The Queen of Air and Darkness by Poul Anderson

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Characters

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Although the mysterious Queen of Air and Darkness appears only briefly near the end of the novella, her presence is felt throughout. Her illusory world of magic colors the actions of all the other characters. Some, such as Mistherd, are totally under her sway and revere her as the wise monarch of the fairy world. She frightens others because of her role as a mystical being who rules a magic land just outside of conscious thought. The protagonists, Barbra Cullen and Eric Sherrinford, fight her influence because her minions have kidnapped Cullen's child, as they had Mistherd and other human children.

Sherrinford is an unusual addition to a story of fantasy and futuristic fiction. He is from the planet Beowulf, and like the legendary warrior Beowulf, he comes to rid a land of a monster that makes people mysteriously disappear — one that in this case steals children, instead of murdering thanes; he has settled on the still sparsely populated Roland as the planet's only private detective. Hired by Cullen, he approaches the case of her missing child as though it were a mystery. His deductive powers enable him to fathom the nature of the Queen of Air and Darkness. His presence indicates the novella's thematic complexity. That is, The Queen of Air and Darkness is at once a mystery, an adventure, a fairy tale, and a futuristic science fiction story. Sherrinford travels literally and figuratively into the Outworld of magic, and in solving the mystery he carries the reader with him into an exploration of ideas about human freedom and of the powers of some mystical archetypes to at once enchant and terrify people.