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Fairy tale
Book
2009
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Trade Reviews

  New York Times Review

DAWN is breaking on the Y.A. aisle of the bookstore, and the dew is suspiciously glittery. Look quickly and you may catch the hoofprint of a magical steed and the flutter of a wing. A recent crop of fairy-themed novels and reworked fairy tales is proving the surprising resilience of an age-old genre. These aren't gift-shop fairies. They're capricious, twilight creatures that travel between the fairy realm and our own, meddling in human lives. In Cyn Balog's "Fairy Tale," a clairvoyant high school girl discovers that her perfect boyfriend is actually a changeling - a fairy child raised by unsuspecting humans. Malinda Lo's somber and lovely "Ash" is a lesbian retelling of "Cinderella." Lisa Mantchev's theatrical fantasy "Eyes Like Stars" pits a plucky orphan, Beatrice Shakespeare Smith, and her fairy attendants against the wiles of Ariel and a stuffy stage manager. In Aprilynne Pike's "Wings," the new girl at school is mortified to realize she's sprouting a set of perfumed flower-wings. (Through some pact with the goblin lord, Pike scored a cover blurb from Stephenie Meyer, author of "Twilight.") Despite its same-sex content, "Ash" may be the most conventional of these new novels. It features a beautiful orphan - Ash, short for Aisling, and a perfect play on the name "Cinderella" - a cruel, social-climbing stepmother and two sneering stepsisters. Lo gives us a vaguely medieval setting, royal hunts, grand balls and an unquestioned class hierarchy. Not until the introduction of Kaisa, the king's gorgeous young huntress, do we get a spin on tradition. From her first glimpse of Kaisa in the magical Wood, Ash feels pulled between two worlds - the fairy realm, where a haughty prince named Sidhean waits for permission to possess her, and the charmed hours she spends with Kaisa, learning to ride and track. Neither is the "real" world of her stepmother, Lady Isobel, who has fired the other servants so that Ash can work off her dead father's debts. How can Ash decide between Kaisa, in her riding leathers, and the austere, almost irresistible Sidhean? On seeing him in the Wood, Ash feels "as though drawn on threads pulled taut by his hands." This fateful choice between an earthly and a fairy lover is the underlying theme in each of these novels, even the chipper "Eyes Like Stars," in which the heroine shuttles between Ariel, a seducer in spirit form, and Nate, her beefy protector. (Finding Beatrice without her anti-glamour charm, Ariel pulls her close: "The butterflies drifted out of his hair as he leaned over her. They fluttered through Bertie's already swimming head, brushed over something dark and sleeping, and roused it from slumber." The heroine of "Wings," Laurel, must decide between David, her science study partner and aspiring heartthrob, and Tamani, a dreamy fairy sentry who leaves her petals limp. In another genre, these girls would be skipping school to smoke and make out with hoodlums. Beyond each heroine's attraction to bad boys and forbidden pleasures - the intoxicating fruit sold at the goblin market - are questions of self-definition. What kind of woman will Beatrice become? What about Morgan, the heroine of Balog's "Fairy Tale," who's convinced that her longtime boyfriend, Cam, is the love of her life until she grows close to sweet, curiously attractive Pip, the human boy the fairies snatched from the cradle when they substituted the fairy Cam? When Pip smiles at her, she finds herself "breathless, shivering, wondering what it would be like if he really did touch me like he did in my dream. And then I think of Cam and want to stab myself with my pen." It's not just the dark lovers that allure and threaten. Passion itself feels alien at this age, the point at which choices - the dangerous lover who enchants versus the dependable boy next door - can have lasting consequences. The fairy-tale theme of transformation is a natural for young adult fiction: an allegory of sexual coming-of-age. Laurel, in "Wings," has the worst time with this because she discovers she's not only a fairy but a plant. (No high school girl wants to be perceived as different, let alone jump from the Animal to the Vegetable category in Twenty Questions.) Laurel brings her insecurities to Tamani, who explains why she has never developed like a normal girl. In fairy reproduction, the male produces pollen on his hands then reaches inside the female's blossom to pollinate her. "'Doesn't sound very romantic,'" Laurel responds. "There's nothing romantic about it at all,' Tamani replied, a confident smile spreading across his face. 'That's what sex is for.'" THE steamiest exploration of these tensions must be in Melissa Marr's "Fragile Eternity," the third book in her popular "Tales of Faerie" series - not to be confused with Holly Black's modern fairy tales, the young adult series she began while collaborating with Tony DiTerlizzi on "The Spiderwick Chronicles." (Black's series and Neil Gaiman's "Stardust," from 1999, are considered to have kick-started the fairy trend in young adult fantasy; you can get a nice sampler of the style in Marietta Publishing's two-volume anthology, "Bad-Ass Faeries.") Marr's fantasy world is complex and involving. Her main character, Aislinn - like Aisling in "Ash," an adaptation of the Gaelic word "aisling," which means "dream" or "vision" - has been chosen as queen by Keenan, the "Summer King." Now she, too, is a fairy and immortal. Her moods can change the weather. Keenan longs for his lover, Donia, but lusts for Aislinn, who returns the favor despite her devotion to her human boyfriend, Seth. They process their emotions relentlessly, as if some evil sprite cast a therapy spell over both couples. Aislinn battles her feelings for Keenan until a stomach injury forces her to submit to his magical healing touch: "She didn't pull his hand away, didn't let go of his wrist. Her skin was alive with sunlight. His sunlight. Our sunlight. A sigh slipped from between her lips as a pulse of sunlight stronger than all the rest combined slid from his palm to her skin. Her eyes fluttered closed as wave after wave of pleasure rolled through her body." Take that, "Twilight" readers. Another much-admired writer in the fairy genre is Laini Taylor, whose fantasy collection "Lips Touch" is a nominee this year for a National Book Award for Young People's Literature. But the books in her beautifully written "Dreamdark" series are for a younger authence, and unlike the other fairy-themed novels discussed here, they don't cross human and otherworldly realms but are rooted in a self-contained fantasy world, like Tolkien's Middle-earth. There's no tortured adolescent sexuality, just adventure, flying carpets, hideous monsters and stolen magic. Hardly a fairy tale at all. Regina Marler is the author of a literary history, "Bloomsbury Pie." She is working on a novel.

  Booklist Review

Morgan cannot envision life without Cam, her boyfriend who has also been her neighbor and best friend since birth. Her psychic ability to predict the future doesn't work on herself or Cam, but she is sure their life together will be perfect. A week before their joint sweet-16 party, however, they learn that Cam is a fairy changeling and not only do the fairies want him back, they've brought the human, Pip, whose place he took. Awkward Pip has trouble adapting to the human world and joins the other two in conspiring to save Cam and return Pip to his realm. As both boys change drastically, however, becoming who they are supposed to be, Morgan confronts the knowledge that the best thing she can do is let Cam go. Morgan's flip first-person narrative is hilarious, though her self-absorbed denial may frustrate readers waiting for her to do the right thing. Still, Morgan's distinctively funny voice and the touching three-way romance will make this a popular addition to the urban fairy romance market.--Hutley, Krista Copyright 2009 Booklist

  Kirkus Review

In most high schools, the psychic girl would be the weird supernatural student, but Morgan's precognitive powers just aren't the strangest thing around. Instead, it's Morgan's boyfriend, Cam, her best friend since they were in diapers, who's the really paranormal teen in this shallow romance. It seems Cam is a changeling, destined to return to the fairy lands on his 16th birthday. Morgan watches in horror as Cam's football-player physique shrinks away into sparkly, winged, smooth-skinned feyness. Meanwhile, she has to cope with an interloper: Pip, the human child originally stolen and replaced by Cam in the cradle 16 years before. As Morgan watches, Pip transforms from fashion-challenged dork to a gorgeous-smelling hunk with washboard abs. It's too bad that this love story, fairly original within the confines of the trendy paranormal-romance genre, is so thoroughly superficial, complete with a self-absorbed, unlikable heroine and a looks-obsessed notion of love and romance. The fairy world has got to be better than being in Morgan's orbit. (Fantasy. 12-14) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Summary
A captivating and witty dark fantasy that will have girls lusting after it.<br> <br> Morgan Sparks has always known that she and her boyfriend, Cam, are made for each other. But when Cam's cousin Pip comes to stay with the family, Cam seems depressed. Finally Cam confesses to Morgan what's going on: Cam is a fairy. The night he was born, fairies came down and switched him with a healthy human boy. Nobody expected Cam to live, and nobody expected his biological brother, heir to the fairy throne, to die. But both things happened, and now the fairies want Cam back to take his rightful place as Fairy King.<br> <br> Even as Cam physically changes, becoming more miserable each day, he and Morgan pledge to fool the fairies and stay together forever. But by the time Cam has to decide once and for all what to do, Morgan's no longer sure what's best for everyone, or whether her and Cam's love can weather an uncertain future.
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