________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 18. . . .May 1, 2009


Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter.

R. J. Anderson.
Toronto, ON: HarperCollins, 2009.
329 pp., hardcover, $19.99.
ISBN 978-0-06-155474-2.

Grades 4 and up / Ages 9 and up.

Review by Janet Johnson.

**** /4

Reviewed from Uncorrected Proof.



There had been a time, long before Bryony was born, when the library had bustled with activity. The well-worn seats of the chairs that ringed the central table, the creased spines and ragged pages of the books upon the shelves, bore witness to an enthusiasm for learning that was now almost unknown among the Oakenfolk. There was even a tall bookcase designed to show off the latest additions to the collection-but now it held nothing but dust, for there was no authors in the Oak these days, any more than there were painters or musicians. Somehow the faeries' creativity, like their passion for scholarship, had died.


Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter is the story of a fairy named Bryony who lives in a great oak along with a dying and fearful society of fairies who have lost their magic. Dependant on the magic of one individual, a Queen they hide in the tree-world they call Oakenwyld. Like all adolescents, Bryony is restless and wants to experience life outside the confines of the tree. In fact, being daring and bold, she goes outside against her guardian's directive and finds a human boy, a baby. When she grows older, she meets the baby again as a grown young man.

     When given a role to play in her society, Bryony becomes an apprentice hunter for the Queen and the fairy community. When Bryony is assigned to provide protection for those fairies that leave the tree to scavenge for food, readers get a glimpse of the dangers of the world from the perspective of one so small a bird could eat her. But Bryony is brave and daring and takes on her role with a courageous heart. She even assumes a new name, Knife, as a symbol of her rebellious attitude against custom and tradition. One day, Knife encounters the same boy, now, a young man crippled and in a wheel chair. Using some magic she didn't know she had, she rescues him from suicide. The two become friends, and Knife discovers more about life in the human world.

     R. J. Anderson has written a beautiful and complex story in the subgenre of faerie fantasy which may, in time, rival the vampire theme in books for this age. The author has added a few original twists to the conventions of the fairy story to make it modern and allow the reader an easy "suspension of disbelief." True to conventional expectations, the girl and the boy must ultimately prove their love. The experienced of fantasy will not be disappointed as the author carefully employs other conventions in ways which fit the plot naturally.

      Written for the older child and teens, this fairy tale is neither formulaic nor a pretty story of changelings and fairy godmothers for the nursery. The complexities of the plot, characters and settings in both worlds are credible and enable the story to unfold seamlessly from the first pages to the ending. This story explores some very serious themes, in particular; what it means to be human and the consequences of shutting yourself off from the world. The story is also about love and trust. There is a romance in the novel, but it is also about how the absence of love will cause the soul to wither and decay.

      The imagination is treated to a consistency in setting, plot, characterization and theme that make this simple story excellent. The miniature world of Oakwyld predominates over the human world because the reader sees the world through Bryony's eyes. The human boy lives in a beautiful house attached to a beautiful garden. The fairy lives in a great oak tree, and where the reader expects an amazing castle, rich with opulent furnishings such as seen in fairytales, this once magic world is shabby, reflecting the stagnation and unwholesomeness of their world view and contrasts it with the world outside the tree.

      The Queen is every inch a queen. Although she appears cold and formal throughout the story, it is only in the conclusion that the reader understands her. Knife's friend and foster mother, Wend, is always tolerant and caring. And the retiring hunter, Thorn, who trains Knife, is very believable as an older and wiser person who wants to retire, and her prickly nature befits her character.

      This is a great story, not sickly sweet or overly dark. There is drama and suspense but in balanced doses.

Highly Recommended.

Janet Johnson teaches Children's and Young Adult Literature in the Library Technician program at Red River college in Winnipeg, MB. She used to be a librarian in a school.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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ISSN 1201-9364
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