Lud-in-the-Mist (1926) is the third of three novels by Hope Mirrlees. It continues the author's exploration of the themes of Life and Art, by a method already described in the preface of her first novel, Madeleine: One of Love's Jansenists (1919): "to turn from time to time upon the action the fantastic limelight of eternity, with a sudden effect of unreality and the hint of a world within a world".
Whereas in the novels Madeleine and The Counterplot Mirrlees adapted elements from history, religions and literature, her use of a secondary-world setting in Lud-in-the-Mist associates it with the tradition of high fantasy, and thereby with its current popularity. In 1970 an American reprint was published without the author's permission, as part of the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series. It was reprinted subsequently by Orion Books in 2000 as part of their Fantasy Masterworks series. A more recent republication by the Cold Spring Press includes a foreword by Neil Gaiman and an introduction by Douglas A. Anderson.
Lud-in-the-Mist's unconventional elements, responsible for its appeal to the fantasy readership, are understood better if they are analyzed in the context of her whole oeuvre. In this novel, the prosaic and law-abiding inhabitants of Lud-in-the-Mist, a city located at the confluence of the rivers Dapple and Dawl, in the fictional state of Dorimare, must contend with the influx of fairy fruit and the effect of the fantastic inhabitants of the bordering land of Faerie, whose presence and very existence they had sought to banish from their rational lives. When the denial proves futile, their mayor, the respectable Nathaniel Chanticleer, finds himself involved reluctantly with the conflict and obliged to change his conventional personal life and disregard the traditions of Lud-in-the-Mist to find a reconciliation.
Lud-in-the-Mist begins with a quotation by Jane Harrison, with whom Mirrlees lived in London and Paris, and whose influence is also found in Madeleine and The Counterplot. The book is dedicated to the memory of Mirrlees's father.
In a 1946 discussion of fantastic literature, Edward Wagenknecht referred to "Hope Mirrlees' unappreciated masterpiece Lud-in-the-Mist".
David Langford and Mike Ashley describe Lud-in-the-Mist as "a moving book, shifting unpredictably from drollery to menace to a high poignancy that sticks in the mind".
Neil Gaiman described Lud as "one of the finest [fantasy novels] in the English language.... It is a little golden miracle of a book." He described Mirrlees's writing as "elegant, supple, effective and haunting: the author demands a great deal from her readers, which she repays many times over." He says that it is one of his top ten favourite books.