A Strange and Ancient Name

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My curse that you know not peace, not sleep, till you learn your mother's father's name.


Hauberin, a half-elven faerie prince, ventures into human lands in search of the answers to a mystery: Who was his mother's father?

At Hauberin's side is Alliar, his best friend, a wind spirit trapped in a mortal body.

Pretty soon they meet up with humans, and end up with a tagalong woman, Matilde. Guess who's going to fall in love with whom by the end of the story?

Anyway, they head out to hunt down the clues they need to solve the mystery. And they find, eventually, a secret far more terrible than Hauberin ever expected.

The book is by Josepha Sherman. Word of God[1] has it that she was planning to make a sequel, which is why, at the end, everything Alliar has ever said about being trapped in mortal flesh is rendered moot by his returning from death and choosing to bind himself to a mortal form again.

Tropes used in A Strange and Ancient Name include:
  • All of the Other Reindeer: (is that the right trope?) The other elves look down on Hauberin for being half-human.
  • Can Not Tell a Lie: Fairies
  • Empty Shell: Multiple humans get used this way by the baddies, who rip out their minds and then use their bodies as tools. One benefit of this tactic: that little human-puppet of yours can use an iron blade without you accidentally stabbing yourself with it.
  • The Fair Folk: Who are burned if iron touches their skin, killed if it scratches them. Turns out that this doesn't work if you happen to be a halfling instead of a full-blooded elf. Handy, that.
    • Many other instances of non-human ways of thinking are pointed out throughout the book. This includes the ability to accept new, worldview-changing information at the drop of a dime, rather than arguing or being angry about it; that's important, near the end.
  • Heterosexual Life Partners: The fact that Hauberin and Alliar are very close while not the least homosexual is pointed out repeatedly. As Alliar explains it, "flesh games" are, to him, as foreign as someone trying to smell colors. Kinda sad that this sort of intimate yet sexless relationship can't be relayed without repeated lampshade hangings nowadays.

Alliar: You mean, are we lovels in the flesh-games way? Oh my dear, sweet, confused Matilde: how? Can you smell yellow? Or hear blue?
Matilde: I don't see what-- Oh. It's that foreign to you?
Alliar: It's that foreign.

  • Karmic Death: Charailis kills herself by the backlash of power during an assassination attempt.
  • My Girl Is Not a Slut: (subverted? averted?) in that Matilde has been married a while before Hauberin meets her; her husband dies late in the tale, so she's free to hook up with Hauberin in the end.
  • Claustrophobia: Alliar is deathly afraid of caves and closed-in places - so much so that the final dungeon area proves to be too much for him, and he's not there when Hauberin gets betrayed.
    • In compensation, he finds nooks and crannies on the roof of the royal palace, where he can hide away from bothersome mortals and be as close to the wind as possible.
  • Our Elves Are Better or Our Fairies Are Different... whichever. The whole book uses "Faerie" but they're human-sized with pointed ears and so forth, fitting our conception of elves pretty well (except a little less human than even they, at times).
  • Trap Is the Only Option: And yet, of course, they go anyway.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: Alliar can shift the body that clothes him, but unfortunately cannot be free of it. He pushes his powers to the limit in one spot when he stretches out his form to make himself into a sort of glider, thus escaping pursuit in the handiest way possible.
  1. (via personal correspondence)