Faerie Wars by Herbie Brennan
I really wanted to like this book. It has a beautiful cover, blue with gold embossed lettering and the image of a butterfly. It has a comfortable weight and the binding is great (my softcover copy has been read twice but still looks brand-new). I wish all books were so well-made.
The quality of the writing is mixed. When I say that a book is well-written, what I mean is that the text doesn’t jar. You get drawn in and forget that you’re reading; there’s no awkwardness to make you stumble and remind you that the story is coming in the form of words rather than thoughts and images. Faerie Wars is mostly well-written, but it has some majorly jarring elements, and they make you want to cry because the rest of the story flows so well.
Some of the characters are unforgivably boring. For example, there’s nothing about Henry, the character with whom the story begins, that makes him stand out. He’s just a boy who does odd jobs for a wacky old guy. He’s supposed to be a main character but he really doesn’t do much. He could have been completely left out of the story with no harm done. Ditto his best friend, who is mentioned a couple of times but seen only long enough for her to tell the lame story of how her mother remarried.
It is Henry’s family problems that truly ruin this book. His mother is having an affair with his father’s female secretary. How could anyone think that was appropriate subject matter for the target audience? And it’s so unnecessary. You could literally cut out every scene that mentions it and no one would be the wiser. The lesbian subplot seems in particularly poor taste when juxtaposed with the title and main subject, since “fairy” is a a derogatory term for a gay man.
I have other complaints, but I think all of this book’s failures could have been fixed by a good editor. It had promise, but a reasonably good plot and an inherently pleasant writing style are not enough. Why wasn’t it edited more? It seems everyone’s rushing to get fantasy books into print and to market them with a Harry Potter spin in order to take advantage of Rowling’s success. If they’d taken as much effort with the editing as they did with the marketing and packaging, Faerie Wars could have been something special. Too bad.