Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Book Review: Wondrous Strange

 Title:Wondrous Strange
Series: Wondrous Strange Book 1
Author(s): Lesley Livingston
Genre: YA, urban fantasy, fae
Publisher/Year: HarperTeen/2008
-Webpage: Lesley Livingston Official
-Blog: Other words...

Since the dawn of time, the Faerie have taken. . . .
For seventeen-year-old actress Kelley Winslow, faeries are just something from childhood stories. Then she meets Sonny Flannery, whose steel-gray eyes mask an equally steely determination to protect her.
Sonny guards the Samhain Gate, which connects the mortal realm with the Faerie's enchanted, dangerous Otherworld. Usually kept shut by order of icy King Auberon, the Gate stands open but once a year.
This year, as the time approaches when the Samhain Gate will swing wide and nightmarish Fae will fight their way into an unsuspecting human world, something different is happening . . . something wondrous and strange. And Kelley's eyes are opening not just to the Faerie that surround her but to the heritage that awaits her.
Now Kelley must navigate deadly Faerie treachery—and her growing feelings for Sonny—in this dazzling page-turner filled with luminous romance.

Review: Wondrous Strange starts out...oddly. Like a nightmare. Well technically speaking it starts out like a play's script, but the actual start of the novel begins like a nightmare. All I really saw was 'THE WILD HUNT' and suddenly this became my number one fascination. I love The Wild Hunt--the mythology, stories based around, whatever have you. So for me that was an insta-bonus point.

I've heard remarks that this is very similar to Tithe, which I have not read. I'm not sure why...just haven't. Which might be for the best. I wanted to enjoy this book on its own merits after all.

And I did enjoy it--I enjoyed Kelley's sparking anger, Sonny's oddly innocent bravery, Maddox's protectiveness, Puck's malicious playfulness and the casual cruelty that only those with lots of power over someone can inflict so easily.  Puck is so often shown as either just a prankster or a cruel being--when in truth its not that he's cruel to be cruel, he's cruel because he doesn't understand the limitations of being mortal.  

I was oddly amused anytime a character was caught off guard.  Kelley's roomate Tyff's reaction to the horse in the tub (well...not technically a horse...) was comedic delight.  Especially poor Kelley who spends a lot of the first half of the book being confronted with revelation after revelation.  Faeries are real and by the by don't screw up your portrayal of their Queen okay? And this really is a 'Who's Who' of Celtic mythology. You name it and it does appear. Which was fun for me because I got to flex my way out of use Celtic lore skills.

The pace is set pretty quick, with the timeline being roughly nine days long and once things are set into motion they don't stop. Character development is sparse for the most part, with only the major revelations spurring any true growth. It would be kind of hard not to grow as a person honestly after some of what is said, but Livingston doesn't flesh out that growth.  To use Theatre speak--the players are in place for the climax, but the curtain drops before the big finale.

A lot is left to the reader to decipher and understand as far as motivations go.  Most of the dangling plot threads are related to personal history of the character, but to be expected as there needs to be something for the next book, Darklight, to expand upon.  I hope there is more about Kelley's adoption, as well as Sonny's background in the next book.  I was disappointed in the end with the build up from the Wild Hunt.  I was expecting something different I suppose.  Within the variety of different cultural beliefs for the Wild Hunt I prefer the English version (Woden's Hunt), the Irish version with the Faery Folk at the helm is better known.  The generalities don't change, but its the particulars that do between the two versions.

Truly my favorite character was Puck. I'm a little biased in this regard, as I've always felt bad for him and felt he gets a short stick in fiction.  Say what you will--the man knows how to have a good lark.

**edited on 1/22/10 for entry into the Blog With Bite January 2010 YA pick**