Lud-in-the-Mist by Hope Mirrlees is a fantasy novel from 1926, which means it reads a bit aged – but not only that, it also subverts all kinds of implicit genre expectations, having been published before Tolkien and his larger-than-life influence started and defined half a century of a new literary genre. For instance, I found it delightful to see how much inspiration of the fantastic comes more from the general voice and pattern of European fairytales compared to the general Fantasy tendency to go with myths instead. Her combination of fairytale antics with good, solid, stout (and pretty British) real life has a lot of similarities to Tolkien’s hobbits, but I liked how the explicit contrast between the fantastic and the Law (and everything related to it) was a focal point in the story.
While side characters may be a bit flat, and the pacing is noticeably uneven, Mirrlees not only shines a great light on how the fantastic and the real world can relate, she also demonstrates a great insight into humans, and their psyche. I found descriptions of the characters’ tics and peculiarities (along with the hints where they come from/how they relate to everything else this person is doint) very insightful and amusing. Very recommended if you want to see fantasy that is different.