Sixteen-year-old Beckan and her friends are the only fairies brave enough to stay in Ferrum when war breaks out. Now there is tension between the immortal fairies, the subterranean gnomes, and the mysterious tightropers who arrived to liberate the fairies.
But when Beckan’s clan is forced to venture into the gnome underworld to survive, they find themselves tentatively forming unlikely friendships and making sacrifices they couldn’t have imagined. As danger mounts, Beckan finds herself caught between her loyalty to her friends, her desire for peace, and a love she never expected.
This stunning, lyrical fantasy is a powerful exploration of what makes a family, what justifies a war, and what it means to truly love. – Goodreads
The only other Hannah Moskowitz book I’ve read is Teeth, which I loved, but when I read this review over at the Book Smugglers, I knew I had to read it. Fairies? Check. Crazy ass storyline featuring gnomes and a war? Check. Unreliable narrator? Check. Everything I love, basically. And love this one I did. This is a hard review to write, because this book isn’t like normal books, not even normal fairy books, if there is such a thing.
Before the war, there was a foursome, Beckan, the only girl, Josha, Scrap, and Cricket. Beckan was in love with Josha for years, but Josha loves Cricket and Beckan has made her peace with that. After the war, there are only three. Cricket has been eaten by the king of the gnomes. The weird thing about fairies, though, is that they lose limbs to the gnomes and see it as a tax for the help the gnomes give them. The gnomes suffer no consequences. And the other weird thing about fairies is that they are immortal but not invincible, so that when they lose arms, or legs, or bodies, what’s left of them can still feel the limb they’ve lost, can still make it dance, can feel that it’s out there somewhere, afraid and unattached. These fairies also shed glitter at all time, and they can feel that too, can feel when someone else sweeps their glitter aside, can feel it falling off. Fairies live in a perpetual state of heightened sentience.
There is talk of peace and war and revenge and grief, but there is also talk of racism. Fairy women cannot bear children, so the men must further their line by mating with other species. Gnomes, nymphs, sprites. Whatever comes along. Most of the women are happy to do so, because they’re making an immortal child, but they are not allowed to stay and raise their baby. Whatever race the mother is, the baby is considered fairy, and that is the most important. When the tightropers come to “liberate” the fairies, it is because they believe the fairies are above the gnomes (and also tightropers are conquerors), but Scrap, the resident fairy historian, discovers that Ferrum was once the city of gnomes, who lived aboveground and ruled like kings. There are so many themes of exploration in this novel that it was simply a joy to read about it.
This book also features an unreliable narrator, though not in a fashion we’re used to, because there is no big reveal of what the narrator is hiding or lying about. They aren’t hiding or lying about anything. The book itself is an exercise for the narrator. The fourth wall is broken repeatedly. It is different and strange and just a treat to read. I loved this. I think everyone should read it. It’s twisty and strange and beautiful, just like the fairies.