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Niamh and the Hermit
Emily C.A. Snyder
Arx Publishing, 276 pages

Emily C.A. Snyder
Niamh and the Hermit
Emily C.A. Snyder
Emily C.A. Snyder earned her B.A. from Franciscan University of Steubenville, and has trained in both the United Kingdom and Hollywood. She is the creator of the Christian Guide to Fantasy web site, a compendium of reviews, and its sister site, Tower of Ivory Literary E-zine whose purpose is to foster new talent. In her spare time, Ms. Snyder teaches English and acting, and directs plays ranging from sprawling musicals to Shakespeare, to original comedies of manner.

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Past Feature Reviews
A review by Cindy Lynn Speer

Princess Niamh is so beautiful that her beauty has driven many a man mad. Even her Fairy mother and royal human father can not bear to look directly upon her, her presence burns like the sun, and anyone who approaches her with less than pure intentions falls in a faint. Except, of course, for the evil Count, who has nothing at all in his heart for her beauty to call to, and is immune. There will be no wedding for the princess, unless the Hermit, known for his kindness and saintly behavior despite his deformity (he has the head of a lion, the claws and wings of an eagle) makes him seem like the best -- and only -- possible choice. Vetted by Niamh's Fairy uncle, the Hermit, known as Duncan, is sent for. He courts her on his journey with gentle letters, and they fall in love. When he finally reaches the outskirts of the city, the count decides to take action. He visits her and convinces her that she is vile, and has her roll around in the fireplace. This coating of ashes serves to make her invisible, and after she is banished from the castle she wanders the woods, alone and naked. Her fall and her journey to recover herself is woven with several exciting adventures. The Hermit himself sets out to seek his love, while the Count's shadows work their own evil.

This gentle story is equal parts traditional fairy tale and morality play. Niamh and the Hermit has all the fantastical elements of a fairy tale, the over whelming beauty of Niamh and its effects, a riddle contest, even a small quest where Niamh must use her wits to defeat a witch and free a prisoner. There are stories aplenty -- small, traditional stories and ballads woven into the text -- as well as a background story involving the king and queen that gives the main tale a rich, timeless feeling background. It can be read simply for the pleasure of its tale. People have compared Snyder's work to Tolkien and Dunsany, and I'd like to throw C.S. Lewis into the pile. The narrative is well paced, with both Niamh's and the Hermits adventures as well as a third group going out to help save the princess, and you truly want Niamh to be found by her Hermit.

I'm not so sure about Dunsany, since I have only read one of his books, but for certain I know Tolkien and Lewis do have a strong morality theme in their works, which is another reason why this comparison is apt. The symbolism of her fair beauty, and after the ash application, the implication that she is falling. Indeed, like an angel, she does fall spiritually, along with the Hermit's own animal characteristics, and how they grow and fade depending on his actions, are all part of how this is also an intelligently wrought fable with its own message. The complete blackness of the count, compared especially with Liam, the only guard who can seem to avoid the worst of his wiles, (though even he falls, in a way, and must redeem himself) is also a part of the message of how we all sin (for lack of a better word) and how we can all, if we have enough good in our selves, find a way to get past it.

Illustrated by the writer, (which is always fun, because you get to see inside the writer's mind) Niamh and the Hermit includes a large index of mythic characters and legends and even sheet music. This lovely folk tale will charm many a heart.

Copyright © 2003 Cindy Lynn Speer

Cindy Lynn Speer loves books so much that she's designed most of her life around them, both as a librarian and a writer. Her books aren't due out anywhere soon, but she's trying. You can find her site at

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