Friday, September 24, 2010

Blackbringer, by Laini Taylor

Fairies of Dreamdark, Blackbringer finally arrived at my local bookstore, and I gobbled it down. I wouldn't have picked this book up had it not been recommended by someone: I don't normally find fairies appealing. But these are not normal fairies! Okay, they're small and have wings, but Magpie is a seriously kick-butt heroine! She hunts devils for fun. Yes, there are devils in this story, and Djinn, and glyphs and thespian crows and magic knitting needles. Taylor is brilliant at taking elements from all sorts of folk-tales and mythology and weaving them into an entirely original world.

The Djinn created the world and filled it with animals and birds and fairies and imps and elementals. Some nasty devils got made, too, but fairy champions caught them all and imprisoned them in bottles. Then the Djinn went to sleep. Thousands of years later, humans started opening the bottles and letting the devils out. (I love how this is an amalgamation of Pandora and Aladdin.)

Magpie is the granddaughter of the West Wind, and so she has more skills and magic than the average fairy. She takes it upon herself to recapture the released devils, with the help of a troop of crows (they also perform plays, but Magpie has serious stagefright). She's caught twenty-three devils so far, but the latest one is different. It might be more than she can handle. So she returns the fairy homeland, the forest of Dreamdark, to look for the Djinn King, Magruwen. Maybe she can wake him up and get him to help.

I love Magpie's language: she's a Scottish/Shakespearean fairy with street-cred. I love that Magpie's parents are fairy archaeologists/ethnologists, travelling the world to find and record fairy magic before it is lost forever. I love Magpie's encounters with the Magruwen, a frighteningly powerful being who is confounded by her stubbornness and goodness. I love the scavenger imp Batch Hangnail, who can't be called a traitor because he has no loyalty to anyone but himself.

If I have a complaint about this book, it's that it isn't long enough! I would love to see more of the warrior prince Talon and how he learns to fly. There's a fascinating subplot about a usurper of the fairy throne that could have its own book devoted to it. Then there's Bellatrix, the fairy champion, and her tragic love story. And dragons: there are dragons!

This book is like lamb tagine (or, if you don't like lamb and don't know what a tagine is, how about chicken mole)(and if you don't know what chicken mole is, go find a good Mexican restaurant and find out!): it's layered with multiple, complex flavours, it's meaty and spicy, it's wholly unexpected the first time you try it, but then it becomes must-have comfort food.

I've ordered the next book, Silksinger, and I can't wait to delve more deeply into this fascinating world. It looks like there will be a new set of characters, but we'll still get to see what Magpie and Talon are up to. *Rubs hands together gleefully.* Go read this book!

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