Sylvia Spruck Wrigley has chosen to show the nitty-gritty details of Fae life in Domnall and the Borrowed Child. When one of the children is sick and needs a human mother’s milk to heal her, there is no easy magic to allow the Fae to exchange the children or to provide milk for the chosen human child. The Fae child has to be carried to the home; the milk has to be gotten from a sheep—and there is no magic for milking, either. The point of view character is Domnall, an older Fae who remembers earlier times when the Fae danced out of doors and magic was more common. He is charged with exchanging the children and has all the aches and pains to prove the time spent doing so.
Wrigley skillfully builds up the crotchety old Fae’s character and the world he lives in, providing the small details that make it possible for the reader to see and smell the world. There are uncooperative sheep with “hot and hairy” udders and a tendency to kick the pail over. There is the “deep, rich smell of alcohol and peat” in whiskey. Domnall gets chilled by the night.
The novella is tightly-paced, with the tensions worked in and with problems believably developing one from another. Domnall and the Borrowed Child finishes satisfactorily as a slice of life among the Fae, one set of difficulties dealt with and a sense that life will go on. It makes for a look into another world and another life.