Wednesday, August 04, 2010
Fairies and Frights: two young adult novels
Wayfarer / R.J. Anderson
Toronto: HarperCollins Canada, c2010.
Book Two of Anderson's series (Faery Rebels), this has quite a different feel than the first in the series, Spell Hunter (or Knife in the UK). This one is known as Rebel in the UK, and as with Knife, I really like the UK cover better. Much more magical and representative of the story!
This book continues the story of the fairies of the Oakenwyld. In the first book, Knife has to reach out and break the isolation of her community in order to save it. She was a tough, decisive character, and I kind of missed her presence in much of this one. However, as this story opens, Timothy, a relative of Knife's husband Paul, is coming to live with them for a while. He has been suspended from school and needs a place to stay, so appears without an invitation. One of the reasons houseguests are not generally welcome is because Knife does not want anyone messing around with the oak in the back yard, and she tells Timothy (a rebellious teenage boy) that he must stay away from it. Of course he doesn't.
He meets Linden, one of the fairies from the Oakenwyld, and they head off on an adventure together, seeking the fabled Stone of Naming. This is a magical object which will free all fairies from the yoke of a disturbed and powerful queen who has most of Britain's fairy population in thrall. Timothy and Linden's travels provide a way for Anderson to explore and illuminate different kinds of fairies and communities, whether tiny forest dwellers like the residents of the Oakenwyld, or more urban fairy gangs of glamoured misfits. The fairies who supposedly hold the Stone of Naming are more like the elves of Lothlorien in Tolkien; they've taken themselves out of the world and live on a magical, invisible island which is the final destination for our two travellers.
This tale is a bit more modern feeling and dark than Knife was, as we get a glimpse of the wider world. It was just as exciting and well crafted, however, with many elements that allow the reader to ponder right and wrong, or questions of identity. I look forward to the next installments to be published in 2011/12, Arrow and Swift.
Nieve / Terry Griggs
Toronto: Biblioasis, c2010.
Griggs, known for her wordplay and inventive turn of mind, has written a teen novel that exploits all her strengths. This is a tale of Nieve, a young teen whose parents are professional weepers. They are busy at funerals and dolorous occasions, but Nieve starts to notice that work is getting busier even as her parents' relationship is struggling. She also starts to notice strangers in town -- like a substitute teacher who rewards the class with jawbreakers that unfortunately resemble eyeballs, or a man on the road who tosses out wriggling seeds that grow into thorny, leathery black plants that choke out everything else. The sudden descent of her town into darkness and gothic horror leads her to discover, with the help of her grandmother and another stranger, young Lias, that she must save them all.
The story is delightfully inventive, and has illustrations by Grigg's son Alexander which are also dark and creepy. Gothic weirdness and reliance on Celtic myth make this into a puzzle of creative proportions. I like Nieve herself, especially at the beginning when she seems to have more self-sufficiency. The only reservations I had here were that the set-up wasn't clearly explained; why does Nieve have to save the day? How does she suddenly have access to magic and how does it work? And for that matter, how does she know how it works? Why exactly are these creatures from the Black City infesting their town? This one was fascinating and inventive, but I would have enjoyed more explication and background to deepen the story and provide more of a hook for the reader. This is the first in a projected trilogy, however, so perhaps with the next we'll learn more about the very odd place known as the Black City.