Illyria by Elizabeth Hand

Illyria by Elizabeth Hand

Viking, New York, 2010

Borrowed from the library.

Winner of the World Fantasy Award.

A wonderful fantasy novel by one of my favorite authors.  Maddy and Rogan are first cousins, members of a large group of extended families living in Yonkers in the 1960’s.  There is theater in their background, struggles within their families, and an opportunity to try out for parts in their school production of  Twelfth Night.

Maddy and Rogan are also very much in love. Illyria is a finely wrought tale of first love and blossoming sexuality between two young people in a “taboo” relationship.  Beneath it  are subtle layers of mystery and magic.

Elizabeth Hand is brilliant at creating atmosphere and tension using very direct, simple language and dialogue.  She evokes the dark side without the reader knowing it.  Suddenly you’re there, in a place so fey it is as if you stepped into a fairy ring, fallen down a rabbit hole or walked through that wardrobe into a land of snow and ice.   But Hand’s world is not Narnia.  There is no magic remedy for these two young people.

Illyria is a great introduction to a fine author.  If you would like to dig deeper I would suggest her short stories Saffron and Brimstone or the dark mystery/fantasy Generation Loss.

Other reviews:

Adventures In Reading

things mean a lot

and a brief interview and playlist from

Largehearted Boy


Filed under Fantasy, Once Upon Time IV, Young Adult

6 responses to “Illyria by Elizabeth Hand

  1. So glad to hear you liked it too, Gavin! And not surprised, since you were, after all, the reason why I first read Hand.

  2. And it’s got a gorgeous cover and title, too!

  3. Eva

    I MUST read Hand! Every time I see a book of hers mentioned, it sounds marvelous. :)

  4. I love the cover of this book–and the title. It sounds like a very complex and worthwhile read. Thank you for your great review, Gavin.

  5. Pingback: Illyria by Elizabeth Hand | Capricious Reader

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