Monday, May 31, 2010

the FAERIE post: reflections on my experiece with faerie fiction in YA

Never say never. Two summers ago I read two books back-to-back that were very similar to each other: Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr and Tithe by Holly Black. I haven't read any other faerie stories since; actually, after I finished Tithe, I vowed I would never, ever read about faeries again. I'm not much for histrionics, so I meat it...then.

It's my observation that YA books with "supernatural" characters: werewolves, vampires, faeries, etc., can easily fall into stereotypes. Now I have heard that the Twilight series' take on vampires is different from other authors out there, and one friend in particular is a fan of the Vampire Academy series because she says that the series has a much more creative take on vampires. I don't know - Twilight series is the only vampire series I've read (unless you count The Mortal Instruments, which I don't really) but when it comes to faeries, there doesn't seem to be a lot of variety. What Holly Black and Melissa Marr seemed to tell me through their stories is that
1) faeries are amoral
2) faeries are screwballs with not much of a conscience (which fits the "amoral" #1) and
3) they have a thing for a typical, modern, rather-ordinary human girl. Why?

The modern girl usually always turns out to be some kind of long-lost faerie relation, but that predictability is one that I don't mind so much. After all, fairy tales are pretty predictable, too, but the main thing I didn't like about those two books was how dark and edgy they were. It didn't work for me: instead of suspense, I felt like I reading a faerie-version of "The O.C." Melodrama to the extreme! And disgusting love interests, too. Actually now, I didn't really mind Roiben that much, but Marr...well, I've talked about her already. But what really bothered me the most was the thought that this is what faerie fiction is. Instead of tricksters and mischievous characters, we get practically-nihilistic characters that would give Nietzsche something to smile about. The reason I pick on faeries and not vampires or werewolves is not only because I've read more faerie work, but also because I write on faeries. I think the characterizations employed by Tolkien for his elves (elves and faeries being culturally synonymous) is much more practical.
Or take a page from Shakespeare - his fairies are lovable tricksters.

Anyway, curiosity has gotten the better of me, and I am rather looking forward to reading these two books:

I've heard that they're different from Black and Marr's works, but I don't know exactly. Are they different in tone/story, or are they like the others? I've also been told that The Iron King is similar (a bit) to Labyrinth, one of my absolute favorite films. That's a plus!

Faerie fiction is obviously very popular nowadays. Any suggestions of books/series other than these 4?

11 shout-outs!:

j said...

You really don't like Marr? I loved Wicked Lovely. To each their own. I am very interested to see what you think of The Iron King now. My senses are telling me Amelia will be team Puck. :)

Christina T said...

I liked The Iron King although there were some things that annoyed me and there were times that I wanted to reach through the book, grab Meghan by the shoulders, and shake some sense into her. Yes, I know that isn't a strong endorsement but Puck and Grimalkin made up for some of the annoyance I felt. It has been awhile since I read Wondrous Strange but I think I really liked it. I am hoping you will enjoy it since you liked Eyes Like Stars.

I have read Melissa Marr's Wicked Lovely (not a fan) and I plan to pass on Tithe although I will be trying White Cat which is not a fairy story and has a male MC. I don't think I've read any other fairy books (unless you count Juliet Marillier). I liked Need and Captivate but they had pixies in them and the pixies are mostly evil creatures. Interesting post.

I look forward to hearing what you think of Iron King and Wondrous Strange.

Amelia said...

Thanks, Christina! That's another thing: it seems like all the sweet little adorable teenage girls are...ahem...lacking in the common sense department :P I really want to know what you think of WHITE CAT :D

emily said...

I've never read a YA fairy book in my life:D But I have read a mid-summer night's dream. I do like shakespeare's fairies!

Charlotte said...

I didn't desperatly like Wicked Lovely myself, and wasn't able to finish Tithe, but there are some fairie books I like very much--Ballad, by Maggie Stiefvater, and Knife by R.J. Anderson come to mind.

In fact, I would go so far as to say I Loved Ballad. It's the sequel to Lament, which was fin but not a favorite (Robin McKinley just reviewed it on her blog--she liked it lots)

Mandy said...

Speaking of White Cat, I just finished it, and I loved it (:

MO Min Pin Rescue said...

I think my favorite fairy books are the one by Maggie Stiefvater. Lament and Ballad. :)

Bry said...

Wondrous Strange is exactly how the described the other books - faries that are damn near crazy, and one falls head over heels for a plain ordinary girl who turns out is a high ranking missing fairy princess. I agree that there just isn't a lot of variety in the fairy books out there.

Tales of Whimsy said...

O good points.
Have you tried Wings? by Aprilynne Pike?

Shy said...

My feelings about Tithe by Holly Black is pretty much the same as you. I read the whole series, in hope that it will turn out better but in the end, I was hugely disappointed. I have the first book by Marr and thought of giving it a shot but now, I think I'd have to think couple of times before trying! Would be interesting to hear your thoughts on The Iron King though!

Lesa said...

I did like Marr and Black's urban faerie novels-- I've only read one other urban and can't remember the title/author right now-- Yes, urban tales of faerie are quite dark and predictable so don't know how many more I'll read-- since other type of faerie creature stories (fablehaven) and new takes on plain ol' fairy tales tickle my fancy.

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