“The ability to feel is a strength, not a weakness.” // Review of “An Enchantment of Ravens” by Margaret Rogerson

Title: An Enchantment of Ravens
Author: Margaret Rogerson
Genre: Fantasy
Intended audience: YA
Date Read: 04/03/19 – 06/03/19
Rating: ★★★

Review:

This is one of those books that was totally enjoyable to read but was totally unmemorable  after I finished it. It was fun but ultimately a bit flimsy.

Isobel is an expert portrait artist who is popular with the fair folk due to her extraordinary talent. But when she paints human sorrow into the eyes of the Autumn Prince, he whisks her away to the fairy court to  stand trial for humiliating him.

That is essentially the story that is on the back cover of the  book, but it’s not exactly the direction the story takes. For one thing, the Autumn Prince, Rook, and Isobel, never actually get as far as a trial. I think the fact that it never quite goes in the direction it promised kind of threw me and left me feeling a little bit unsatifised.

I could also never quite pin Isobel down… was she a Mary Sue? She was certainly ridiculously talented. Surely there were more older, experienced painters than this seventeen-year-old, even if she has been painting “ever since she could hold a brush”.  Or was she one of those clever, capable female characters who turns to mush over a handsome man the second they meet? Actually, she certainly was the latter, even if she wasn’t the former.

And yet, at times, there was something about Rook that I really enjoyed. I think it might have been that he subverted a lot of my expectations. In so many books about the other folk, the Fey love interest is cruel and cold and the romance is a pile of problematic trash. Rook was actually vulnerable and awkward at times, and I enjoyed the way his privilege was often addressed. So I guess while he wasn’t the greastest love interest ever, he was better than I was expecting from this type of story, so it gets points for that.

I really enjoyed  the world-building of the fairy realm and I enjoyed the exploration of a life of immortality devoid of feeling. However,  I thought that Isobel’s world of Whimsy was a bit flimsy. I wasn’t quite sure whether it was part of our world, somewhere in between our world and the fairy one, or what was going on. There were references to something called The World Beyond but I wasn’t quite sure if this was our world, an afterlife or something else all together.

Still, despite all of that (and a bit of a deux-ex-machina-y ending that was supposedly being masterminded by another character all along), the writing was quite lyrical and lovely and that was what kept me reading.  Overall, I enjoyed the book, even though it will not go down as a favourite.


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“Possibilities are where the best stories begin.” // Review of “The Cottingley Secret” by Hazel Gaynor

Title: The Cottingley Secret
Author:
Hazel Gaynor
Audio book narrator:
Karen Cass, Billie Fullford-Brown
Genre:
General fiction/magical realism
Target audience: Adult
Date Read: 09/10/18 – 24/10/18
Rating:
★★★

Review:

I’ve been intersted in the Cottingley Fairies ever since I researched the case and turned into a drama project in my final year of high-school. So as soon as I saw the word Cottingley in this book’s title, I knew I wanted to read it.

This book tells the story of Olivia, visiting Ireland after the death of her grandfather, and the parallel story of Frances Griffiths, one of two cousins who historically took photographs of fairies in Cottingley, Yorkshire, in 1917 and caused a worldwide stir. As Olivia reads Frances’ memoir, she discovers they share more of a connection than just a belief in fairies.

I have to admit, while I liked Olivia for the most part, there were times when I wanted to shake her. I could tell from the first time he was mentioned that her fiance was obviously an awful person, and I wished she realised that sooner and was  a bit more decisive. I did like that she was a book binder! I know book binders! I really appreciated the  sensitive handling of Alzheimer’s disease through the character of Olivia’s Nanna, Martha. I thought that was very well done.

As I said, I was pretty familiar with the case of the Cottingley Fairies, but the chapters from Frances’ perspective did give extra insight into how a young girl might have felt thrust into the spotlight unwillingly in the way she and Elsie were.

I did appreciate the little hints of magic throughout both the historical and contemporary stories. While it is acknowledged that the photos were fakes, Hazel Gaynor leaves it up to the reader to decide whether or not fairies are real or whether they were a figment of a young girl’s imagination. The two stories are woven together particularly well towards the end, and I actually found myself getting a little bit teary in the final chapter. In a good way, of course.


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Book Review: The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

Title: The Darkest Part of the Forest
Author: Holly Black
Genre: YA/fantasy/romance
Date Read: 18/03/2015 – 21/03/2015
Rating: ★★☆

Review:

darkestpartI had really high hopes for this book. The cover blurb made it sound really exciting, and while the reviews were certainly mixed, I was sure that it would be something I would really like. After all, Holly Black clearly knows her fey, and I love my fey, and this certainly sounded like it would be an interesting and fresh take on the fey, but… it all fell a bit flat. There were some moments when I was enjoying the book, and others were I was just really bored.

The Darkest Part of the Forest is set in the small town of Fairfold. There fey leave the Fairfold residents alone, though tourists are fair game. If the fey attack a local, he must have been acting like a tourist. In the darkest part of the forest is a glass coffin, in which lies a beautiful boy with horns and pointed ears. He has been there for generations, and never woken up. Until one day… he does.

The most difficult thing about this book was the pacing. There were a lot of flashbacks to establish important moments in the main characters’ lives, but it slowed down the plot a lot. And while the language used was often crafted quite beautifully, everything was written in such a way that it all seemed to move quite slowly and undramatically, even when something important was happening.

The central characters in the book are sixteen-year-old Hazel and her brother Ben. When they were younger they used to pretend to be knights and hunt nasty fairies. They were also both in love with the horned boy in the coffin. They both harboured fantasies about being the one to wake him. I liked both Ben and Hazel as characters in their own right, and they had interesting character arcs, but neither seemed to go through any enormous amount of development throughout the story. The horned boy isn’t hugely interesting either; given how much of a deal is made of him in the blurb, I expected him to be more of a central player.

I have heard that Holly Black can be a mixed bag, that she writes in very different styles and therefore not everyone likes the same parts of her work. I know she’s got quite the catalogue, so at some point, perhaps I’ll check out some of her other work. But this was certainly a disappointing introduction to her work.

#StoryADay in May Day 9 – Fairies at the bottom of my garden

I didn’t post a Story A Day post yesterday because I was busy journaling and trying to figure out a personal thing, so that counted as my writing for yesterday. But I’m back now! Been on a bit of a fairies kick today, and I would go into more details on that because I love fairies, but I only have seven minutes to post this before midnight, so have a story! Trying to capture a child’s voice again today, but as I said, it’s late, so my judegement is flawed! But how did I go?

Click the image to be taken to the Story A Day website

Click the image to be taken to the Story A Day website

There are fairies at the bottom of our garden.

I know, I’ve seen them. I snuck out one night when the moon was full, and there they were, dancing in the moonlight. I’d always imagined that spot down by the bottom fence would be a good spot for them. It was secluded and overgrown around the outside, but there was a patch in the middle that was somehow clear. I only saw them for a moment because then the gnome that was standing guard for them saw me and he was only small but his face was terrifying! He turned to the fairies and he must have told them they might be in danger, because they all disappeared in a flurry of wings and whispers (at least, it sounded like whispering to me but fairies are tiny so it could have been s houting). The gnome started lolloping towards me and I shrieked and ran back inside. He didn’t come past the door (I wonder if maybe by some fairy magic he wasn’t able to?) and we just stood staring at each other through the glass for a minute, before he seemed satisfied and wandered back off the way he’d come.

So I know there are fairies at the bottom of my garden. But I think they prefer to be left alone.

~*~
P.S. I am still in the midst of responding to comments on previous posts! I will get there, I promise!