Adventures in Bookland: The Lord of Middle Air by Michael Scott Rohan
For this review, I really need to coin a couple of those wonderful German compound words that don’t exist in English but that we cheerfully appropriate, in the language’s magpie fashion, to express ideas that need a word to express them. So we’ve already got Weltanschauung and Schadenfreude and many other useful words, so what I need to coin for this review is a German compound word meaning ‘the sudden joy of discovering a new author whom you will enjoy for many years to come’ (Google translate suggests FreudeeinesneuenSchrifstellers) followed by a word conveying ‘the despair when you discover your newly discoverd author actually died two years ago’ (this seems a bit long even for German compound words, so we’ll just have to go with the long-winded English description of the feeling I experienced when I looked up Michael Scott Rohan only to discover that he had actually died in August 2018).
I loved this book. Set in the Scottish borders during the 13th century, Rohan displays a mastery of the use of Scotch dialects that is evidence of uncommon skill as a writer. The style is rich, dense, complex in style but relatively straightforward in plot: a young man encounters his returning relative, Michael Scot, a renowned scholar and possibly a mage, returning to his home in the borders after many years travelling the world. With Scot come wonders, but fear too: of sorcery, heresy and the unknown in general. But the hero of the book, young Walter Scot, follows the trails laid out by his relative to realms he had not dreamed of, only to return and reclaim his lands and his title. The story is straightforward, but the language and the telling makes the tale, of the borderlands between the human world and Faerie, thoroughly convincing. The story was a joy to me and, finishing it, I immediately looked up Michael Scott Rohan: it’s not every day that one encounters a writer who seems entirely in sympathy with your sensibilities. So imagine how upset I was when I discovered that he had died, after a long illness, and a life that should have been full of many, many books for me to read in future had been cruelly cut short by illness, so that there was only a handful of books for me to read by Rohan in future.
May he see his worlds.