear its ugly head in Europe. Though not as immense as the preceding War to End All Wars, the Irish War of Independence was still a hard-fought struggle against oppression and deprivation. Seeking to bring an end to British occupation, the guerrilla warfare of the Irish Republican Army took place in the back yards and farmlands of the Irish people; many had little choice but to take up arms.
Alice “Ailis” Kilpatrick and her younger brother Porick Nathanial “Paddy” Kilpatrick are young siblings caught in the middle of this bloody war with their farm burned and family split up. Helping the cause, Ailis runs dispatch for the Army. But when her fiancé Liam is captured by the British and accused of murder, her loyalty is tested at every turn as love and duty become blurred. The tension is multiplied when Paddy, on a personal quest to find his missing friend Tommy, is taken by the Fae, mystical forest folk who are in a war of their own against the pixies.
Gardner does a masterful job of bringing these two warring worlds together. The magical elements of the story play key roles in resolving some of the conflicts, but they do not feel overly intrusive to the historical foundation of the plot. The drama that unfolds in Thread of a Spider can just as easily be determined by natural elements, but the presence of fantasy adds a spirit of charm to an otherwise dark time. This melding of genres allows readers more opportunities to see the emotional range of the characters.
The audio book (this review is based on) is voiced by the talented Lee Brophy. His soft yet pronounced Irish accent and enthusiasm for each individual character helps listeners feel immersed in the story. Brophy’s performance brings a soothing authenticity to Gardner’s words, a fitting homage to the lore of the magical Fae.
Thread of a Spider is an absorbing story that smoothly combines key elements from both history and fantasy. Author D. L. Gardner (also a fellow contributor at Amazing Stories) has created a magical little world filled with courage and charm set in an unlikely stage of war and terror. Sure to be a hit with fans of many genres, readers (and listeners) will not be disappointed.