Elfland – Freda Warrington

(For some reason the spacing is completely off when I preview this, but blogger won’t let me fix it, so I apologize)

From Publishers Weekly: 

Prolific British author Warrington (the Jewelfire Trilogy), mostly unknown in the U.S., puts a distinctive spin on human/nonhuman relations in this sensuous, relationship-driven story, the first of the Books of the Silver Wheel. The feylike Vaethyr regularly travel between the Spiral and our world until the gates are summarily and permanently closed by Lawrence Wilder, the Gatekeeper. He warns of danger, but the Vaethyr on Earth need to return to the Spiral to survive. Much of the book is devoted to describing the turbulent life of Rosie, daughter of Vaethyr king Auberon, and her love triangle with Sam and Jon, Wilder’s troubled sons, as long years without reconnecting to their aetherial selves slowly drive the Vaethyr mad. Solid wordplay, great pacing and a thrilling conclusion will definitely earn Warrington some new American fans. 

Recently, a challenge was issued and while I’m not one for challenges I thought this one was a rather good idea for me to partake in. Basically, as is described on this blog, readers are challenged to read a book where you’ve never heard of the book and/or author (or something along those lines). So, I went out on a limb. I decided I’d read Elfland by Freda Warrington. There were a few reasons I chose this book for this challenge:

      A) I’ve never heard of Freda Warrington
      B) I’ve never heard of Elfland
      C) I’d never, in a million years, pick up this book off the shelf and willingly read it because I really shy away from Urban Fantasy and plots with any real level of romance in them. It’s just not really my cup of tea, so to speak.
      D)  Liviu, from this blog, recommended it on one of my blog comments.

Freda Warrington isn’t well known in the United States. Elfland, as it happens, is her first book released in the United States. I can easily tell by reading this book that Warrington is a well-practiced writer. There was no agonizing start of the book where it’s obvious that the author is trying to hit their literary stride. She just sort of begins and, through her beautiful narration; the reader is automatically sucked into the interesting plot she has conceived.

Elfland is highly character driven and while this can be a good thing as her characters are all pretty well developed, I felt that overall it detracted from the believability of the real world this book was taking place in. To put it simply, if it wasn’t for the characters and the nearly constant dialogue, the book really wouldn’t exist. There isn’t anything else to it. However, Warrington has created very interesting characters and situations which will keep the reader turning pages.

This isn’t the standard vampire and werewolf strewn urban fantasy. While the main story takes place between two families, the twist happens when the reader learns that the two families are fey (of sorts), who have to use Gates to traverse to the Spiral where their kind originate from. This hidden nature of the characters and the world at large is where the bones of the story takes place. I will readily admit that, while this may seem slightly campy, I found the overall setup very interesting and was entranced by how these families who seem to have a foot in both worlds manage to live.

It should be noted that this book is heavy on the romance. Now, usually I’d make some comment about how I’m going to go throw up, or how the romance made my stomach churn but I’m not going to. This is probably one of the only books with plenty of romance that didn’t make me want to throw up or turn green. While it did get rather soap-operaish, the plot does continue to move on. It’s worth pushing through, as the book remains interesting despite its romance-laden points. While romance is usually the one thing I can almost always count on ruining a good book with it’s chronic tendency to derail, Elfland only struggles with this in a minor way. I will, however, be completely honest and say that there were a few parts where if it weren’t for Warrington’s stunning literary ability to captivate me with the art of her prose, I would have put the book down.

While this book seems to deal mostly with relationships, there is also quite a bit of coming-of-age tossed in there for good measure. The reader is introduced to numerous characters and you get to experience them from childhood on along with all the awkward growing-pains non-humans might encounter during their painful teenage years. Warrington does a great job with making the growing up process believable. There are realistic challenges and believable problems the characters encounter making them seem shockingly human to the point where, at times, I forgot they weren’t human. 

All in all, this book truly did get me out of my comfort zone. I am immensely glad that I took a chance and read a book from an author I’ve never heard of before and will freely admit that this might be a challenge I personally undertake more often. It felt good to explore what else is out there and take a literary detour. It seemed to enliven my usual reading habits and I learned an important thing, not all romance, or urban fantasy is terrible and perhaps this will be a genre that I need to explore more of in the future. The bland of modern and fantastic is very refreshing. 

This book was enjoyable and I found myself not quite as disgusted with all the romance as I expected myself to be. Warrington’s writing is stunning. The book ends with plenty of room for Warrington to expand in the next book in the series. While I really enjoyed learning about the world she created, I look forward to seeing if she can make it a little more believable as the series progresses. This book is incredibly character driven. That’s not a bad thing, many readers really enjoy character driven books. For those that do, Elfland is a book to take note of. It will leave you feeling like you’ve seen the world through the character’s eyes and yearning for more. 

4/5 stars

5 Responses

  • ediFanoB

    Even I liked your review I don't think I will read Elfland. I discover enough new authors or authors who are new to me. Of course I do not really leave my comfort zone. But I read books beside SFF. For example today I received a historical fiction debut: THE COBRAS OF CALCUTTA by Grant Sutherland [ISBN-13: 978-0330471046] It is a novel about British decipherer …. and the first book in a series.

  • Sarah

    I really enjoy historical and nonfiction as well. I just thought it would be a fun way for me to push myself within the genre I usually read. I knew that if it wasn't for this challenge, I would have never picked up this book.

  • Kristen

    Thanks for the review! I hadn't heard of this one either until I saw you were reading it on Goodreads. It sounds wonderful and I'm going to add it to my wish list.

  • Melissa (My World...in words and pages)

    I have thought on trying this book out. This review really helped bring some light to the book for me. I wasn't to sure if I wanted to or not. I am still not 100% sure, but I feel like I see better what I will be missing. Thanks! I will have to give it a try in the future.

  • Interestingly, despite being written by a British author, the Aetherial Tales aren’t published in the UK…

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