“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.” ― W.B. Yeats
There are a variety of reasons I snatched up A Solstice Journey from among the thirty-one titles in this year’s Dreamspinner Advent Calendar Anthology, Heartwarming. First off, who could resist reading a story by an author called Felicitas Ivey? That alone made me smile with holiday cheer. Second, she had me at “faery” because, hello, faery. Third, any story that includes Nordic lore, solstice magic, Pagan themes, and the thinning of the barrier between the here and there is a story I’m going to devour like it’s made of candy and pie.
A Solstice Journey blends the contemporary and the fantastical in the story of Gunnar Dagviðurson, a man who leaves his company Christmas party and stumbles through a blinding snowstorm, somehow landing in Sút, the realm of the Dark Elves.
Gunnar has always known he was the odd one in his family—dark to their light. He always figured he was adopted, but it didn’t matter either to him or his parents and siblings. Family isn’t blood, family is love and acceptance, and Gunnar has always had that in spades in spite of his differences, and to finally get confirmation that he is biologically not theirs does nothing to diminish those feelings.
What does change is that Gunnar comes to redefine what it means to be home when he finds someone he believes he could make a home with.
This isn’t what you might consider the quintessential holiday story, which is one of the things I liked so well about it. It’s different and that alone made it special for me. The most difficult part of it is that in those differences, I’d have loved more world building and more time getting to know these characters. Writing good fantasy on such a small template isn’t easy, but Felicitas Ivey did just that, using what she had to work with to good effect, leaving the reader with a happy beginning to a fairy tale affair.