January 13, 2010

Review of Frieda Warrington's Elfland - (Reviewed by Chrissa Sandlin)

Frieda Warrington's Elfland draws the reader into an English landscape full of ancient mysticism, hidden magic, the Aetherials, who appear human but whose blood comes from Elfland. Rosie Fox, who is just beginning to respond to her Aetherial heritage in the beginning of the book, draws the reader into the corners to peer in wonder at the creatures revealed. It is this heavy and slantwise view of the Elfland of the Aetherials that first catches the attention. As Rosie shifts in age and perception, however, the secrets become less marvelous as they are revealed.

It's the beginning of the second introductory piece in which I found the heart of Elfland. Rosie Fox is rejecting fantasy--in this case the fantasy of unconditional love--but within this rejection is also that of the fairyland that has proved a cheat for the characters who have lost it or never knew it. While Rosie and her younger brother Lucas grow into their heritage without understanding it, the author takes some of the wonder that would normally have been given to the Aetherial world and gives it generously back to the human one.

In fact, it is Rosie's fascination with love that sets the tone for the tale. Is love the final revelation of who you are? The reward for bravely accepting yourself, despite your heritage, your fears, or your desire to fit in? Is it, in fact, sanity in the abode of madness? As I was trying to puzzle out what I could take from a story that was well-told but left me empty--one that took my expectations and shook them out, one that seemed to be laughing behind its hand at my looking for a fairy story in this day and age, it seemed that love and its betrayals were the only path through the narrative.

Although the prose is a delight, the multiple beginnings didn't serve to ground me in the narrative so much as to make me look for were they belonged within the larger story. Readers should be prepared for a story limned from Gothic tales by way of Peyton Place. There is wonder to be found here, but it is found in sharing a good cappuccino and gossiping about familial escapades rather than in the shimmering forests and arching bridges of Elfland. Between the chained angels, family secrets, and dark otherworlds overwriting the human one, Elfland itself embodied the idea of multiple worlds (or in this case narratives) existing and intertwining. As the story came to a sudden stop, I found myself in the sympathy with the characters: dazed and bereft.


GreenFairyLV said...

The book sounds confusing. I love the book cover though.

C. Sandlin said...

The main storyline (involving Rosie) was clear (and very much in the romance vein), although the subplot involving the danger posed by Elfland was somewhat contradictory. Some of the imagery, such as the chained and weeping angel, was beautiful.