Bones Of Faerie — Book Review

Bones of Faerie
by Janni Lee Simner
Publisher, Random House
ISBN: 9780375845635

Imagine …

The world has just seen a major war in the very near past.  All the major cities of the world have been devastated and all the comforts that we know and take for granted are non-existent.  There are no stores.  There is no television, radio, movies, or internet.  The life the survivors of the war must live is one of survival, for while villages and towns have sprung up and are havens of safety, there is still danger. The war was with the people of Faerie.  Unlike our world, instead of developing their world on the sciences, like we humans did, the people of Faerie developed their world around magic. As a result, when warring against another people, their weaponry is that of the natural world — trees, bushes, weather, clouds, and so forth.  And the effects of the war are still active in the world during the time line of the story.

All the plants are alive with one malevolent purpose: to  latch onto any living thing and destroy it by any means possible.  The vines grasp and entwine themselves around the victim, either strangling or holding until other plants can get in their blows. Tree limbs snap at passers-by trying to land a deathly blow on their victims.  Roots break ground under the feet of humans and tangle them, tripping and pulling them down into the earth where untold numbers of previous victims lie dead. (Thus, The Bones of Faerie). Shadows are common, of course, in any forest, but these shadows are not cast from any tree or bush, but are the shadows of the dead that are lying under the ground Faerie and human alike who roam after the living, hoping to ensnare them and suck the life right out of them.

In contrast, our science-based world has a weaponry that is devastating in a different sort of way and the world of Faerie is all but destroyed through the use of nuclear weapons. The Bones of Faerie is a quest story.  It isn’t at the very outset of the book, but it becomes a quest early-on.

Liza is a teenager who is troubled by the death of her baby sister at the hand of her father. He abandoned the infant on the top of a hill because she had been tainted or influenced by the magic of Faerie.   I think this is the best way to say it.  My first impulse is to relate the condition as that of “having Faerie blood,” but that implies a literal cross-breeding, and I don’t think that is accurate.  It was the belief of Liza’s father that any that were so tainted must be driven from the village or die.  This action terrified Liza and generated fear in her not because of what she had seen her own father do — she had witnessed such things before and his ways were well known in the village — but she, too, “had Faerie blood in her.”

So begins the quest of Liza and Matthew, who follows her when she runs away from home, and of Allie, a young girl the meet along the way, who insists on going with them.  The three of them travel to the portal and enter the world of Faerie that is now devastated by nuclear weapons sent by the humans. Along the way Liza discovers her own powers and is able to use them to save and help those she loves.

The book is a book of contrasts and comparisons.  The world of Faerie, which is ruled by the laws of the natural world –  literally nature — is contrasted and compared to the world of humans in which the laws of nature have been used to create the things of the world.  For instance, the Faerie fought the war by calling on the plant life of this world to fight for them.  The humans on the other hand brought their weaponry through to Faerie, somehow, and destroyed the world with nuclear weapons.  The healers of Faerie use the natural power within them to heal, whereas the humans use external remedies.

The author shows her distaste for war, but doesn’t pass judgment on any one side or method of conducting war — she only illustrates the effects of war and at one place in the novel has Allie exclaiming the stupidity of waging war — that no one benefits from it.

In the end of the story, there is a sort of reconciliation.  It turns out that most of the people in the village from which Liza ran in the first place had had been influenced by the Faerie but they kept quiet about it for fear of being thrown out of town or worse. Now, they feel free to reveal themselves (in a cautious sort of way) and believe they will be able to live peacefully with humanity.

Also, once Liza, Matthew and Allie return from Faerie with her mother, there is a healing that has taken place — the sun seems brighter and the trees are no longer threats to be feared, but are just trees. Liza has brought back a seed from Faerie which they plant and watch grow.   The next season, they will harvest seeds and go back to Faerie to plant them as a step toward reconstruction that world.

My Take …

I enjoyed reading the book.  It kept my attention and I was interested throughout the reading to find out how the little band was fairing along their journey.  There weren’t any surprises in the form of a cavalry that came riding in unannounced and completely out of the blue to save our friends from certain death — that’s good.

The plot seemed to unfold in a natural way — without forcing an issue or a solution to get the travelers out of a tight jam.  The characters were three-dimensional in that, they couldn’t be pigeon-holed or stereotyped.

I feel a little short on information about the war; there isn’t much that tells us the why or how.  We can assume that it started because of offenses and issues claimed by both sides, but that only explains all wars and virtually nothing about this war.  Also, it seems to me that Faerie is in another dimension or in a parallel universe.  I can think up ways in which they can have their influence felt in the human world since their “science” is based on magic, but how could we get our (more physical) bombers and weaponry to that world when it was difficult enough for one single human to enter through a portal at the arch in St. Louis? Perhaps there were other portals or unexplained methods.

Perhaps it really doesn’t matter … .

If I had to focus on one single strength or characterization that makes this book unique — it is on the creativity of the uniqueness of the world that Ms. Simner presents to us. If I had to give the top three characteristics of the story, the other two would be the originality of the Faerie folk she created and thirdly in the depth of the characters.  The only character that I would consider to be two-dimensional is Liza’s father and we see relatively little of him, although he is a driving force behind Liza’s running away from her native village in the first place.

My Recommendation …

I think it is a worthwhile book to read.  It definitely takes a creative angle on the end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it story line.  It is well done — I think there could be more details to fill in some of the background. On the other side of the coin, it is not the whys and wherefores of the reasons for the war, but what is happening inside the characters that is important. Janni Simner has a number of successful books and stories under her belt so I must leave it up to her to determine what should be the focus of her writing.

This is a Young Adult book but don’t let that put you off.  Pick it up today and enjoy it.

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