As you may well know, I’m not one to read books the moment they are out…perhaps not even the year (Skulduggery Pleasant being the exception). I think The Bone Season is the only ‘modern’ book I’ve picked up recently…but I did recently rediscover an awesome series when I was moving.
The Faerie Wars Chronicles by Herbie Brennan starts with the sabotage of the portal machine used to transmit Crown Prince of the Realm, Pyrgus Malvae, to the ‘Analogue World’ – ie. the human realm – where he turns up miniscule, with wings, is almost eaten by a cat and is rescued by mostly normal boy Henry (whose only not-normal life-point is that his mother’s lesbian affair with his father’s secretary broke up the family) and the old man he looks after, Alan Fogarty.
In the second book, The Purple Emperor, Pyrgus prepares for his coronation to become said new Purple Emperor when his father comes back from the dead. Of course, after the events of the first book, Henry is transmitted from the Analogue World to the Faerie Realm to help. Aided by Pyrgus’ bewilderingly (at least to Henry) gorgeous – and bossy! – sister, Princess Holly Blue, they battle the demons intent on invading (again). Oh, and their power-obsessed uncle, Black Hairstreak.
So, anyway, that was the Spark Notes version of the story so far. I could go on and on about the various members of the cast – I’ve not mentioned the truth-knowing rug-like animals, endolgs, or annoying half-brother Comma, or the head of Blue’s espionage service, who occasionally goes by the name ‘The Painted Lady’ – but I’ll stop for the sake of the post.
In Ruler of the Realm, Hairstreak proposes a suspicious truce, but it turns out that he is not the Faeries’ greatest enemy. The book definitely had the feel of a novel – one act being the cause of another, and all leading through a ‘what if?’ premise.
Personally, I didn’t think Ruler of the Realm was as good as its predecessors. However, it was definitely good enough for me to speed through in three days! And on a Kindle*, too! I did enjoy it immensely.
*(Well, Kindle App on my new laptop. I don’t intend to buy an actual Kindle.)
To begin with, I found the pacing slower than the other two books, too much diplomatic discussion – is Hairstreak’s suggestion of a truce genuine? Is Blue a good Queen? Three days countdown ‘til war is activated? etc – as opposed to the action and discovery. It was different and a good set up for some plot-devices over the course of the book. I’m probably being harsh in saying I’d have preferred a less ‘diplomatic’ beginning – the title Ruler of the Realm should suggest as much.
When the action gets going, it tends to take one for a ride without stopping. Sometimes this is great, but other times it leaves one choking; periods of respite, two or three minute chapters, are followed by more battle or running scenes. Again, however, that might be expected of a nation on the brink of war.
I liked the mystery and its reveal, but it was a bit…bizarre. You have to read it to understand; the demon subplot made perfect sense in the full scale of things – however, I think it was the parallel to alien probing that put me off. The idea itself clashed with that of the faeries, even though Brennan had already set up that the demons do those things and the humans mistake them for aliens. The atmosphere of those chapters, though, didn’t convince me.
One of the pluses about this book is that it doesn’t take itself all that seriously at times. The glossary is somewhat tongue-in-cheek, and there are many occasions where dialogue mimics internal monologue exactly. In some books, this might be a distraction, but, as it is used sparingly as a humorous device in Ruler of the Realm, the idea works and placates the older, writer-type readers.
Besides, I happen to share an interest in prose that takes its own self with mockery, such as deceptive non-fiction and real life references in fiction.
The book left me questioning, but in a good way. It certainly gives room for thinking, for digesting the whole of the situation in both one gulp and bite-by-bite.
- The short chapters. They’re addictively edible.
One chapter comprised of a long sentence and a short sentence. I tried to find it and screenshot it, but I couldn’t. Here’s a half-page one, instead.
- Whilst some people say to us writers to avoid multiple and spontaneous POV, I enjoyed seeing through the glimpse of most of the characters. Each is interesting, though not all of the voices are utterly unique.
- The romance. It gets better and better with each book and was one of the elements that kept me on my toes constantly, egging for more.
- One word: demons. Lots of them. If there’s anything to snap faeries into facing their inner conflicts, it’s physical demons. Brennan makes the threat so concrete, sudden and realistic that gives the story a bite.
- The end. Everything fitted in nicely and I felt that most things were wrapped up.
- The world is so delicious I could stay there forever. It’s real and dramatic and pulls the reader in.
- The characters are great. Blue is compelling, though one can see that the strain of being Queen does drain her a lot in this book, but she can also be feisty. It’s a shame that, were there ever a movie of the book(s), I’d probably be too old to play her!
- As I said, the ‘alien’ tangent, starting with Henry’s ‘abduction’, didn’t seem real to me. Though maybe that was the point. But, overall, it just felt…weird, despite the fact I knew they were the demons, not aliens.
- And, yeah, at times it dragged, especially around the middle of the book. The problem with multiple POV combined with short chapters is that one wants to continue one line of plot with one set of characters, but gets thrust prematurely into a different scene, which, whilst linking, is not entirely what one wants. I almost felt as if I were reading a tv-show.
- Language: I noticed the use of ‘light’ and ‘dark’ in place of ‘goodness’ used exclamatorily, such as ‘goodness knows’ and ‘thank goodness’. Oddly I don’t remember noticing this – at least not so extensively – in the other books. ‘Light only knows’ was a particular expression that made me stumble over the past-tense prose and reread the sentence twice.
- An incredibly petty point, but I was surprised the comedy characters Chalkhill and Brimstone were not in this novel. They would have lightened the tone a bit. That’s not to say there weren’t laughs, but the comedy element was toned down a lot more than I would have hoped.
Four stars out of five. I did enjoy the book, though I felt it could be written tighter – I spotted a lot of ‘he could see’ and ‘she felt’, which, as a reader, did not detract, but, as a writer, I was sitting cursing that established writers can get away with these that we unpublisheds cannot. At times, the plot felt a little ludicrous, but, to be fair, I haven’t jumped into high fantasy for a while, and I suspect that I’m a few years over of the target audience age.
On the other hand, I gobbled the book up, eager for more, proving that Brennan’s style is something of an addiction for me. I’ll certainly say: if you like fast-paced, spunky books about saving mysterious worlds and fairies/demons, I recommend this series. Sadly, I have to wait indefinitely until I have more money to buy the next two books!