Wolf is a novice monk, driven by the cruelty of his master to run away. The story begins with his escape across the wild landscape of Devil’s Edge on the Welsh borders, and we are plunged immediately into a medieval world in which people believed in angels and devils, elves and spirits. And what people believe in, they will see.
Wolf sees an elf – a small naked creature – fleeing from a hunting party, and tracks her to a cave where she is hiding. But the nobleman leading the hunt, Hugo fitz Warin, a veteran of the Crusades, seems strangely moved and excited by the discovery of the elf and takes her back to his castle with Wolf as her keeper. The story that follows is full of mystery, suspense and human drama. Hugo is a man tormented by the loss of his wife. He believes that if the elf can be taught to speak, she will tell him where his wife is and how he can reclaim her. The tension increases with the arrival of a sinister stranger, and the story builds to a climax of extraordinary power.
Katherine Langrish’s writing is a joy to read. Her descriptions of landscape and weather are poetic, and she conveys well the cosy discomfort of the castle where ghosts and spirits rub shoulders with the human inhabitants, and where the gates are pulled shut at night on a wilderness of rain, wind and rock.
Dark Angels weaves together folk tale, magic and medieval Christianity. The reader can never be sure whether the magical creatures are real or exist only in the imaginations of the characters. As for the frightened little elf, older readers will soon realise what she really is and how she came to be on the hillside; but wisely the author does not explain.