EPS Review #160 - The Line Between

The Line Between, by Peter S. Beagle, Tachyon, 2006, 231pp.

I found a web page saying that there was a sequel to The Last Unicorn, so I immediately ordered it. A friend at prep school used to call himself Schmendrick, after the barely-competent wizard in that story. I still remember details from reading the fantasy back then, like Schmendrick's encounter with the harpy, or how the magic words leave him like eagles when he finally comes into his power, and how a competitor disappears "going all like eyes". And the cat that won't give a straight answer. And the knights in bottle-cap mail.

So I have kept a look out for more stuff by Beagle. While still a teenager, I read A Fine and Private Place, which is about some sad ghosts in a graveyard having a sort of romance. One remarks on the silence, and the other says that in life people mostly do not listen to the sounds around them, so in death they are no longer there to be heard. Sometimes, thinking of this passage, I stop and listen, and look, and sniff the air as well, though the information it carries to me is less than when I was young.

After that I read The Folk of the Air, but all I remember is not liking it much. And once I had children, I found and rented the video of The Last Unicorn, narrated by Mia Farrow. But it is disgustingly saccharine.

The Line Between is a collection of stories; the TLU sequel is called "Two Hearts", a slightly annoying reference to the two hearts of the monster griffin that must be pierced to save a girl's town, and to the two hearts of Schmendrick and Molly, still wandering the land, and the two hearts of king Lir (in his dotage) and the unicorn (immortal). I found it all quite affecting, but I am pretty sure that is mostly me being sentimental.

I did not have a favorite among the other stories. A few pay homage to Thurber's Fables for Our Time. One involves a mouse who tries to succeed as a cat. There's a boy wizard in Beagle's homely style (with a runny nose, for example). There's a story about Sherlock Holmes in his post-Reichenbach wandering period. He is deceived, which I did not like. Beagle says that "The Quarry", which has some ok action, is set in the world of his favorite novel, The Innkeeper's Song. So maybe that book is worth investigating.

Tim and Mike both pointed out that Schemdrick is Yiddish for jerk or clueless person.

Laura wrote: Have you read Tamsin by Beagle?

I replied: No, is it good? I see it has boggarts and is set in England.

Laura wrote: P read it, so I read it too. I liked it - nice weaving in of history (the Bloody Assizes), good perspective of a young woman looking back at the foolish coming-of-age teen she had been.