Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature created and hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, in which we all talk about a bookish topic and have fun making lists. This week I’m looking at the top ten books every adult with a love of Faerie should read.
Let me set out my stall: I hate paranormal romance, and I tend to be dissatisfied by YA fiction. But I do love a good fairytale or faerie story. I’m not a big believer in beautiful winged ladies who grant wishes; I’ve always embraced the folklore that teaches us to beware of the Fair Folk. They’re tricksy and cruel, and their interests and passions are entirely different to ours. I suspect that it can be difficult for a mere mortal to tell the difference between the Seelie and the Unseelie Court. But their glamour is undeniable, and when I want stories about dangerous, desirable amoral strangers without the angst, I choose faeries.
Sorcerer to the Crown – Zen Cho
When the doors to Faerie slam shut, the newly-minted Sorcerer Royal must try to conceal England’s waning magickal power from the Government and the French. The novel focuses on gleefully exposing and exploding gender and racial bias, but the glimpses of Faerie are satisfying enough to win it a place. Also dragons. Yay!
Blood and Iron – Elizabeth Bear
I lied. Faeries do angst too. Here a conflicted changeling and a grief-ridden magus are at the heart of a war between Faerie and the Prometheus Club. The prose is purple in places, and it’s so drenched in folklore it may be inaccessible to readers unfamiliar with the material. But it ruthlessly refuses to deal in anything but shades of grey, and the Merlin is a gay woman. I’m sold.
Among Others – Jo Walton
This is a book about grief, loneliness, magic, books, imagination, the inner life of the outsider and the pain of growing up. It’s also about a girl who can see fairies, and who lost her sister when they tried to do what the fairies asked of them. It’s one of my favourites of recent years, as it hurt in a good way.
Stardust – Neil Gaiman
A lovestruck lad crosses to Fairy to bring back a fallen star for the object of his affections. But the star is a short-tempered beauty pursued by a witch, and nothing goes as Tristan expected. Gaiman once commented that fairy tales grow in the retelling, so he was delighted by Jane Goldman’s script’s diversions from its source. I love both unreservedly.
Sixty-One Nails – Mike Shevdon
Niall discovers he is part-Fey when he has a heart attack on the way to work, but his new life is set to be cut very short if the pure-blooded wraithkin get their hands on him. While I found Niall a bit dull, the Feyre are fabulous – from the psychotic wraithkin to colourful Raffmir – and this is a fine urban faerie romp.
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making – Catherynne Valente
Heartless September is carried off by the (frankly slightly creepy) West Wind to Fairyland, where he abandons her without any of the usual Instructions. I was swept away by its knowing assault on fairytale tropes, shrieking ‘you don’t want to do that’ to my heart’s content.
The Bone Knife – Intisar Khanani
We get only a glimpse of fairies here, in the form of the urbane and insightful but ever so slightly threatening Lord Stonemane. But there’s a good deal of promise in this odd premise of a kingdom that controls its own magic and yet is on friendly terms with the Fae; and Lord Stonemane is an excellent faerie Lord.
Take world-hopping librarians who control reality through use of language. Add the Fey as avatars of chaos, and dragons as avatars of order. Change up realities regularly for maximum fun. Serve with style. This just gets better, not least because Cogman has a generously broad approach to Fey archetypes. I can’t wait for the next one.
The Age of Misrule – Mark Chadbourn
Some aspects of this series set my teeth on edge, but I will never get tired of a faerie apocalypse. It’s two of my favourite things mooshed together, with bonus dragons. It’s packaged up in an epic losers-save-the-world travelogue with lashings of folklore, violent horror and terrible relationship choices. But honestly, it had me at faerie apocalypse.
And last but by no means least, something entirely different…
Lady Cottington’s Pressed Fairy Book – Brian Froud & Terry Jones
A satire on the Cottingley fairies, which is not as child-friendly as it’s colourful design suggests. Lady Cottington squashes fairies – rather than flowers – between the pages of her diary (resulting in a wealth of entertaining paintings by Froud). The gorgeous art is accompanied by a handwritten story, which starts well but ends up in rape apologism.
What are your favourite fairy tales or faerie stories?