cover image The Fair Folk

The Fair Folk

Su Bristow. Europa, $18 (464p) ISBN 979-8-88966-012-5

Bristow (Sealskin) draws on English folklore for a whimsical if baggy story about the interplay between fairies and humans. The action begins in 1959 Surrey, where eight-year-old Felicity Turner is bullied at school and alienated by her parents. Defying her father’s wish that she stay away from the woods, Felicity discovers the enchanted world of “the Fair Folk” at the edge of the forest. She keeps her discovery a secret as she becomes enamored of fairy queen Elfrida and Elfrida’s companion Hob, a jester-like character who loves playing tricks on people. Eventually, she accepts the gift of glamour and charisma from Elfrida, though she later transfers it to her first boyfriend, an aspiring actor, at university in Cambridge. There, Elfrida and Hob unexpectedly come to her whenever they wish, and on one occasion Hob wreaks havoc by pegging a classmate of Felicity’s with crabapples. Felicity finds a kindred spirit in Professor Edgerly, a historian of folklore whose lessons make her wonder why fairies help people, and what they might want in return. It turns out Elfrida wants to trade places with Felicity, and as Felicity considers the proposition, she uncovers a secret about her father’s connection to Elfrida. It takes a bit too long for the plot threads to tie together, but Bristow utilizes Edgerly’s stamp of authority to successfully encourage readers to suspend disbelief. Lovers of classic folktales will appreciate this. (Jan.)