This supposedly a retelling of the Ballad of Tam Lin, which I had never heard of, and have since read. Though it is not exactly like that story, I think reading this without having some sort of devoted love of that ballad helped me appreciate this book for what it is, rather than what I would expect it to be like.
Violet Dancey is as remarkable and endearing of a character as I could hope. Her devotion to her family, to her friends, even to her slaves, whom she considers friends, is to be admired. She ends up as step-sister to a girl who shuns her at school and elsewhere, a social butterfly who has a host of admirers and trumps Violet in the looks department--and, lo and behold, befriends her, and does her best to see through her faults in order to love her into becoming a better person. This friendship, not to mention her friendship with her slave Laney, with her cousin, Seeley, and even with those who we can definitely call her enemies in this story, is one of the highlights of the book. The different elements of fantasy that are present throughout the story and the wonderful glimpse into small-town Southern life all bring this book to life in a chilling and exhilarating way. I really do adore Nickerson's writing. I have to say that her female characters shine in a way I appreciate wholeheartedly; and not only that, I almost feel as though these Southern belles are similar in spirit to the character I admire in Gone With the Wind: not selfish, bratty Scarlett O'Hara, but her best friend, Melanie, who I felt was the truly admirable character--before forced to simply survive. Violet grows and matures and falls in love in this story, and hopefully, you will fall in love with hers.