Every now and then, a book comes along that rings all your bells, shivers all your timbers, winds your clock, melts your face, shakes your foundations, and smacks you upside the head to remind you that stories are altogether a form of magic—and if that’s true, if stories are magic, Helena Sorensen might as well be Gandalf.
The Door on Half-Bald Hill is just that kind of book. It’s mythic. It’s personal. It’s tender. It’s terrifying. It’s fantastical. It’s historical. It’s pagan. It’s prophetic. It’s meticulously grounded, and yet gloriously transcendent.
What is this book, you ask. Rightly so.
Steeped in the landscape and lore of an ancient Celtic people, the book imagines a world on the brink of an abyss as its people struggle to find hope in the face of destruction. They look to their leaders for answers, but the answers they hear are hopeless. They look to the past for guidance, but the salvations of the past are powerless in the shadow of the Crone. They are a people desperate for hope, and desperate for answers. Like the psalmist they lift up their eyes to the hills and ask “Where does my help come from?” Enter Idris, the young Bard of Blackthorn. The book is a portal into his odyssey of awakening and discovery.
In the same way that luminous works like C. S. Lewis’s Till We Have Faces and Mark Helprin’s A Winter’s Tale nearly defy description yet leave readers with the indelible impression that the author has moved Heaven and Earth to impart a glimpse at the mystery in the heart of the world, The Door on Half-Bald Hill charts a course all its own as it stretches boldly toward the universal and numinous. This tale is defined and mapped by the author’s crystalline voice and confidence as she beckons us on a quest, not for an answer, but for a question—a question that can alter the course of history and change the world forever.
Helena first approached me with this story nearly four years ago, and it’s been a delight to watch the book grow and develop as she’s refined it. She’s an incredible writer and her powers are on full display here. She’s crafty, patient, and deliberate, and I’m in awe of the way she’s so carefully put this story together. Her encyclopedic knowledge of her source material and the elegance with which she unspools her endgame are wonders to behold, as are the tender, human touches with which she chisels out her characters and their struggles.
The starkness and strangeness of the world of Tír Ársa and the mythological texture of the story convinced me that it was crying out for illustration, and that led me to Stephen Crotts. He’s done the wonderful cover work and interior drawings, and I’m delighted with the atmosphere they evoke. There’s something in his work that hearkens back to Doré’s etchings from Paradise Lost or the Divine Comedy, calling to mind tales ancient and primeval and signifying of eternal mysteries on the cusp of revelation.
I’m so excited to get this book into the hands of readers so they can experience characters like Idris and Corann and Muriel and come to love them like I have. Helena has worked long and hard to give us something special, and it’s my great delight that Rabbit Room Press is able to present her gift to the world. Years in the making, it’s finally ready. May it wreck you and remake you in all the best ways.
The Door on Half-Bald Hill Paperback by Helena Sorensen coming Spring 2020 from Rabbit Room Press
When the Bloodmoon rose, death came with it. Now the water is bitter, blight consumes everything, and the Crone haunts the hills.
The Druid of Blackthorn searches desperately for hope, the Ovate of Blackthorn returns from the underworld bringing omens of despair, and Idris, the young Bard of Blackthorn, Keeper of the Sacred Word, will walk through fire and iron to uncover questions no one has ever dared to ask.
But time is short. And the Bloodmoon is rising again.