Thursday 17 December 2009

CBR2 Book 12: "Wondrous Strange" by Lesley Livingston

Publisher: HarperTeen
Page count: 345 pages
Rating: 2 stars
Date begun: December 12th, 2009
Date finished: December 16th, 2009

Kelley Winslow has moved to New York against the wishes of her eccentric aunt Emma, to fulfill her dream of becoming an actress. She works as a stage hand and understudy on a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, and shares an extortionately expensive apartment with a model. Things seem to look up for her when the lead actress is injured, and she needs to step in as Titania, with only two weeks until opening night. Rehearsing her lines in Central Park one evening, Kelley's life starts changing for the stranger, as she meets a mysterious and handsome man, and nearly drowns when she tries to save a horse in a lake. A horse that shortly after turns up in her bathroom, and refuses to leave.

Sonny Flannery is a changeling, a mortal child stolen by the faeries and raised as a favourite of King Oberon of the Unseelie Court. Sonny is now one of the Janus, one of thirteen supernatural guards, tasked with the unpopular job of keeping the denizens of Faerie from escaping into the mortal world. The last remaining gateway between the two realms lies in Central Park - and it is normally only open on Halloween night. But every nine years, the gate is open for a full nine nights up to and including Halloween. Sonny and his fellow changeling guards have to deter and even kill all creatures who try to escape through the portal, and this year there seem to be more than usual, and fiercer and wilder creatures too.

Sonny finds himself strangely drawn to the girl he encounters in the park, and tracks her down with the help of the script she dropped. Kelley isn't sure why the handsome stranger keeps following her, and appearing as if by chance close to her. Sonny can't understand why he senses Kelley differently from other humans, and why she appears to be able to see through his Faerie cloaking veil. That several other faerie creatures, and Oberon himself seem very interested in the orphaned 17-year-old actress is also making him curious.

I'm a big fan of paranormal fantasy, whether it is aimed at teenagers or adults. In the past two years I have read some amazing Young Adult stories featuring faeries and faery/mortal romance, Holly Black's Tithe, Valiant and Ironside, Melissa Marr's Wicked Lovely and Maggie Stiefvater's Lament: The Faerie Queen's Deception probably being the most excellent examples. Wondrous Strange did not measure up to these. The formerly mentioned books enchanted and delighted me, even took my breath away a couple of times (a sure sign of a great read), this book was just ok.

Neither Kelley nor Sonny were particularly engrossing characters, and while I enjoyed the background characters and the outline of the world that Livingston has created, the protagonists' stories just did not hold my attention all that much. The plot had a bit too many handy coincidences tying the story together. This was by no means a bad or boring book, it just didn't live up to my expectations. I will probably still buy and read the sequels though, in the hopes of seeing more of Livingston's fascinating Faerie-world.

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