Once upon a time fairy tales were written for young and old alike. It is only in the last century that they have been deemed fit only for children and stripped of much of their original complexity, sensuality, and power to frighten and delight.
"I forbid ye maidens all that wear gold in your hair to travel to Carterhaugh, for Young Tam Lin is there..." So begins the ancient Scottish folk song Tam Lin, and the fairy tale of the same name, a tale of seduction and mortal sacrifice about the headstrong young woman who defies this warning, and then must battle the Queen of Faery herself for possession of Tam Lin's body and soul. Pamela Dean has wrought a modern enchantment on this magical coming-of-age tale, setting it among the outlandish theater majors at a small Midwestern college.
Doesn't this summary sound cool?
I'm sorry to disappoint you. Tam Lin is incredibly boring. Maybe the source material is filled with fantasy and adventure and battles and sacrifice, but the only thing Pamela Dean's adaptation contains is a bunch of literary references. I'm not even kidding. On every page, someone is either quoting poetry or arguing about the merits of Shakespeare and Keats. I know we're talking about a bunch of theater/classics/English majors, but seriously?
And now you're probably asking "But surely something must have happened at the ending?" I wouldn't know, because I didn't get that far. By the time I reached page 140, I realized that I didn't even remember who half the characters were.
Those that I did remember were incredibly dull. There is romance in this book, too, but it's so bland that I hesitate to even call it "lukewarm." And the style? The prose is fairly wooden, though I blame this mostly on Janet, the protagonist. There are a few moments of cleverness, but not nearly enough to keep me reading.
If pretentious college students are your thing, I still wouldn't recommend this book. I would recommend The Secret History, which has quirky characters, incredible prose, and most importantly, stuff actually happens.
With all that said, I'm officially giving up on Tam Lin.