Last year, Juliet E McKenna published The Green Man’s Heir (Review), which has sold over 10,000 copies in all formats and has twice been chosen for special promotion by Amazon. It is a finalist in the Best Fantasy Novel (Robert Holdstock Award) category of the 2019 British Fantasy Awards. I was not the only person who immediately clamoured for a sequel to this brilliant book, and fortunately its success meant that a second novel featuring Daniel Mackmain, son of a dryad, is out on August 15 (the first day of the 2019 World Science Fiction Convention, as it happens!). I was lucky enough to receive an e-ARC of the book from its publishers, Wizard’s Tower Press, in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Daniel is busy at work at Blithehurst, anticipating the start of the season of the house and grounds being open to visitors, when he has a dream about a house where an old man is dying. The dream has been sent by the Green Man, who wants Daniel to go to Brightwell to deal with a particularly nasty individual who has joined forces with a nix, a shape-shifting water spirit that is poisoning the local lake. Aiden has some of the local teenagers in thrall to him, and thinks himself a ceremonial magician of the Aleister Crowley sort. He claims descent from one Mungo Peploe who was responsible for causing a great scandal at Brightwell in the past – Aiden wants some occult books, which the then-owner of Brightwell, Constance Sutton, purchased, and a Hand of Glory, which Aiden thinks will give him even greater powers.
Daniel is invited to become the project manager of Brightwell’s conversion into a hotel, his skills having been recommended by the brother of Eleanor Beauchen, who is a friend of the current owners of Brightwell. Daniel gets Eleanor’s approval before taking the job since it will require him to be absent from his job at Blithehurst House for three months.
Once there, Daniel finds himself meeting a swan maiden, as well as a couple of locals who are attuned to the supernatural world. Between Finele (Fin) the swan maiden, Rufus Standlake (who is protected by The Hunter in a similar way to Daniel being protected by the Green Man), Daniel, and Sineya (one of the dryads from Blithehurst), they take on both the nix and its disciple, Aiden, and Daniel kills the nix, while Aiden winds up dead as a consequence of defying the Hunter and the Green Man. (Daniel doesn’t kill Aiden – the Hunter ensures he dies in a fire inside his caravan.)
I loved The Green Man’s Heir, and while I expected to thoroughly enjoy The Green Man’s Foe, I did not expect it to be even more satisfying than its forerunner. Which was foolish of me, I admit – I should know by now that McKenna is more capable of outdoing her previous tales in a series.
I very much hope that we’ll see more of Daniel Mackmain in the future modern day urban-rural fantasy very much needs less grimdark and more hopefulness, and McKenna is more than capable of providing that hopefulness.
Cover art is by Ben Baldwin.