This week, I read Wondrous Strange by Lesley Livingston. It was… a struggle.
And don’t get me wrong, it’s not the whole fairy–sorry, faerie–thing. Faeries are cool beans. I love faeries. Good faeries, bad faeries, pretty faeries, ugly faeries, faeries that bite your finger because appearances can be deceiving (duh, Hoggle)… love it all.
Back to the book. I had a tough time with this book because I wanted so badly for it to be better than it was. It has so much potential! I love any book that plays with myths and legends and folktales, reviving them, twisting them into new things, and Livingston is working with some great source material–not only the traditional Celtic fairy mythology, but SHAKESPEARE! I love the idea of merging the two together; I always felt Midsummer Night’s Dream was something of an anomaly, with the fairies and the weird Greek elements, and also kind of unfinished, like it either needed to be twice as long or cut in half (maybe that’s just because I prefer my Shakespearean plays bleak, bloody and brutal: my cat is named Titus Andronicus… nuff said).
But this book let me down in a few different ways. First, the writing style was not to my liking. Especially the dialogue–it felt so stilted and unnatural (one of the worst scenes: when Auberon tells Kelley he’s–SPOILER–her father). And then there’s Kelley. I could not find it in my heart to like or care about this character. She felt so flat to me, no matter how much character development was attempted. Same goes for Sonny. Boring!
The worst thing, the most disappointing thing of all, though, was that this book never made me believe. Aside from the fact that this book is about faeries, which (supposedly) don’t exist, I couldn’t believe in this story. I never felt like I was living in it, the way you should with a good story. I always felt like I was just reading a book that was trying really hard. What it boils down to is this: I would not have clapped my hands to bring any of these faeries/half-faeries/changelings back to life. Just sayin.
I should probably mention Tithe, by Holly Black, one of my most favourite YA titles EVER! That book’s awesomeness has set a veeeeery high standard for modern faerie tales. One of my first impressions reading Wondrous Strange: in a kelpie show-down, Tithe‘s kelpie would annihilate the one Kelley tries to “save” (real smart, Kelley). In fact, I think I have to reread Tithe to erase the awkward artificiality of Wondrous Strange, and give me a much needed fix of gritty, weirdly realistic and eerie modern fairy tales.