In an introductory note on pronunciation, Steven Brust reveals the consanguinity of this story with Hungarian or Eastern European folktales. The dropped hint is hardly necessary, for between chapters are interludes that typically are fantastic tales narrated by voices that attempt to authenticate the stories in standard folk formulas (for example, “strike me down if it ain’t so”). The somewhat stilted or strained dialogue is attributable to a sense of this as a translated work. The folk-tradition tales of the founding of Fenario are counterpoised against the vestigially described faerie realm, on which the kingdom borders. Other interludes describe the growth of the tree as it contends with the castle. Thus northern Celtic influences butt up against folktales of a Slavic flavor.
The mythic implications are more than a gratuitous overlay, for Brust focuses attention on the concepts of loyalty and tradition. Implicit is the necessity for change and variation as opposed by tradition and law. The four brothers share ancestry from neighboring faerie land but are supported by the Demon Goddess. These two forces are at odds, and the brothers are torn between allegiances. Miklós opts to place family bonds above either extreme and creates something new and astounding as a result. His palace/tree is unaffected by faerie magic, in fact blocking Sándor’s path to the source of magic power and thereby killing him. It supplants the traditional structures, both...
(The entire section is 480 words.)