Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Two very different fairy books

Vampires? Rather wan. Zombies? Okay in small doses. Werewolves? Too hairy and unpredictable.

But fairies and elves, now...! I just can't get enough of them.

Except the Queen by Jane Yolen and Midori Snyder is marketed as an adult fantasy, but this would be a perfect choice for teens, especially fans of Melissa Marr, Cassandra Clare, and Holly Black. Two fairy sisters, blithe and beautiful, are cast out into the mortal world after they witness - and blab about - their Queen's dalliance with a mortal man.

Separated in a strange and sometimes hostile world, no longer glamoured to look young and gorgeous (and so appearing to be old women - or at least middle-aged), and unable to do more than the most basic, humble magic, Serana and Meteora must figure out how to survive and to find one another again. But the plot, already fascinating as the sisters meet human and non-human denizens of New York City and Milwaukee, thickens when they find out that they have a crucial role in an upcoming epic battle between Seelie and Unseelie.

Teens will love this, as there is not only plenty of fairy lore but love and romance, plenty of menace, and a healthy dose of humor. There are two young and exotic characters, male and female, to balance out the oldsters. And the descriptions of plant magic made me think I should start carrying the contents of my spice drawer around in my pockets - just to play it safe.

Right after I read that one, I dived into Laura Amy Schlitz's The Night Fairy, illustrated by Angela Barrett. This is very much for young readers - it would make a fine read-aloud for ages 5 to 8 or a read-alond for ages 8 to 10. Young Flory is a Night Fairy whose wings are chewed up by a bat during her first week of life. Luckily, she winds up in a walled garden in a tree with an unoccupied wooden birdhouse, where she sets up a cozy house. The rest of the story is how she makes friends with various other garden inhabitants (a squirrel, a hummingbird, a bat) while slowly shedding some of her natural hauteur. By the end of the story, she is a much friendlier, happier, more flexible young fairy.

That's not to say that there is anything at all too precious or preachy about this story. The language is simple and a bit old-fashioned as befits the timeless plot, and the detailed color illustrations are magical indeed. The small size of this volume makes it a book for kids to hug close and cherish - I can imagine it becoming a favorite.
In fact, it reminds me a tiny bit of a book I used to love as a child, Tatsinda by Elizabeth Enright (published in 1963 with illustrations by Irene Haas - it's LONG out of print and I can't even find the cover art), although Tatsinda is not a fairy and there is no similarity in the plot. Hmm - it might be the personalities of the girls, or perhaps the tone of the narration.
So - Except the Queen and The Night Fairy. Good fodder for your fairy jones, whatever your age!


  1. And do you remember "Zeee?" I think she WAS a fairy.

  2. I enjoyed these both too! But it is a long, long time since I read Tatsinda...and I'm surprised you find it similar to The Night Fairy. I'll have to look it up again :)

  3. You know, I think Ginny was right and I was remembering Zeee (which was about a spunky little fairy, as I recall).

  4. I think I found the cover art by Haas to Tatsinda! Check it out:

  5. Yes, that's it - you genius! I remember those weird little white goat things...