Two books to review today, an unusual fantasy involving The Fae and a horror story with a nice touch of humour.
First up, Emily Wilde's Encyclopedia of Faeries by Heather Fawcett.
The events of this book take place around 1909 to 1910. Emily Wilde is a Cambridge professor (so we're talking alt. universe here) specialising in faeries, who, in this reality, are very much real. They exist all over the world but there are different races with different ways of life and culture. Emily is utterly obsessed with them. The most secretive race of faeries are The Hidden Ones who live in Norway. Emily travels to an island off the coast of that country in order to try and find out more for their entry in the encyclopedia she's writing. It doesn't go well at first because Emily's independent and prickly nature does not encourage the villagers to be helpful. Things change when someone else joins her... Wendell Bambleby... a colleague and rival of sorts but also one of her few friends. Much to her annoyance he soon sorts out the villagers, freeing Emily to concentrate on her investigations... and get herself into heaps of trouble! So, this was a lot of fun. I adored the snowy Norwegian setting first of all. Also the academic 'feel' to the story as Emily tells us, in diary form, about various kinds of faeries and how they interact, or don't, with humans. I was reminded a bit of Marie Brennan's 'Memoirs of Lady Trent' series where Lady Trent goes about studying dragons. There's a bit of reluctant romance in the book but it's a small part and the book concentrates mainly on what happens to Emily in the frozen wastes of Norway and whether or not she finds her 'Hidden Ones'. This is to be a trilogy, the next book out next January. Can't wait.
Lastly, The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix.
The setting for this book is a village near Charleston, South Carolina in the 1980s and 90s. Patricia Campbell is married to Carter, a psychologist working in a hospital, and they have two teenage children. Also living in the house is Miss Mary, Carter's elderly and failing mother. Patricia looks after them all, pretty much unappreciated, but just gets on with it. She starts a new book club with four other refugees from another club and they read and enjoy a lot of true crime books. Their regular lives begin to change when James Harris moves into the neighbourhood. When Patricia hires Mrs. Greene to help look after Miss Mary, she discovers that children are disappearing from the black community that Mrs. Greene belongs to. By this time James has insinuated himself into her family's life and is especially close to her young son. Is the book club reading too much frightening true crime, or is there something really terrifying going on in their once safe and peaceful village? So, this one started out really quite light-hearted with a lot of comments and situations which made me laugh a lot. But I also really felt for Patricia whose husband clearly thinks she has too much time on her hands when in reality she never stops. The story slowly shifts from a narrative of 'southern moms' and their busy 'at home' lives to one of real horror. It was doubly shocking as the first few chapters were so benign. I believe Grady Hendrix is an author who is in vogue at the moment and I can see why. The writing is superb and although I don't know any southern moms it struck me that he'd got them down pat. I must emphasize that this is not a book for the faint of heart. There is real humour and real life in the story but gosh is it a scary read. And frustrating too, the husbands in this are not a pleasant lot in that they can't seem to take their wives' concerns seriously, turning this into a 'girl power' sort of book, or, more accurately, 'middle-aged moms' power'. As the author says:
"With this book I wanted to pit a man freed from all responsibilities but his appetite against women whose lives are shaped by their endless responsibilities. I wanted to pit Dracula against my mom.
As you'll see, it's not a fair fight."
I hope you're all well and finding some good books to read in July. I also hope no one is being too affected by the awful heat in places such as southern Europe and the southern USA.