For a delightful and amusing quick read, Danielle E. Shipley’s newest book, The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale, will be hard to beat if you – as I do – enjoy suspending disbelief and going along for the ride. The founding conceit of the story – that Faerie has turned the isle of Avalon into a space where the great heroes of British mythology: Arthur, Merlin, Robin Hood and his band – are unaffected by time and mortality, and that this protected place is further hidden in the 21st century by disguising it as a medieval/renaissance fair – had me hooked from the start.
Allyn-a-Dale, a wandering minstrel of royal blood, falls – literally – into Avalon, blown in from another world by the influence of the Winds. Quickly taken up by Marion and the rest of the merry men, Allyn finds a place in the fair, only to find that he is caught up in a quest to recover the stolen scabbard of Excalibur, the magic item that provides the protection to Avalon.
Shipley writes with a deft and light hand, her characters recognizable as their mythical counterparts but thoroughly of the modern world, if somewhat confused by it. Will Scarlet has the most page time and is the most thoroughly developed character, (and character he is) but others are well represented. This is less true of Arthur and Guinevere, but they are peripheral to the story.
This is not a complex or deep story. The conflicts and solutions are fairly simple, but that suits the light-heartedness of the novel; Shipley is not investigating deep truths and personal angst here, she’s writing a fun tale. It’s the first in a series, and I look forward to the next book. A good summer read on the deck, and one that is suitable for middle-grades to adult. Four stars.