Creatures full of magic and whimsy?
Not in the Oakenwyld. Not anymore.
Deep inside the great Oak lies a dying faery realm, bursting with secrets instead of magic. Long ago the faeries mysteriously lost their magic. Robbed of their powers, they have become selfish and dull-witted. Now their numbers are dwindling and their very survival is at stake. Only one young faery—Knife—is determined to find out where her people's magic has gone and try to get it back. Unlike her sisters, Knife is fierce and independent. She's not afraid of anything—not the vicious crows, the strict Faery Queen, or the fascinating humans living nearby. But when Knife disobeys the Faery Queen and befriends a human named Paul, her quest becomes more dangerous than she realizes. Can Knife trust Paul to help, or has she brought the faeries even closer to the brink of destruction? Talented newcomer R. J. Anderson creates an extraordinary new fantasy world and weaves a gripping tale of lost magic, high adventure, and surprising friendship in which the fate of an entire realm rests on the shoulders of one brave faery rebel.
Beth says 5 stars...
This book felt like a lovely breath of fresh air. I loved the very unique take on faeries. They weren't helpless creatures despite their small size. The society was highly developed and original. I got sucked into the quirks of the society, but I can't tell my favorite part (besides the library!) without revealing too much! What I can say about the book is that it fused both old and new tales seamlessly into a fantastic whole. This book is an exciting debut from a fantastic new author (check out the interview... she's as cool as her book!). Knife is a feisty heroine whose adventures shed light on the mysteries of her world. She's brave, but scared at the same time. She was well developed and surprisingly easy to relate to despite being a faery. All of the supporting characters were interesting and enhanced the story. I loved this book and absolutely cannot wait for the second one to come out!!
Nathan says 5 stars...
R.J. Anderson has delivered a debut novel that is sure to become an integral part of the new faery/fairy/faerie mythology. Sure, Anderson's faerys are tiny, they live in trees, they are one with nature, but they also can be dangerous, independent, and feisty. The main character, Knife, is a restless spirit who is always exploring and the audience is spellbound as we follow her exploits. The supporting character are interesting, if a little stock, which is appropriate for a Middle Grades novel. The plot works at a nice pace and it offers just the right amount of incentive for the reader to keep going. The narrative is well-crafted and exhibits Anderson's skill as a writer. There isn't much more to say except that this is an absolutely amazing Middle Grades to early YA book, which marks Anderson as one to watch in the upcoming years.
Here is our first ever author interview. A huge thank you to R.J. Anderson for talking with us.
What's your favorite ice cream flavor?
Chocolate Fudge Brownie.
What's your most embarrassing moment?
I have plenty, but falling UP the stairs in the Museum of Modern Art in New York in front of about fifty people was a pretty good one. It takes special talent to fall upstairs, but rest assured I am just that good.
If you had to use a stereotypical label, who were you in high school?
Arts geek, I guess. I spent most of my spares reading in the library, and was in the drama club and on the quiz team, and at lunchtime I usually got together with a couple of friends to sing traditional Celtic folk songs in three-part harmony, and then I'd go and hang out in the art classroom to work on projects after school.
What is some of your favorite music?
I pretty much never left the 80's as far as my favorite musicians are concerned – the bands I discovered in my mid-to-late teens are the ones I'm still listening to today. My favorite band of all time is Talk Talk, followed closely by David Sylvian (ex-lead singer of Japan). As far as more recent stuff goes, though, I'm pretty fond of Keane.
A few false dichotomies ~
Coke or Pepsi?
Paper or plastic?
Dunkin' Donuts or Krispy Kreme?
Tim Horton's! (I'm Canadian, eh?)
Hardback or paperback?
Mac or PC?
PC, but only because Macs are expensive.
Now To The Book~
In the spirit of Twitter, describe Spell Hunter in 140 characters(ish).
A fierce young faery hunter must fight to save her dying people, while concealing her forbidden friendship with a human.
What can you tell us about book 2 in the Faery Rebels series?
It takes place some years after the first book, the heroine is a faery called Linden and the hero is a young man named Timothy (but never fear, the characters from the first book have significant parts to play as well), and it opens up the faery world in a big way. There's a lot of action and danger involved, a bunch of new characters, and I hope some exciting surprises for readers as well.
How have your travels affected your work?
Seeing new places has always inspired me, but my trip to the UK last year was definitely one of the most helpful things I've ever done in terms of research. It was very confirming to see how much I'd got right in the first book (and fortunately I still had time to correct a couple of things I'd got wrong!) and also helpful to have first-hand experience of the places Timothy and Linden travel in the second book.
What was your biggest influence in writing Spell Hunter?
That's a hard question for me to answer. The whole thing is made up of so many little bits and pieces, some bigger than others but none big enough to pull out and say, "Aha, THIS is where it started." However, I can tell you that if you took the "Flower Fairy" books and a bunch of superhero comics from the 80's (particularly Frank Miller's Elektra: Assassin) and Watership Down and A Swiftly Tilting Planet and Gormenghast and Hook and Labyrinth and put them all in a blender, you would have a lot of what was in my mind at sixteen when I first came up with the idea. But the story didn't really come together until I was twenty-three, and then it took me nearly fifteen more years to refine it into the form that's just been published, so about a million more influences crept in during that time as well.
Why do you think fairy books are so big right now? Is it a trend, or a long-term development?
Books about fairies have always been around, and probably always will be – but the recent surge of titles from Holly Black and Melissa Marr and so on have definitely brought the older, edgier, more folklore-rooted fairies to the fore. I suspect that the current trend toward dark, dangerous, sexy fairy books for teens will wane with time, but there will always be room for fairy stories of some kind or another in the marketplace.
Have you always thought of fairies as tough, independent creatures, or was this a newer development for you?
I didn't think of fairies as tough to begin with, no, which was why I liked the idea of taking the cliché of the cute, sparkly, wish-granting tiny fairy and putting my own twist on it. There had been all kinds of stories written about small fairies, but they were usually of the "aw, how cute/funny" variety; I didn't know any (at that time) that were about small faeries who were competent and deadly and had to fight for their very survival. So that was what I decided to write.
Random Bonus Round Question~
You're a very devoted Christian, and much like the beloved C.S. Lewis, craft great fantasy. In recent years some churches have prosecuted fantasy such as Harry Potter. Do you think that this is a misunderstanding of content, an outrage, or a justified fight?
I think that in the vast majority of cases, it's a misunderstanding based either on ignorance of the particular books being challenged, or a lack of understanding of the fantasy genre as a whole. Many of the most important early works of fantasy were written by Christians; I don’t think it's going too far to say that Pilgrim's Progress, for instance, is a work of Christian fantasy, and then in the 20th century you have George MacDonald and Charles Williams and C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien and Madeleine L'Engle, among others. So I don't have much patience with the mindset that condemns all fantasy as evil.
I do understand that some parents worry any reference to "magic" in a story automatically means the kind of magic the Bible condemns (i.e. occult practices such as divination, sacrificing to false gods and demons, and consulting the spirits of the dead). But in my experience that's because those parents have no personal experience with the fantasy genre – it's all foreign to them – and haven't read the books they're condemning. I think if they took the time to read some of these books and see how the magic in them actually works, they'd quickly realize that it's just a fairy-tale, "what if" kind of scenario and not demon worship or any of the things they're afraid of.
Personally, I find that fantasy has special power and resonance for me as a Christian because it so often deals with issues of good and evil, and also because it leaves room for the supernatural and the divine in a way that more "realistic" fiction generally doesn't.
Thanks for the amazing interview R.J. ~ Order Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter now and visit R.J. at her site http://www.rj-anderson.com/ .