In early summer, the Hastings-- Phil, his wife, teenage daughter, and eight-year-old twin sons--move into the Old Kessler Place on the edge of a densely wooded parcel known as Erl King Hill. The twins, Sean and Patrick, are the first to feel emanations of evil and danger, even before they hear odd tales of the woods--missing children, peculiar lights, eerie music. In the following months, disturbing and often terrifying scenes are witnessed and strangely forgotten, desires enflamed, and fear and dread raised as the evil purpose of the Erl King, ruler of the Dark Lands, is carried out. Bitter at the meddling of the Magi, a secret sect of human conjurers whom he credits with the disruption of balance and peace in the spirit world, the Erl King schemes to touch off a war with the humans and eventually reunite the Dark Lands and the Bright Lands, which were rent untold centuries earlier. Acting through the unsavory deeds of his foul pet/servant, the Erl King leads the Hastings to unearth a chest of priceless gold coins, which they are unaware is a good-faith offering by mortals to uphold the truce, or Compact, that has helped to avert war over the centuries.
With the Compact broken by human hands, the Erl King’s plan begins to unfold, but his downfall is his desire to add the twins to his warped and perverse entourage. He succeeds in capturing Patrick but underestimates Sean’s courage and persistence in a daring rescue. The boys escape by trapping the Erl King in the Hall of Ancient Seasons, from which he is unable to escape in time to journey with the faerie kingdom to their next temporary home. The Compact is restored, the faeries depart, and all the remarkable events disappear from human memory.
Feist, author of a successful fantasy trilogy, appears to have researched faerie lore from several cultures--particularly Celtic and Irish--and he melds these diverse traditions to create a well-paced but not compelling horror-fantasy story.