‘Elfland’ by Freda Warrington

By oldenglishrose - Last updated: Monday, March 14, 2011 - Save & Share - Leave a Comment

It’s an indication of quite how behind I am with my reviews that I’m only now writing and posting my thoughts on Freda Warrington’s Elfland. This was February’s pick for the Women of Fantasy Book Club hosted by  Jawas Read, Too and I finished it back on 14th February.   It was a rather appropriate read to finish on Valentine’s Day too as, like the first book club choice, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N. K. Jemisin, it had a much more romantic focus (and for “romance” read “sex”) than I had anticipated.

Elfland centres around the community of Aetherials, members of a fairy race who have chosen to live in the human world, indistinguishable from regular mortals.  Once every seven years, Lawrence Wilder throws open the Gates between the worlds to allow access to the fairy realm, known as the Spiral.  However, when the book opens Lawrence refuses to open the Gates and instead seals all entrances to the Spiral in order to keep the Aetherials safe from a threat which he will not name.  Some continue with their lives, becoming increasingly human, while others resent Lawrence’s decision and try to find ways to force his hand.  Meanwhile the Aetheiral children grow up without ever having visited their magical homeland and both Rosie Fox and her brother Matthew marry humans.  But Rosie is continually tempted by a life outside of her mundane, human existence, epitomised in the form of tempting bad boy Sam Wilder.  Like the problem of the gates, this cannot be ignored and soon things reach boiling point.

I’m sure there are a great many people out there who love this book, but personally I found it very frustrating.  What this book reveals about the Aetherials and the world inside the Spiral as fascinating, but I felt that the fact that the characters were part of a semi-immortal race of fairies was irrelevant for about 70% of the plot which instead focused around normal, mundane things like family relationships and whether the heroine will choose her safe, ordinary husband or the attractive bad boy that she seems unable to resist (hmmmm, I wonder how that will work out.  No prizes for guessing).  At times it seemed that the only special thing about being Aetherial is that it leads to lots of really great sex.  Which is fine, but I wanted to read about how the Aetherials live and the problems of the gate between the two worlds being closed and then cracked open again, not about how much better sex is for them.

Because I picked this book up expecting a fantasy novel, I found the lack of focus on this aspect of the novel to be incredibly irritating. I couldn’t get to like any of the characters, not least because a lot of them were cliche-riddled, but also because I was increasingly annoyed at their interactions distracting from what should have been the main plot concerning the cracking open of the gates.    I found myself racing through the relationship stuff in order to get to the main meat of the fantasy plot, only to discover that it never really came.  This is a shame, because the little that was shown of the Spiral was fascinating.  The Aetherial world and mythology sounds really interesting and I only wish that there had been more of it and that there had been more time given over to developing it.

Elfland is book one of the Aetherial Tales series, of which Warrington has written one more book at present.  As her interests and mine don’t really correspond (I like a bit of romance with my fantasy, not the other way around) I doubt I’ll be continuing with the series.  It would however be a really great book for someone who typically reads romance novels and would like to try out a new genre.

Elfland by Freda Warrington.  Published by Tor, 2010, pp. 610.  Originally published in 2009.

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