Strange Devices of the Sun and Moon

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Alice Wood is an unusual woman in that she happens to be the only female bookseller in this version of Elizabethan London. She came to this odd state when her husband, a bookseller, died, leaving her with no means of support other than a continuation in the business. So she keeps working, despite a fellow bookseller’s offer of marriage—including, of course, a merger of their businesses. Alice turns her dear friend George down; she does not love him despite their long friendship.

But all is not as it may seem. Alice’s missing son, Arthur, is being sought by a mysterious stranger, who then enlists Alice’s would-be suitor’s help in locating the boy. George accuses Alice of immoral living and necromancy, trying to get her thrown out of the Stationer’s Company, so that she will have no choice but to sell her business—if she is not charged with witchcraft and put to death.

Arthur is seen in town and later in the Queen’s court, where an attempt is made on Queen Elizabeth’s life during a play. The assassin murders an actor dressed as the Queen, and gets away. Arthur seems to vanish, with just about everyone looking for him, each for a different reason.

In the meantime, Alice finds a Brownie in her home, attends a gathering of the Faeries, and acquires a new friend among the booksellers. It’s quite a lively book, bringing together the odd mix of Elizabethan London, Faeries, and King Arthur in an enjoyable tale.