Forgotten fantasy novel
January 5, 2007 11:59 PM   Subscribe

Forgotten book title: Several years ago, maybe more than a decade, I read a fantasy novel set in sixteenth century Britain of which I remember the barest details, though I remember enjoying it and I would like to find it again.

It featured a noble woman from Northern England who had been involved in a rebellion against Elizabeth (I think she may have been one of the Percys). After the rebellion, she flees somewhere - north, over the border? Somehow, she falls in with beggars, or travellers, who aren't what they seem, but are more fey.

The most memorable bit was how the novel was structured around an old English/Scots ballad about a a group of beggars, with one "in a velvet gown", and there were direct references at the beginning and the end of the novel.

Tha author's name may have been Spanish, but I'm getting to the end of my vague but happy memories.
posted by jb to Media & Arts (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Where does the "fantasy" part come in?
posted by jjg at 12:17 AM on January 6, 2007

The questioner says that the noble woman falls in with a group of beggars who're actually fey. Now, I can't identify the book, but it's definitely fantasy.
posted by Alterscape at 12:53 AM on January 6, 2007

Response by poster: Sorry, that's fey as in fairies. I didn't want to give too much away, but, hey, I can't be giving spoilers if I don't remember enough, right?
posted by jb at 1:12 AM on January 6, 2007

Best answer: Is this the ballad?

Hark hark the dogs do bark
The beggars are coming to town
Some in rags and some in jags
And one in a velvet gown.

If so, will it help in tracking down the book? I will do some googling and see what I can find.
posted by greycap at 1:37 AM on January 6, 2007

The rebellion is almost certainly the Northern Rebellion or Rising of the North - a Catholic rebellion by Northumberland and Percy. It was a Catholic rebellion and the survivors did flee into Scotland. Percy had four daughters: Elizabeth, Joan, Lucy and Mary. His wife was Anne Somerset. I guess the five could be candidates for the protagonist of the book.

Again, don't know if this will help you or others home in on the book.
posted by greycap at 1:52 AM on January 6, 2007

Best answer: The Spiral Dance by R GarcĂ­a y Robertson?
posted by Abiezer at 3:19 AM on January 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: That's it! thank you so much.

And that is the ballad, greycap. This whole mystery all came about as I was trying to describe the novel to my housemate who knew the ballad, but I couldn't remember most of the salient details. It looks like it may be out of print, but at least I now know enough to look for a copy.
posted by jb at 7:13 AM on January 6, 2007

Response by poster: Wasn't Percy actually Northumberland at this time? The title had been taken from the family earlier (and held during Edward VI's reign by Dudley as Duke of Northumberland), but I think the Percys had title of Earls of Northumberland restored to them. (and then taken away, and then restored - it's so confusing. and sad that I know most of the stuff about the Percys from checking on the historical accuracy of Blackadder).
posted by jb at 7:15 AM on January 6, 2007

Sorry, typo on my part - I meant to say Westmorland. Percy was indeed Northumberland again at this point, he'd been granted the title again by 1558 in return for recapturing Scarborough Castle the year before.
posted by greycap at 8:37 AM on January 6, 2007

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