________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 15 . . . . March 20, 2009

cover Wondrous Strange.

Lesley Livingston.
Toronto, ON: HarperCollins, 2008.
327 pp., pbk., $17.99.
ISBN 978-1-55468-273-7.

Grades 7-11 / Ages 12-16.

Review by Brianne Grant.

*** /4

Reviewed from Uncorrected Proof.

excerpt:

Sonny avoided Kelley's gaze.

"By the beginning of the twentieth century, as the Victorian age was coming to a close, the human world began to stop taking an interest in the Faerie world."

"But not the other way around?"

"No. The Faeries still came. They still…took. And then, one day, a mortal woman took something back."

"Me."

"Yes."

Sonny told her that after she'd been spirited away from the Unseelie Court, her father, Auberon, in grief and fury, had tried to cast an enchantment that would seal the passageways between the worlds. "But Auberon's enchantment was flawed. And so, for one night every year, the Samhain Gate – for that is what this park is – swings open."

"When?" Kelley asked.

"From sundown on October thirty-first to sunrise November first."

"Halloween, huh? Cute."

"It used to be called Samhain," Sonny said quietly. "Back in my day."

"Timing's off. It's only October twenty-sixth."

"That's the thing about magic, Kelley. It's tricky stuff, even for a Faerie king. Part of the flaw in Auberon's spell casting means that once every nine years, the Gate stands open for the nine nights leading up to Samhain. We call it Nine-Night."

Leslie Livingston's first novel, Wondrous Strange, is an engaging read. Kelley must come to terms with her discovery that she is a faerie princess as well as her developing feelings for changeling and Janus guard, Sonny Flannery. Wondrous Strange is in the magic realism genre, which Livingston achieves by drawing heavily on faerie lore. She also incorporates many references to Shakespeare's plays; Kelley is acting in A Midsummer Night's Dream for a New York playhouse. Livingston's Shakespearean references will likely be well understood by high school aged readers. And of course, Central Park is the place where the magic happens and is the location where the Samhain Gate resides.

     Livingston moves seamlessly between the perspectives of Sonny and Kelley. Kelley is an independent and strong character who is able to defend both herself and Sonny. Livingston refrains from the helpless female trope, instead showing Kelley to be fully self-sufficient, and stubbornly so. Sonny shows surprising sensitivity and depth, and their ensuing relationship proves to be as complex as the characters themselves.

     Although I was able to suspend my belief in reading the novel, I did find myself squaring up with reality at some points. For instance, Kelley rescues an abandoned horse from a pond, with the horse then following her home. She discovers "Lucky" in her bathtub and is unable to persuade him to leave. Finding a horse in the bathtub of your apartment, to me, seems like a momentous occasion. However, Kelley and her roommate, Tyff, take few steps to remove the horse from the tub. They are unable to get a response from Animal Control, and so Lucky remains tub-bound for several days with little questioning on Kelley's behalf. Not surprisingly, it turns out that Lucky is not a regular horse at all.

     Wondrous Strange is a captivating story of love, betrayal, and the real and unreal. I look forward to finding out what the rest of the trilogy will have to offer.

Recommended.

Brianne Grant, a student in the Master of Arts in Children's Literature program at the University of British Columbia, is Executive Councillor-West for IBBY Canada.

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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