cover image The Tooth Fairy

The Tooth Fairy

Graham Joyce. Tor Books, $22.95 (320pp) ISBN 978-0-312-86261-9

An unlikely sprite assumes a sinister incarnation in this exceptional supernatural novel about a troublesome but endearing trio of boys coming of age in the English Midlands in the 1960s. Seven-year-old Sam first lays eyes on the Tooth Fairy--oddly dressed and smelling of horse's sweat and chamomile--in the middle of the night after he has stashed a tooth under his pillow. Over the years, the fairy becomes a fixture in his life. No one else can see or hear this odd creature, who is sometimes male, sometimes female and alternately coy, cruel and cuddly. Even without this personal demon, Sam would get into plenty of trouble with his chums: Clive, a ""gifted child"" who wins a NASA (yes, the American NASA) science contest at age six but longs to be normal; Terry, an affable lad whose life is plagued by catastrophe; and Alice, the fetching, knowing girl who drives the boys wild with lust. Joyce (Requiem) engagingly describes the boys' childhood experiences--sampling drugs, toying with explosives, worrying over acne--and carefully portrays their childlike stoicism in the face of several horrifying tragedies. Sam worries that the Tooth Fairy, who grows menacing and sexually demanding, is responsible for those calamities. The novel's appeal lies primarily in the three boys, who are charmingly mischievous, naive and hormone-driven, portrayed by Joyce with a gentle wit. No less compelling, though, is the fairy, a fleur de mal from childhood's secret garden whose perfume seduces Sam and the reader alike into a fertile, startling nightmare. (Mar.) FYI: The Tooth Fairy has won the 1997 British Fantasy Award for best novel.