Review: Wondrous Strange by Lesley Livingston

Since the dawn of time, the Faerie have taken….

For seventeen-year-old Kelley Winslow, faeries are just something from childhood stories. Then she meets Sonny Flannery, whose steel-gray eyes mask an equally steely determination to protect her.
Sonny guards the Samhain Gate, which connects the mortal realm with the Faerie’s enchanted, dangerous Otherworld. Usually kept shut by order of icy King Auberon, the Gate stands open but once a year. This year, as the time approaches when the Samhain Gate will spring wide and nightmarish Fae will fight their way into an unsuspecting human world, something is happening … something wondrous and strange. And Kelley’s eyes are opening not just to the Faerie that surround her but to the heritage that awaits her. Now Kelley must navigate deadly Faerie treachery – and her growing feelings for Sonny – in this dazzling page-turner filled with luminous romance. Wondrous Strange is a richly layered tale of love between Faerie and mortal, betrayal between kings and queens, and magic … between author and reader.

I picked this book up and started reading it one afternoon, by that night I was done, it was just that good. Except for a brief break to refill my cup of tea, nothing could break through my concentration and complete story-lust with this book.

It begins by introducing Kelley, a quite average girl whose living in New York city and performing in an off-off-off Broadway production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. She’d been hired as an understudy to the actress playing Queen Titania, while earning some extra money as an all-around gopher, but due to a broken ankle, Kelley gets promoted to the lead role as the Queen of the Faeries.

This is what you’ve wanted all your life, she told herself sternly. All those years of putting on one-woman shows for the household pets, and all the months of begging Aunt Emma to let her move to Manhattan to try and make a go of it. This is it. Get out there and show them what you’ve got!

On her way home from the theatre one night, Kelley stops off in Central Park to practice her lines in the place she finds both magical and perfect for the setting of the play. While going through her lines she is spotted by a strange young man, who hands her a flower and then disappears after a brief dialogue.

And this would be Sonny Flannery, mortal much like her, but with ties to the King of Faerie that mark him as so very different from her in many ways. But Sonny seems to think there is more to this mortal girl than meets the eye. Because of course, the Fey are known for their ability to mask what they don’t want seen.

A nimbus of light flared up all around her like diamond-bright wings. He wanted to beg forgiveness. Offer up his life for his grievous offense. Grovel. The creature that stood before him, glorious as the stars, was to be worshipped and feared. His chest ached as though he’d been kicked with stone boots, and tears of remorse welled in his eyes. It was as though he was a small boy again, running through the halls of Auberon’s palace, knowing that he would never be one of the Fair Folk – a toy, a pet, but never truly loved by them. Her light poured down on him, and he knew that he was massively unworthy … And then, just as suddenly as the starburst had shone, everything went dim again. “Jackass.”

Together, Kelley and Sonny, are the narrators of this story. Which provides for an extremely interesting look at both the mortal and the Faerie worlds … and how they are connected. With wonderful writing these characters really jump off the pages, Kelley is a very smart character who displays the perfect mixture of smart-ass, single young girl and complete disbelief. Her actions and thoughts are so believable, and this is what gives her voice such strength. Sonny on the other hand, comes across as slightly naive. Although he has been raised among the Fey and has seen the worst they have to offer, he still appears a bit hesitant in matters relating to the mortal world and his feelings about Kelley.

Aside from Kelley and Sonny, there is also a huge supporting cast, but never too large to be confusing. Every character is introduced with the right amount of information to make them a solid part of the story. Although everyone is not exactly what or whom they may at first glance appear to be. But that’s half the fun of this book.

Another absolutely amazing aspect of Wondrous Strange is the mesh of factual and fictional Faerie history. The author clearly has quite an education in the study of Faerie and the way she has included such mythical creatures as Kelpies, Boucca, Black Shucks, Redcaps and a ton of different minor faeries makes this story truly magical. But my absolute favourite part of the story was the inclusion of The Wild Hunt. The attention and detail given to the history of this particular myth is fantastic! What I previously knew of The Wild Hunt placed Odin as the lead huntsman, but in Wondrous Strange we are presented with Herne The Hunter, who I later learned on Wikipedia is also known in folklore as a Wild Huntsman.

So, Wondrous Strange, not only an enthralling story (which is actually the beginning of a series!) but also a terrific way to learn more about the mythology and folklore associated with the Fey, and some Shakespeare along the way. I can’t say for sure how true this book is to the generally accepted history of Faerie – but I can say that this book has prompted me to do some research on my own. And that, in my opinion, is what an awesome book should do :)

About The Author 
Lesley Livingston is a writer and actor living in Toronto. She has a master’s degree in English – specializing in Arthurian Literature and Shakespeare – which does not, however, interfere with her love of shoes and shiny things. She is a principal performer and founding member of the Tempest Theatre Group. Wondrous Strange is her first novel.

Title: Wondrous Strange
Author: Lesley Livingston
Book Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Book Type: Trade PB 327 pages
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication Date: December 2008

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© 2008-2010 Joanne Mosher of The Book Zombie. All rights reserved.


Eva said...

This one sounds so great!!

Lightheaded said...

Oh goodness, fey and Shakespeare! You got me at Shakespeare!

softdrink said...

This does sound good! Have you read any of Melissa Marr's books? It reminds me a little (just a little) of Wicked Lovely.

Rhinoa said...

Argh another series that sounds like it will suck me in. I hadn't heard of this one so thanks for the review, it sounds like just my sort of read.

Nymeth said...

Me wants this! Me wants this very much. I love the myth of the Wild Hunt too, and it always makes me happy to see it included in fantasy books. Tamsim by Peter Beagle has it, as well as Dogsbody by Diana Wynne Jones and The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper. No wonder I love them :P

On a side note...normally I don't like book covers with actual pictures of people, but this one is very nice.

Dar said...

What an awesome review! I loved this book and can't wait for the next one. The whole story drew me in like it did you and I couldn't put it down. It's very well done and Kelley is just one of those characters you're going to have to like. I'm curious to see where the story goes from here. Thanks for the shout out.

Laza said...

Hmmm, this one looks good. I like you found the narrator believeable, because I sometimes find that if they aren't, it can ruin the story.

Kristi said...

I was drawn to this book because of its cover - but it does sound really good! Thanks for sharing your review.

Kailana said...

I have this book to read. It is one of the few books I have bought lately, but with library book overload I haven't got a chance to read it! I look forward to doing so when the chance presents itself, though.

Lenore said...

I remember The Wild Hunt being a part of Beauty by Sheri Tepper. I was never really sold on this book, but now that you mention that, I might check it out after all!

Jeane said...

This sounds awesome. I haven't read too many books about Faeries, but I've loved every one.

Ladytink_534 said...

A blogger sent this to me and I adored it! I can't wait for the other two books in this trilogy to come out, it was seriously wonderful! Have you read Changeling by Delia Sherman? It vaguely reminded me of it.

naida said...

this does sound really good.
its great when a book grabs your attention like that.

sarah said...

This sounds good! Try reading Evermore by Alison Noel. It's Amazing!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the info