cover image The Wild Hunt

The Wild Hunt

Jane Yolen. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt P, $17 (137pp) ISBN 978-0-15-200211-4

Thoughtful Jerold and the more reckless, appropriately named Gerund are two boys living in similar houses, somehow in parallel universes, in the dead of winter. As he does every year, Herne the Hunter, Lord of Winter, is battling the Queen of Light, She Who Is Ever, She Whose Word Is Law, she who is also Jerold's and Gerund's house cat. As a blizzard rages, Herne hunts, and Gerund gets himself captured. Jerold must try to be a hero and rescue Gerund. As it does every year, the battle ends in a draw, and the world continues as before, neither descending into the dark nor controlled by the light. Jerold reluctantly but bravely tries to perform the task given him by the Queen, the action vividly described in suitably C.S. Lewis-like prose. But Yolen (The Wizard's Hall) does not stop there; she crams this thickly plotted story with symbolism, literary allusions (the cat points out that a hero can also be a sandwich) and mannerisms. Though she produces an unusual fantasy novel, this self-consciousness kills passion, and readers may well do as the boys do at the end of the story-walk out with no desire to return. Ages 10-up. (May)