Faerie Heart by Livi Michael

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Faerie Heart by Livi Michael

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Stefan Bachmann
Reviewed by Stefan Bachmann
Summary: A fresh and moving take on faeries, inventive and beautifully written. The final third of the book drags too much, but otherwise a very rewarding read.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 192 Date: June 2009
Publisher: Puffin
ISBN: 978-0141319254

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Before you crack open this book you should know something that you won't guess from the cover illustration, or from the blandly generic title, or even from the plot teaser on the back: that is, that this story is set in a distant time not long after the last ice-age. I think it's a fantastically fresh idea, really, combining ancient history with faeries, but the publisher glosses this spark of inspiration neatly over. They present it as just another fantasy, and don't even hint at the one thing that could have raised it above the host of other modern fairy tales that are so popular right now.

So, now that you know that, here's what the book is actually about. Keri lives with her family in a tiny village that stands at the heart of a vast, dark forest. Beside the village is a hill that is said to belong to Mabb, the cruel and capricious queen of the faeries. It is also said that if you light a fire on the Mabb's hill, she will come for you and snatch you away. When Keri's baby brother is badly injured while in her care, she is determined to save him. And the only way she knows how is to call on Queen Mabb for help. But Mabb will do nothing for free...

Faerie Heart is divided into three parts. The first part sets up all the characters, the main conflicts, and the overall mood. It's briskly paced and rather fascinating the way myth and fantasy are woven together with everyday stone-age life. The second part delivers a bombastic twist and is absolutely mesmerizing. (That's vague, I know, but I daren't say more for fear of spoiling anything.) It's at the third and final part that the book begins to wander, a pity because up until that point it was definitely a five star read. The plot goes all dreamy and there are lots of passages were you can tell the author thinks she's being terribly deep and poetic. And often she is - stylists will have a ball with this book - but at the cost of a well-paced narrative it just isn't worth it, especially considering none of the ten-year-olds reading it will truly be able to appreciate it. Luckily, everything more or less finds its way again right before the end. As the number of pages dwindled, I did find myself hoping for another bombastic twist to make all the florid slogging worthwhile, but unfortunately none came. The book ends on a hopeful note that's meant to be clever, but it left me feeling somewhat ho-hum.

The characters are portrayed very sensitively, so much so that you can't help liking them, even the bad ones. I also liked the legends that were sprinkled throughout the book, and since I'm not well-versed enough in folklore to know whether she made them up herself or borrowed them, I thought they were very original.

Finally, Faerie Heart is quite touching. There are several haunting scenes dealing with loss and the inexorable movement of time that manage to be very sad without even a hint of sentimentality.

So were I judging the first two parts alone I would say without hesitation that Faerie Heart is a must-read. Those sections are fast, fun, moving, and there's excitement and mystery aplenty. A great satisfaction. It's almost a crime that the third part had to drag it's feet so.

I would like to thank Puffin for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

Another good read featuring fairies is The Thirteen Treasures by Michelle Harrison. It uses much of the same ingredients as the book reviewed above, the difference being it takes place in a contemporary setting. For older readers, I highly recommend giving Susanna Clarke's Jonathon Strange and Mr. Norrel a go. You may need some perseverance to get through 700 odd pages of stately paced plot, but the gorgeous Victorian language and stunning originality makes it well worth the effort.

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Buy Faerie Heart by Livi Michael at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Faerie Heart by Livi Michael at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Faerie Heart by Livi Michael at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Faerie Heart by Livi Michael at Amazon.com.


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Sharon Boniek said:

Very insightful review! The reviewer has a clever way of writing himself! and makes one want to read further on his comments on the book. One can see that he has done a lot of reading himself and that he has a lot of knowledge as to good writing. Very important in a review! Good job, Stefan!