Bones of Faerie by Janni Lee Simner is lyrical and poetic in its language and forceful in its impact. From opening pages, the tone of the book is set and the reader is enthralled by the stark brutality of the world the novel\’s characters inhabit. Liza is living a restricted life, bullied and beaten. She was abandoned by her mother, Tara, after her father leaves her sister to die because her clear hair indicates that she has magic powers. Liza\’s world is a harsh, cruel one where magic and faeries are a threat which must be ruthlessly excised, for the protection of all. For example, Liza\’s friend Matthew, whom she keeps at a distance, lost his whole family due to the uncontrolled power of his younger brother, Cam.
Even though the War with Faerie is over, magic is an ever-present threat, and children are regularly checked for magic. There is no autumn as trees don\’t release their leaves. Vines seek out skin and blood, and sink their tendrils into flesh. Farmers fight crops to get food to live on, and ears of corn moan as they are harvested. Televisions and, torches, ropes and plastics are no longer produced, so any goods used are those salvaged from what the characters refer to as “Before”.
There were a few parts of the book, which were a little confusing for an Australian reader, for example references to St Louis landmarks and roads from “Before”. I got the impression that the author was mentioning particular places to shock the reader with the decline of civilisation after the War, but because I failed to pick up on the references, I suspect I probably missed out on some of the emotional impact. I would have liked a little map or photo at the beginning just to put us in the picture.
The book is particularly clever in that it combines three kinds of novels, genres and plotlines. Liza is forced to leave her home and travel into the forest. She wants to find her mother, and as she seeks for her, she also learns about herself and others.
This is a classic journey in a world of magic, with visions, healers, mirrors and mysterious lights. The characters live in a post apocalyptic world with all the associated traditions: limited resources, haunting memories, small and isolated communities with different values, under the control of a few strong individuals.
The bloodthirsty trees, mysterious shadows and violence are elements we\’ve seen in horror, though it\’s of the understated kind and not too much to handle for younger teens. The book also explores relationships with family and friends, when to forgive others and ourselves â€“ and when not to forgive.
Although the book has a sequel, I didn\’t find it unsatisfying to read by itself. But that\’s not to say I\’m not counting down the days till I can start reading the next book, Faerie Winter!
Available Now: Random House RRP$18.95.