Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Five Fabulous Forays into Faerie - Lucy Coats

What a delight these second ABBA anniversary posts are turning out to be.  I'm having such fun reading them. And now it's my turn to celebrate with my own five fabulous forays into faeryland.... 
Lately--usually deep into the night when the world is still and silent apart from the cries of hunting owls--I have found myself led astray.  I have walked down strange paths and met beauty and horror and humour and cruelty and bravery and sadness and romance all mixed up together.  In short, I have been lured into YA faeryland.  Don't be fooled by the word faery (or fairy).  These are not some cutesie, flowery, pink-dressed tiny beings out of picture-books and Disney.  No--they are the Sidhe, the Fair Folk, the Seelie and Unseelie Courts--faeries from the older and darker side of legend.  I've been familiar with those original ancient legends for most of my life--I've retold some of them myself, and of course I had my own green version of faeries--the Fey--in Hootcat Hill. Tam Linn, Thomas the Rhymer, the fairy smiths of Skye, the fairy cattle of the sea, the children of Danu--all these and more I know and love.  But these new faeries I've discovered live in this modern world of ours (the USA being a current favoured setting for most but not all), and I stumbled across some of them quite by chance--via recommendations on Twitter, in fact.    So first, I will introduce you to:
Melissa Marr  Melissa's Wicked Lovely series was recommended by someone whose opinion I value, and as soon as I read the three Rules which her heroine, Aislinn, must follow, I was hooked in at once. Rule 3: Never stare at invisible faeries.  Rule 2: Never speak to invisible faeries.  Rule 1: Don't ever attract the attention of invisible faeries.  But the Summer King, Keenan is determined that mortal Aislinn will be his Summer Queen, and her rules become increasingly hard to keep.  There are four books so far in the series, with one more to come.  They're a kind of edgy, "urban faerie' genre I hadn't come across before. Once I'd read and loved that first book I bought the others at once, being a reader who has to 'know what happened next'.  Melissa writes a fabulous strong, feisty heroine--and her heroes are never just handsome cyphers, but are equally strong individuals. I particularly like the railway-carriage dwelling Seth.  I found myself loathing the old Winter Queen with a passion--and yet being fascinated by the way her mind works and her Machiavellian schemes.  Having finished the second book, Ink Exchange, I was also left with a strong desire for a tattoo.  There aren't many books which would make me contemplate needles on my skin (I hate needles).  This one did--and I'm still havering over whether a small one would hurt very much!  Now, I follow Melissa on Twitter, so I told her how much I'd enjoyed myself.  She tweeted back at me, and recommended my next faery discovery:
Charles de Lint  I'd read Charles for years, but had never come across The Blue GirlIt's funny, clever, and Melissa was quite right--it's a different kind of faerie book.  Although it's still 'urban faerie', there's a gritty tenderness about it which raised it well above the normal American 'high school lit' genre.  Bad girl Imogene has moved to a new school in a new town, and is determined to keep away from gangs and trouble.  Unfortunately there's a whole other kind of trouble around--a gang of unruly, amoral fairies and a teenage ghost.  Apart from anything else, this book is a fine exploration of friendship and how it works--and of how parental prejudice is not always what it seems.* Melissa also told me to seek out:
Emma Bull  Emma's War for the Oaks won the Locus Award for Best First Novel on its appearance in 1987.  It deserved to.  It's engaging, and once again, different.  The faerie in all stories are renowned for their love of music (hence all the stolen players like Tam Linn and the others)--Emma Bull moves that faerie love of music into the modern world of rock and roll.  Being a musician herself, she knows exactly what she's talking about, and the burgeoning relationship between her heroine, Elli McCandry and the Phouka who is her 'minder' is both touching and romantic in the best sense of the word.  I think it appealed to the bad girl, rock-chick manqué in me--the one who wanted to ride a Harley with her hair flying.  Hmmn.  Perhaps it's time to move on to:
Herbie Brennan before I become indiscreet!  Herbie was brought to my attention by my lovely agent, Sophie, who also represents him.  I'd never come across his Faerie Wars series before--I can't think why, because they're absolutely my kind of books.  Henry Atherton is a normal mortal boy.  The trouble is, his parents' marriage is just falling apart quite spectacularly, and Henry needs to escape from the house.  Luckily, he has a summer job working for the eccentric and paranoid recluse, Mr Fogarty.  But Henry's life just gets more complicated when he rescues a small winged figure from Fogarty's cat.   This is Pyrgus Malvae, temporarily shrunk fairy of the Light, animal lover and (very low down on his list), Crown Prince of the Faery Realm.  Herbie's books take a different direction to the ones I have mentioned above--the action is mostly in the Otherworld rather than on Earth, for a start, and the only use for Henry's school is to be broken into for supplies. But I am lost in admiration of the breadth of imagination Herbie shows in the extremely fully thought out creation of his world--there are small but utterly brilliant touches like the naming of all the faerie families (whether of the Dark or the Light) after butterflies, forinstance. Henry himself--bewildered, unsure, slightly lost--is the perfect counterpoint hero to Pyrgus--brave, dashing, rushing in where angels (or lesser faeries) fear to tread.  There are strong female characters too--I particularly like Holly Blue, Pyrgus's cool über-spy sister, and her cat-toting ally, the mysterious 'Painted Lady' Madame Cardui (plus her delightful Orange Trinian).  There is so much more, too. Mr Fogarty is an inspired creation--and what I particularly like about the way Herbie writes him is that what you see at first is not necessarily the whole picture.  I shall say no more than that, for fear of spoilers.  The one thing I haven't mentioned about these books is the baddies.  Lord Hairstreak is the archetypal posh villain with attitude--and his sidekicks Chalkhill and Brimstone are not just cyphers, but once again, fully realised beings with quirks and foibles of character which (though they are faery) make them recognisably human. I'm not even mentioning the creatures such as the endearing wooly rug-like endolg, Flapwazzle, or the tremendous sense of humour which pervades all the books, because otherwise I would be going on about them all night. The final volume of the series, The Faeman Quest comes in January 2011.  I for one can't wait.

As my final mention isn't published yet, it doesn't count as one of my five, really (and anyway I was always really bad at maths). But I HAD to put it in, because wow!  You have the best fairy treat of all in store next month, lovely ABBA readers.  I've been lucky enough to get my hands on an advance reading copy of Gillian Philip's Firebrand--the first in her new Rebel Angels series which will be launched at the Edinburgh Book Festival on August 27th.  My goodness this is a good book.  I'll be talking about it again at the end of the week, when Gillian is doing one of my Mythic Friday Interviews on Scribble City Central. If you want to know more (and trust me, you do!), pop on over there this Friday. 

* Melissa also recommended Holly Black's excellent Modern Faerie Tales, Tithe, Valiant and Ironside.  But I'm only allowed my 5, and I've already over-run by cheating, so I merely point you in their direction! If you're now hooked on faerie like me, you might also enjoy O.R. Melling's Chronicles of Faerie series too, and Maggie Steifvater's Ballad and Lament
• Lucy's website is at http://lucycoats.com/
• Lucy's blog is at http://scribblecitycentral.blogspot.com/ (Shortlisted for the Author Blog Awards 2010)
• Lucy's Facebook Fanpage is at http://tinyurl.com/lucycoatsfacebook
• Lucy's Twitter page is at http://twitter.com/lucycoats

10 comments:

catdownunder said...

Oh my paws and whiskers! More books to prowl through when I should be writing!

Charmaine Clancy said...

faeries have come a long way since I was a kid and they used to just buy your old teeth. :-)

Katherine Langrish said...

LOVELY post, Lucy! And nice to see Charles de Lint mentioned. There's a lot of US faerie fantasy that doesn't seem so well known over here. I'd also highly recommend Delia Sherman and Kelly Link.

Katherine Langrish said...

(ooh, and for tasters, you could try one of Terri Windling and Ellen Datlow's collections of modern faerie tales such as 'The Coyote Road')

Gillian Philip said...

Lucy, thank you SO much! And I'm hungry for the other four books you recommend. I adore faeries - especially the wicked ones.

Nicky S (Absolute Vanilla) said...

Love Melissa Marr's faeries - love her take on them, the urban realism blended with magic. Totally brilliant. Enjoyed Herbie Brennan's Faerie Wars too - off to look out for the others now - and in particular the inimitable Ms Philip's Firebrand!

Charlie Butler said...

Can I add to your list one historical example - Elizabeth Marie Pope's The Perilous Gard? Another excellent Tam Lin take.

kathryn evans said...

Too hard - I'd have to have Sally Gardner's I,Coriander!

Michael Malone said...

I was reading down your list and thinking; wait until you get a chance to read Firebrand - and you did! Wonderful book from Ms Philip, it's going to be SO popular

Lucy Coats said...

Ooh! Thank you all so much for the recommendations. Off to investigate right now. Yes, Sally Gardner's I, Coriander is certainly one of my favourites too--but not really urban faerie. Mind, Ms Philip's isn't urban either--but I had to mention anyway because of utter brillness and marvellosity. Not out till August, Nicky, so you will have to possess your wolfy soul in patience.