My rating: 3 of 5 stars
The year is 1373, the place, the tiny, island of Colonsay, in the windswept Hebrides. A lad named Niall, grandson of the MacDonald, Lord of the Isles, has failed to return after an afternoon outing with his foster brother. Niall was last seen digging around a faerie mound, searching for hidden gold treasure. Deeply worried, his foster father summons his nephew, Muirteach MacPhee, from a neighboring island, to lead the search for Niall. How could anyone disappear so completely in such a small place? As Muirteach investigates, he learns that the majority of Colonsay residents believe Niall was stolen by the faeries; Muirteach is more inclined to believe that this is the work of humans. Whatever the cause, the disappearance stirs up old clan rivalries, which threaten to erupt once more into feuding.
As a historical novel, The Faerie Hills, has much going for it. Author McDuffie infuses her story with plenty of folklore and atmosphere, liberally sprinkling dialog with ancient Scottish vocabulary. While there is a glossary, a pronunciation guide would have been helpful. Muirteach is an intelligent, engaging protagonist, though most other characters are not as well developed. The budding romance between him and Mariota, who is learning to be a healer, provides some lighter moments, and among the more colorful characters are a witch and a grown-up changeling. There Where the book falls short is in the plot itself, which suffers from redundancy and very slow pacing. If you’re looking for a light mystery laced with strong historical and folkloric flavor, however, this fills the bill nicely.