Thorn Jack: A Night and Nothing Novel (Night and Nothing Novels) by Katherine Harbour is released this week. I have a review copy coming to me so I anticipate a Tam Lin reading binge sometime in my near future. Because I can't read one without rereading some others. Good news is that if we love the book, it's the start of a series.
The book is a retelling of Tam Lin. Which is always a catnip tale for me. I'm not sure how many times I reread Pamela Dean's Tam Lin while at university, long before I started SurLaLune. And according to Harbour, she loves some of the same Tam Lin retellings that I do. Too many of which are not yet available in ebook format either.
By Katherine Harbour from the Harper Voyager blog:
I began writing THORN JACK when I was seventeen—in the ‘80s, books about fairies were popular and I’d read the ballad ‘Tam Lin’ and other books inspired by it: Elizabeth Marie Pope’s The Perilous Gard, Diana Wynne Jones’s Fire and Hemlock, Pamela Dean’s Tam Lin. I was intrigued by the idea of a girl rescuing her lover from ancient creatures who wanted to sacrifice him for their own benefit. I’d also heard Fairport Convention’s eerie cover of the ballad. What inspired me to retell ‘Tam Lin’ as a modern story wasn’t just the romance between the mortal girl and the mysterious knight, but the idea that the faery queen truly loved Tam Lin—‘Out then spoke the Queen of Fairies, and an angry woman was she; “Shame betide her ill-faired face, and an ill death may she die, for she’s taken away the bonniest knight in all my company.”’ A sacrifice must be something of value for it to be effective. In THORN JACK, Reiko Fata, the faery queen, loves Jack, her knight.
The idea of setting ‘Tam Lin’ in a resort/college town that’s a getaway for theater and film people, the wealthy and the artsy, seemed a perfect way to mask the Fatas’ (faeries) beauty, eccentric style, and lavish parties (faery revels). At the ballad’s beginning, there’s a warning about the ruins of Carter Hall being haunted: ‘“O I forbid you maidens all, that wear gold in your hair, to come or go by Carter Hall, for young Tam Lin is there.”’ It reminded me of those abandoned mansions, like Wyndcliffe, in upstate New York. In Tam Lin, the heroine is compelled to explore Carter Hall. In THORN JACK, Finn Sullivan, the heroine, is drawn to the Fata-haunted mansions of Fair Hollow.
Combining the sorcery of The Night Circus with the malefic suspense of A Secret History, Thorn Jack is a spectacular, modern retelling of the ancient Scottish ballad, Tam Lin—a beguiling fusion of love, fantasy, and myth that echoes the imaginative artistry of the works of Neil Gaiman, Cassandra Clare, and Melissa Marr.
In the wake of her older sister’s suicide, Finn Sullivan and her father move to a quaint town in upstate New York. Populated with socialites, hippies, and dramatic artists, every corner of this new place holds bright possibilities—and dark enigmas, including the devastatingly attractive Jack Fata, scion of one of the town’s most powerful families.
As she begins to settle in, Finn discovers that beneath its pretty, placid surface, the town and its denizens—especially the Fata family—wield an irresistible charm and dangerous power, a tempting and terrifying blend of good and evil, magic and mystery, that holds dangerous consequences for an innocent and curious girl like Finn.
To free herself and save her beloved Jack, Finn must confront the fearsome Fata family . . . a battle that will lead to shocking secrets about her sister’s death.
So what is your favorite version of Tam Lin?