Martin Millar – The Good Fairies of New York

When a pair of fugitive Scottish thistle fairies end up transplanted to Manhattan by mistake, both the Big Apple and the Little People have a lot of adjusting to do. Heather and Morag just want to start the first radical fairy punk rock band, but first they’ll have to make a match between two highly unlikely sweethearts; start a street brawl between rival gangs of Italian, Chinese, and African fairies; help the ghost of a dead rocker track down his lost guitar; reclaim a rare triple-bloomed Welsh poppy from a bag lady with delusions of grandeur; disrupt a local community performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream; and somehow manage to stay sober enough to save all of New York from an invasion of evil Cornish fairies.

If they can stop feuding with each other, that is.

The Good Fairies of New York is a fun caper through the Big Apple. While the book touches upon some serious issues such as race, bigotry, the plight of the homeless, and the hardship of chronic disease, it only touches on these subjects lightly. The only issue that gets a little more emphasis is the effect of industrialisation on the fairy kingdom of Cornwall and its society. It’s hard not to read a bit of an anti-capitalist stance in this tongue-in-cheek portrayal of the industrialist king Tala and his ruthless head-wizard Magris.

The narration of the book is somewhat fragmented and very hippy skippy, it can change mid-chapter from one storyline to the next and then on to another one. This didn’t make it less enjoyable, but did make it hard to get into the story as it took some getting used to the skipping. It also made for a breathless read at times, as you rolled from one action scene into the other. Then again the entire story moves at a furious pace, so this might just be a reflection of that as well.

I very much liked the setup of the world. The different fairy societies and their idiosyncracies such as the drinking, oh but there is a lot of drinking, the fighting, and there is a lot of fighting, the penchant for sprightly tunes and the Scottish cursing, are hilarious and had me laughing out loud at times. There were also glimpses of more of the backstory and the history and mythology of the fairies, illustrated by their connections to the various human clans and nationalities and by the three fairy artifacts Morag and Heather encounter; The MacLeod Banner, The MacKintosh Sword and the MacPherson Fiddle. It only stays at glimpses though, unless the backstory is necessary to the narrative, which I found both refreshing, as it keeps a lot of padding out of the book, but also frustrating at times, as some things were never really explained. It never became clear to me, for example, how the Good Fairies end up in New York, why these homeless people keep dying or how Magenta, the bag lady, ends up fancying herself Xenophon. These omissions are fine if you just go along for the ride, but become vexing if considered more closely. It makes me wonder if I missed some of the clues somewhere or whether I’m expecting things from the book that I shouldn’t.

Despite the questions raised above, I found this a light and funny read, which I blitzed through. If it wasn’t for the very adult nature of some of the langauge and jokes, this book would be really suited to younger readers. If you’re looking for a counterweight to all the harder and emotionally darker fantasy prevalent today, The Good Fairies Of New York might be just the thing!