When I was eighteen, I lived alone on an island of ghosts and trees. All night I would lie awake within the shelter of candlelight to compose strange, rambling stories about lost children, ensorcelled castles, singing stars like the stars that sang over the forest hunkered all around me. During the day I wandered the lonely stony paths and read in warm shadows. One lot of books I clearly remember from that time was the Isle series by Nancy Springer.
The White Hart, The Silver Sun, The Sable Moon : these titles alone enchanted me. (The series also included The Black Beast and The Golden Swan, but I only read them later.) Nancy's gentle, lyrical language and characters won my heart. Bevan the son of the moon, Hal the troubled prince, Meg and Maeve and the other wild-souled aspects of the goddess. I loved also the small details - plinsets, wolves, haunted swords, unicorns. Really, there are no other books in my collection that are as poetically, freely magical as these.
I have recently been rereading them yet again. (The cover of The Silver Sun finally fell off as I did so.) But I made the mistake of looking them up on Goodreads to see what other people thought of them. Readers these days are so clever, so educated about the fantasy genre, so cynical - the reviews left me downcast. They proclaim the books cliched, unintelligent, too much like Tolkien. (I've noticed that any story containing elves or magic is "like Tolkien", which is ridiculous.) The Isle books are written in a detached style which modern readers dislike, but for me that adds to the sense of them being an old story, told aloud on some moonless night, stirring magic in the hearthfire and the hearts of those who listen. They belong to a different age of storytelling ... or perhaps just a different age in me ... or perhaps they will always have to my mind the eeriness of island nights festooned with wild stars and paced by spirits.
When I read the Isle books I feel like I am reading a memory, a beautiful ghost of what used to be, and no one it seems believes in ghosts these days. We are all too clever.