Musings on children's and YA literature, the academy, and the relationship between them, from an English professor and mother.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Blackbringer

I've been meaning to post about Laini Taylor's new novel Faeries of Dreamdark: Blackbringer since I finished it last week, but I just couldn't find the time during the mad grading rush. So now the grading is done (alleluia, alleluia!) and of course I am having trouble recalling what I wanted to say. Sieve brain.

First of all, I wanted to say it's better than I thought it would be. I know that doesn't sound very good, but given the title and the fact that Laini Taylor was previously best known for "Laini's Ladies," a line of greeting cards and ornaments, I was concerned. (So was Betsy Bird, over at Fuse#8, but she got over it, too.)

The fact that it's first in a series gave me pause, too, especially since the whole series isn't available yet. (I'm remembering those bleak years between The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass, for example; let's not even talk about the HP waits.)

Nonetheless, the lovely Penguin rep who visited my office last month had really strongly recommended it, and sent me an ARC (advanced reading copy--it's not quite out yet), and I was looking for diversion, so I started it.

And read pretty much straight through until I finished.

These are not those fay little fairies of, say, Flower Fairies (lovely though they are, I might add). Nor are they the somewhat unnerving compensations for childhood sexual abuse that turn up in Francesca Lia Block's I was a Teenage Fairy. They are both small and winged, but the comparison ends there. Fuse#8's got a pretty good review, so I won't go into details here, but I will say that what I really liked the toughness of the main character, Magpie, and her supporting cast of crows. She's a warrior princess of sorts, Magpie is. She's also, to my great relief, not an orphan (though we don't meet her parents, we are told about their whereabouts). And the central conceit of the novel--that humans are opening up bottles hoping to find genies, but releasing demons into the world--is priceless. Sounds just like what we do to me. The demon Magpie is after in this novel, the Blackbringer, is a figure of uncommon destruction: it envelops its prey in its darkness, its nothingness. It's surprisingly scary, and when Magpie goes up against it, you're not quite sure she can win. The stakes seem real in the book, in other words.

And then there's knitting. Of a sort. So, really, what more could you want?

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