John Barnes’s One for the Morning Glory

Just finished John Barnes’s 1996 fantasy novel, One for the Morning Glory — about which I’d heard good things, so when I saw it at the library I picked it up. Most of the reviews I’ve seen compare it with The Princess Bride, but I think that’s superficial: it’s because both are playful and light in tone, rather than the heavy high-vatic drudgery one expects from epic fantasy. True, this is a fairy tale that does not take itself completely seriously; but, while the tone is light, breezy and immediately engaging, the story itself is not frivolous, and is at times quite dark. It is, as some have commented, the Brothers Grimm at novel length, with the wonderfully subversive proviso that the characters themselves are fully aware that they themselves are in the middle of a Tale, and conduct themselves accordingly. It’s tremendous fun, and worth a read if you can find a copy; unfortunately it appears to be out of print at the moment.