Under the Pendulum Sun by Jeannette Ng
Catherine Helstone’s brother, Laon, has disappeared in Arcadia, legendary land of the magical fae. Desperate for news of him, she makes the perilous journey, but once there, she finds herself alone and isolated in the sinister house of Gethsemane. At last there comes news: her beloved brother is riding to be reunited with her soon – but the Queen of the Fae and her insane court are hard on his heels.
Under the Pendulum Sun was a trip. One crazy interesting trip of a read. Catherine Helstone has managed to figure out how to get to Arcadia, the land of fae where her brother is a missionary and who seems to have gone misisng, not responding to her letters.
Once she arrives there, things aren’t exactly how she expected them to be, and despite most of the story happening in a single place (Laon’s house, Gethsemane, which was the house of the previous missionary that came to Arcadia) and the whole story is carried by Catherine, some of it by Laon and by other of the characters that make it (the main cast is limited, as in it isn’t a big cast).
There is a lot of fairy in this and I don’t mean the cute Tinkerbell style, but the cunning truth and lies and negotiating fae that are Irish and old time tales than the ones that just grant wishes. Faeries here have fangs and won’t think twice before using them on you. One of the details I really enjoyed was the fact that you have to salt any food you receive (sweet or savoury) while there, from a special salt shaker. This tiny “plot” thread was a thing in itself and it is a recurring thread throughout the story.
Actually, the whole story is like a tapestry, woven out of many small plot threads making up the background, the details of the main plot (Catherine meeting Laon and the Queen of Fae visiting them and trying to negotiate with her). At first, all you see is the main picture and lots of small threads around it that are there and don’t seem to do much except be there and then as the story progresses, every thread seems to have become part of the whole.
This book is heavy on pondering religion, and the story of creation and where Fae come from. Most of the elements in the story are not new and therefore, having read many stories with one or many of those elements before meant I had a lot of background and could get extra nuance with some fo the actions or parts of the story.
Moments where I thought “oh, I think this may be where we are going because I remember that the story for this goes that way and it is in the nature of x to do y”. And it wasn’t that it was utterly predictable but more that despite knowing some of what could happen it was still a full tale and story.
One of the nuances that kept giving me what I call food for thought was the focus on religion. Catherine, Laon and some of the other characters each have a view of the same core religion and as the story moves on, they either affirm those beliefs or start questioning or morphing them into dissonance to try to match them with truth and reality. God, so many places I stopped and thought “yes, I know exactly what is being dissected here and I could add some more dissecting of my own to this”.
I didn’t want to put the book down and even though I don’t think I’d like to live in Arcadia this was a very interesting and fascinating tale. Highly recommended if you liek fairy tales sprinkled with philosophy and lots of nuance.