Lyonesse is the story of the Elder Isles, now sunk beneath the sea, from whence came Uther Pendragon, father of Arthur King of Cornwall. There are magicians and sendings and fairies, magic mirrors and scheming kings, less-than-virtuous Christian missionaries, gullible queens, mad kings, amibitious dukes. Suldrun's love Prince Aillas is the main protagonist of the second half of the book, following his quest to regain his freedom and his rightful throne as well as find his son.
Vance writes grippingly, his style somewhere between the matter-of-fact fairytales of the Brothers Grimm and a dry, acerbic sense of humour: for example, it's hard not to grin at King Casmir, Suldrun's scheming, pretentious father, while every misfortune the protagonists meet with makes the reader flinch in horror and read on doggedly. The landscapes are beautifully drawn, the characters sketched in just a few words. The emotional climax of the book, Aillas' reunion with his son Dhrun, isn't even shown: instead we see Dhrun having his father pointed out to him, and then a paragraph break and a new point-of-view: an incredibly powerful scene, I thought.
It's the first book of a trilogy, and I can't wait to get my hands on the sequels.