“Knife” – R.J. Anderson

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I really wanted the squeals to be called "Fork" and "Spoon".

There are humans at the bottom of the garden, and a glimpse inside their House convinces the fierce young faery known as Knife that they have knowledge that could help her dying people. But if the human world has so much to offer, why is the faery Queen determined to keep her people away from it? Is there a connection between the House and the faeries’ loss of magic? And why is Knife so drawn to the young Paul McCormick — that strangest of creatures, a human male?

Paranormal romance has taken a variety of stances on a the actions and lifestyles of fairies, but Anderson takes us back to traditional Victorian ideas about the mythical creatures, to little winged animals taking residence in hollow trees at the back of gardens and avoiding humans like the proverbial plague. Having said that, this novel actually plays out like a fairy-soap-opera focusing on the social life of fairy living, and the politics surrounding it, leaving magic to fizzle as a background issue, and I quite enjoyed this.

Our journey begins in the desperate world of a small fairy cluster, where magic is dying and the Queen has forbidden her subjects from leaving the confines of their home unauthorized. The story follows the curious and stubborn Bryony, a fairy who wants nothing more than to escape, and find a cure for the terrible silence, an illness killing off her people. As set-ups go, it’s not anything unique, but Anderson gives the tale a few interesting dynamics. As I mentioned before, the plot focuses on the daily routine and lifestyles of a community of magic-less fairies. While keeping things traditional, Anderson manages to avoid the usual cliches.  Taking us through the inexperienced perception of a young fairy is a stoke of ingenuity here. There are parts where our protagonist explores the intricacies of a human household, and I found myself pondering what it was she was looking at, working out objects by their context and description just as the character was doing so. Bryony herself is a solid and well-developed protagonist, and her personal struggles, especially towards the end, are believable and tension building. Her relationships with both humans and fairies are made particularly powerful by the comparison between the two worlds. It’s a shame Anderson didn’t choose to carry this further. The plot-line tends to move too quickly at times, particularly close to the beginning, pacing past some of the aspects of fairy aesthetics. Anderson misses opportunities to describe Bryony’s home in order to push the plot forward.

Characters are individual, holding their own personalities and reasonings well, but lack deep exploration. I’m surprised first-person narrative wasn’t used, because we only ever hear Bryony’s narrative stand-point, leaving gaps where different thoughts and opinions of her counterparts could have been expressed.

Overall, I found this work refreshing, full of quiet excitement and surprising thought provoking scenarios, and adventure as it merges a fairy world with a believable fairy realm. It introduces a world you’ll want to exist in the tree at the back of your garden. I’m excited for the next two.

What did you think of the book? Did you like this review? Think I can do better? Let me know in the comments. 


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