"Faery Magic," Putney, et. al.

Pros: Sweet, fun, unusual
Cons: Characterization could be better; occasionally a bit “unbelievable”
Rating: 4 out of 5

First posted 9/12/2001>

The premise of “Faery Magic” is that four romance authors got together over the internet and started talking about faery stories. They developed a sort of shared world and decided to each write a story set in it. They used “the enchanting milieu of Georgian and Regency England,” and played with some very new and very old ideas about faeries. Each story was also a romance.

Did I mention that I’m not a romance fan? I mean, I’m a sucker for romance as a concept, but I’m not a fan of romance as a genre.

The Plot(s)

Jo Beverly’s story is called “The Lord of Elphindale.” It’s about a problem brewing between the faeries of an area and the humans of that area. The faeries create a woman who is half-human half-faery in an attempt to bind a member of that family closer to them, but human relationships never quite seem to work out as expected.

Karen Harbaugh’s story, “The Faery Braid,” is a rather different version of “Rapunzel.” In this story Rapunzel is a human stolen away by the faeries, who want to turn her into a faery in order to replenish their wasting bloodline. She, however, meets up with a rather intriguing human man who throws a kink in the whole works.

Barbara Samuel’s story is “The Love Talker.” A faery has been condemned by the faery queen to live in a sort of half-reality, never able to touch or speak with people, until he should learn true compassion. Then one day a country maid, not at all like the ethereal beauties who used to waste away after his seductions, is able to see and speak with him, and the spell gets turned on its head.

Mary Jo Putney brings us “Dangerous Gifts,” in which a plain girl accepts a scheming faery’s offer of beauty. Of course eventually he comes to claim his price, just after she finally falls in love with the man of her dreams.

A Few Details

Sex can be found in three of the four stories. I didn’t roll my eyes too much, so it couldn’t have been that overdone. Not a book for children, though. The romance aspects are fun and magical – it’s hard not to want these people to fall in love and live happily, if not happily ever after. Most of the characters are interesting and vaguely three-dimensional, even if slightly stereotypical.

Sometimes the “change of heart” thing (someone who seems like a bad guy ending up a not-so-bad guy) seemed a little sudden or overdone. On the other hand, most of the authors at least tried to set up such “changes” as being the emergence of a dormant, suppressed, or “mistranslated” piece of personality, rather than a total about-face, so I could sort of buy it when it happened.

Most of the problems I noted were sort of inherent to the format. It’s kind of hard to have lots of character development or non-stereotypical character relations when you’re working with a short story format, particularly when trying to fit within the conventions of the romance genre as well.

Some Thoughts on the Individual Stories

“The Lord of Elphindale” was the most amusing and amazing story of miscommunications and misunderstandings, and it was rather fun to see it all unfold. I wasn’t entirely fond of the romantic male lead, however, which kind of throws a kink in the enjoyment of the love plot.

I found “The Faery Braid” to be the most inventive of the stories. It was a very unusual take on the old legend, and an enjoyable one.

“The Love Talker” is the story that appealed to me the most. It was nice to see a rather plain heroine who wasn’t particularly naive nor overly sweet or romantic. She was practical and strong-willed without being obnoxious.

“Dangerous Gifts” had the sweetest ending, although it also had the one plot that seemed the least “realistic” (if you can even include that word in a review of a fantasy romance novel!), and the one change of heart that was the hardest to swallow.

In particular I enjoyed the small ways in which the stories twined together. A main character in one story might be an incidental character in another. A bit of background in one story is the main plot in another. In one case, the main characters from two stories happened to be at the same party and each glimpsed the other across the room, with their own thoughts on the matter. It’s a bit of indulgent fun.

On the whole I enjoyed the book! The stories are fun, with their bits of sadness and triumph. The romances are sweet. The characters aren’t remarkably deep for the most part, but then this isn’t a novel. The fantasy setting brought a magical feel to the whole thing. In short, I recommend it to anyone who’s a bit of a romantic at heart and enjoys the fantasy milieu.

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