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*Faerie Wars* by Herbie Brennan - tweens/young adult fantasy book review

Also by Herbie Brennan:

The Purple Throne (The Faerie Wars Chronicles, Book 2)

The Purple Throne (The Faerie Wars Chronicles, Book 3)

Faerie Wars
by Herbie Brennan
Grades 7-9 384 pages Tor January 2007 Paperback    

Trouble is brewing in the Realm of Faerie in Herbie Brennan’s Faerie Wars. The Nightside fairies live side-by-side with the Fairies of the Light in an uneasy peace, but how long can it last? And, can Henry, an insecure teenager in our world, which the fairies call the Analog World, help his friend Prince Pyrgus and Pyrgus’ sister, Princess Holly Blue, in finding a way to defeat the Nightside fairies and their demonic allies in time to save the Realm from a hostile takeover? If you’re a fan of science fiction and fantasy, you’re sure to love Faerie Wars, a book that answers these questions and shifts between genres as easily as its characters shift between dimensions with Portals.

Though I liked the book, and recommend it, I do have some reservations and caveats about it. Some of the book deals with themes some parents might be uneasy about, like lesbianism, the conjuring of demons, ritualistic sacrifices, and murder. These themes are not, however, dealt with very graphically, and all play an important part in the overall plot of Faerie Wars. I am a parent, but believe that teens should, in general, be given credit for being able to distinguish between what is reality and what is fantasy, and what is right and wrong, unless they’re highly impressionable. Most teens, even some younger children, shouldn’t have problems with anything in Faerie Wars. Many books and fairy tales deal with dark themes - the Harry Potter books, the Lemony Snicket books, and the Pure Dead novels of Debi Gliori - though how each author handles these issues of course varies widely.

But, as Hamlet says, “The plot’s the thing.” Faerie Wars deals with the life and problems of a teenage boy named Henry, who discovers that his mother is having an affair with his father’s secretary - a woman. He has the worries most teenagers would have under those circumstances: will his parents divorce, which parent might he and his younger sister end up living with, and if his mother’s lover will live in the same house. Henry has a part-time job working with eccentric old Mr. Fogarty, who believes in such things as UFOs, that the CIA is after him, and that fairies are real. He is actually quite normal in most other ways; earlier in his life he was a physicist, but he found better money lay in robbing banks. It’s no wonder that, when Henry’s father eventually learns about Mr. Fogarty’s past, he bans Henry from seeing him. This subplot is important, serving the important function of letting us get to know more about Henry and Mr. Fogarty in particular, and as a jumping-off point to introduce the second plotline, that of the Realm of Faerie.

What goes on in the Realm of Faerie doesn’t always stay in the Realm of Faerie, due to their ability to cross over into other dimensions through the use of Portals. Prince Pyrgus is a teenager, too, a Fairy of the Light the same age as Henry. Pyrgus loves animals; when he hears of Lord Hairstreak, a Nightside fairy, abusing his golden phoenix, he rescues the bird. Pyrgus is chased by Hairstreak’s men toward Seething Lane, where a new glue factory run by the unsavory characters of Chalkhill and Brimstone (also Nightside fairies) has opened. What’s the secret to the glue? Every weekly batch has a kitten tossed into it, that’s what. Pyrgus naturally feels the need to rescue a mother cat and her kittens from a cage dangling over the glue. He succeeds but is captured and beaten by the factory’s guards, who take him to Brimstone. Brimstone has conjured up the Prince of Demons, Beleth, wh,o in return for giving the fairy gold and power, demands that the second person who enters the room be sacrificed. That person is Prince Pyrgus.

The twin plotlines of Faerie Wars are rich, complex, and engaging. Faerie Wars is the first in a series by Herbie Brennan - its sequel, available now, is The Purple Emporer. The best sections in the book occur in the Realm of Faerie, and there is a lot of action and suspense. When things start going horribly wrong, and Pyrgus is poisoned, can he be rescued from the demons’ realm of Hael (Hell) before the poison reaches his head and his head explodes? Or will his fate be being burnt to death inside a cage slowly lowering into a lake of molten sulfur? While Faerie Wars does have some controversial aspects to it, it is a very good book, and I’m looking forward to reading its sequel.

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  Douglas R. Cobb/2006 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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