Travel Light by Naomi Mitchison (1952)

Travel Light by Naomi Mitchison (1952)Travel Light by Naomi Mitchison
Published: Small Beer Press (August 1, 2005), Paperback, 144pg
Source: Bought
Genres: Fantasy, Fiction

From the dark ages to modern times, from the dragons of medieval forests to Constantinople, this is a fantastic and philosophical fairy-tale journey that will appeal to fans of Harry Potter, Diana Wynne Jones, and T. H. White’s The Sword in the Stone.



Short but sweet, with a kick-ass heroine.

I found this book in the clearance section at my campus bookstore last year, and while it wasn’t totally a bargain (about $6 for a very small book), it had a lot of blurbs from authors I like/admire plus a comparison to Diana Wynne Jones. Any time a book invokes the name of Diana Wynne Jones? Oh yeah, I’m gonna read it.

Travel Light is less like Diana Wynne Jones and more like the Brothers Grimm; it’s a classic fairy tale with a few twists. The story reminds me a lot of the Brothers Grimm stories, actually, except that it doesn’t end in marriage. It’s got that kind of bare-bones, only a tiny amount of exposition feel to it, so I suppose it’s a good thing it’s so short. I don’t think I could stand that kind of writing for more than 200 pages, really.

Anyway, Halla is a very strong main character, and it’s very refreshing to have her in a traditional fairy tale but not doing traditional fairy tale things. She’s a princess, but she’s looking for her inner self, not a prince charming. She goes from wearing jewels and gold and beautiful dresses to wearing plain, tattered clothing– rather than the reverse normally seen in fairy tales. And at the end, like I said, Halla doesn’t marry the “prince” she meets. Instead, she goes off with a bunch of Valkyries and becomes one herself! Wonderful! Really, really refreshing.

There’s also some really interesting philosophical/morality kind of things in it, but it never gets preachy. And I thought it was really interesting that the mythological system went from Norse to Christian (Halla spends a long time travelling) and how the changing world– both religious and not– affected everything from dragons to people to gods. Again, it wasn’t covered with a lot of detail, but it was kinda fun picking out what had happened through the course of the plot.

For those looking for a different kind of heroine and a different kind of fairy tale, Travel Light is your book.

(You can read the first two chapters here!)

Other reviews: Strange Horizons Reviews (including some very interesting background info) | Infinity Plus | Rambles

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