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Midsummer Night: An Aetherial Tale    by Freda Warrington order for
Midsummer Night
by Freda Warrington
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2010 (2010)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Freda Warrington's urban fantasy Midsummer Night is the sequel to Elfland, which introduced a world in which we coexist with Aetherials, who can live either amongst humans (the Vaethyr) or in the magical Otherworld. There are gates between the two realms but Aetherials can move in and out of the fluid Dusklands almost at will. This episode, which is set in the highlands of northwest Scotland, can easily be read as a standalone as it is only loosely linked to the previous one.

The story opens on a prank three children (Melody, Corah and Adam) play on their Uncle John in Cairndonan, Scotland, just after World War I. It goes badly awry and Adam disappears, pursued by mysterious, dark Dunkelmen. The tale then fast forwards to modern times when Gill Sharma arrives at Cairndonan, which is owned by renowned sculptor Dame Juliana Flagg, a living legend who is running an annual summer art school there. Though Dame Juliana hasn't sold a sculpture in a long time and is close to bankruptcy, she is trying to complete a series she calls Midsummer Night.

Gill was a well-known athlete till a severe injury destroyed that dream for her - she has come to Cairndonan for solitude, and has rented Robin Cottage from Dame Juliana. Wandering in the woods she comes upon a stone circle and a valley where the weather is balmy. She finds an inn and meets Rufus Hart, whose touch takes away the dreadful pain she has long suffered in her leg. Later, after she finds her way home, Rufus' barman Leith shows up, seeking refuge. He is soon pursued by Rufus, who claims him as his disturbed brother. Peta, an art teacher and a Vaethyr from Cloudcroft (setting of Elfland), helps Gill care for Leith. Peta herself seeks a childhood friend who disappeared into the Spiral.

Many local folk have gone missing, including a boy adopted by Dame Juliana and her ex-husband. When Juliana meets Leith, she believes him to have been that child, but wonders if he might instead be Adam, missing since WW I. Meanwhile, Rufus, a powerful Aetherial outlaw, brings strong forces to bear to win Leith back. But Juliana's art is powerful too. The plot continues to reveal old secrets and old conflicts amongst the Aetherials themselves. Along the way, Gill finds a new passion in life and Juliana wins a degree of redemption. Midsummer Night, second in an intriguing series, is a complex, atmospheric fantasy, a tale of the blurring between obsession and love, justice and revenge, magic and art.

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