Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Elfland - Freda Warrington

Although this book is titled "Elfland", most of it takes place on Earth. Fairyland is accessible via many small doors, and the great gates are thrown open once every seven years for a giant celebration (for Aetherial's only), but the gates have been closed - either to save everyone from certain destruction, or because their keeper, Lawrence Wilder, has been completely taken over by paranoia. For whatever reason, the Aetherials living on Earth have been closed off from their birthright, and it isn't clear whether this will be deadly to them in the long run or not. For the younger Aetherials, including Rosie Fox and her brothers Matt & Lucas, this doesn't seem to be a huge problem as they were too young to have been initiated when the gates were closed. They don't know Fairyland, and they don't miss it. But this is just the background - the setup for a community within a community, which allows Warrington to explore what it means to belong somewhere when you're born straddling the boundary between two wildly different worlds. Matt desperately wants to be fully human, and attempts to control his younger siblings and discourage them from fairy tendencies, and encourage them towards relationships with other humans - and away from Aetherials and their customs.

This book is an exploration of relationships. Should you marry for love or for security? Can you keep on loving someone after they have betrayed you? If your partner has previously been hurt by someone cheating on them, is there a stronger obligation for you to avoid hurting them in that way? Is it possible to survive the loss of someone you love? Then there is the difference between simply being in a relationship with someone, and actually marrying them - marriage changes the nature of the relationship, but it also includes your family. Additionally there are parent-child relationships, sibling relationships, and friendship. All of the characters have depth - there is no one in this story who is perfect, and there are several characters who are very difficult to even like - which is part of the reason I had trouble getting going with this story, and what ultimately made it really great.

I really enjoyed this. It made me think a lot about the effect that being in various relationships has had on me. How much easier things are when you have the same goals and desires, when there is trust. How a good relationship makes everything in your life better, and brighter, and easier. How a bad relationship can just rip you apart, and how escaping from a bad relationship doesn't just affect the two of you, but extends out to your family and friends. How some things are forgiveable, and some things aren't - and which is which depends on the people involved rather than the specifics of what has happened.

In addition there's a really great story going on. Epic adventures, battles between the forces of ...well definitely not good & evil...more like battles between the forces of left & right honestly. There is lots of beautiful imagery, gorgeous fairy landscapes, and wonderful earthly views. There are all sorts of different ways of being right, or wrong. I had trouble getting through the first third of this book, but once it got going I just couldn't put it down, and was really sad when it ended.