A Dreadful Fairy Book – Jon Etter

A place with books and people who read them – that’s where I need to be.

Shade is a sprite who doesn’t fit in. Her home in Pleasant Hollow is a constant reminder of the bullying she endured when she was younger for being different and all that she has lost: her mother who went to fight in a war and never returned, and her father who died. Now her home and more importantly her precious 74 books have been lost to a fire after some “grub-sucking, slime-licking mudbrains” set off fireworks in the middle of the forest.

Shade is “dingle-dangle” furious and storms off (she doesn’t like flying) into the Merry Forest, after making sure she tells the other sprites to “Get donkled!” I don’t mind fake swearing generally because it’s usually humourous but, with the spite that came with a lot of the swearing in this book, the chuckles weren’t there for me.

Shade has never ventured outside of her village before so she isn’t quite sure where she’s going but, armed with the knowledge she’s gained by reading and fuelled by rage and determination, she begins a quest to find more books; hopefully enough to last her a lifetime.

Books that we love truly are our friends, always there to comfort us in times of trouble, revel with us in times of joy, and inspire countless acts of kindness, nobility, and goodwill every day of our lives.

It’s difficult to believe that a character who spends the entire book on the hunt for a library could be as obnoxious and surly as Shade, the main character. Although there are glimpses of something softer beneath the surface (deep, deep down), Shade is mostly acerbic and downright rude to practically everyone who is unfortunate enough to cross her path. Even those who help her along the way are not immune to her venom.

Because the narrator overslept they wound up stuck narrating this story and all they do is whinge about it; what a terrible story this is, how you should skip to the end of the chapter, blah blah blah. If you enjoy reading commentary from someone who consistently tells you how “dreadful” what you’re reading is you may like the narrator. I absolutely hated the narrator and wish that they’d kept sleeping so they never made it into this story at all.

Each time the narrator intruded on the story I wanted to stop reading altogether and almost gave up entirely several times. Rather than adding any depth or another point of view to the story I felt they detracted from it. I would have enjoyed this book a lot more if the narrator’s lines magically disappeared. Every so often they’d add something that didn’t make me want to slap them, but it was rare.

And we all know, no matter how many books we come to read and love in life, how special that first beloved book is, don’t we, my friend?

My favourite characters were Chauncey the Gentletroll (it made my blood boil when he was called a “ponce”) and the Professor, who was blissfully silent for the majority of the book. I really enjoyed discovering how the card catalogue in the library worked; it was imaginative, magical and I need this system for my own personal library. I would also like to visit some of Chauncey’s uncle’s vacations.

My moral of the story: A bookworm without books is pretty insufferable. Make sure books are always available to them and you’ll be okay.

Thank you to NetGalley and Amberjack Publishing for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Readers, beware: what you hold in your hands is a dreadful fairy book. 

I wish I were narrating almost any other fairy story, but alas, this is my lot. Whatever expectations you have of delightful and whimsical fairies are sure to be disappointed. There are certainly fairies, but most are not proper fairies. Some who are supposed to be nasty are disappointingly nice, while some who should be kind and helpful are disconcertingly surly, dishonest, and generally unpleasant company. 

Our heroine is, perhaps, the worst offender – a sprite more interested in books than carefree games, who insists on being called Shade even though she has the perfectly lovely fairy name of Lillyshadow Glitterdemalion. She is on a quest, albeit with rather questionable companions, to find a place she can call home. A place of companionship, comfort, and, most importantly, positively filled with books.

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