wondrous strange by lesley livingston

Do you like books about Faerie? I don’t mean fairies – like the tooth fairy or the butterfly fairies from the Barbie movies–I mean the capricious fae that like to subjugate mortals. If so, you’ll probably enjoy this book.

As for me, I realize while reading this book why some books about Faerie make me uncomfortable. It’s all wrapped up in their theology…

Theology: Faeries or demons?

The book is well written, I liked the characters, especially the horse, and some of the faeries are good despite their nature. I read it quickly because it’s fast-paced with a great story including romantic elements and mystery.

But I got to the end of the story and found myself dissatisfied with the ending. It took me a while to pinpoint what was bothering me. The main problem was that the protagonist gets stripped of her white magic and is left as a beautiful but dark creature. If you’re like me, I associate white with good and black with bad, but that’s not always the case with Faerie. After thinking about it, I realized books about Faerie sometimes bother me because its not clear what is good and what is bad.

Faeries can’t outright lie, but they can lie by omission, by intentionally misleading, by trickery. The mythological Fae have little to no integrity, they’re only in it for themselves. You know to avoid them because even what seems like a good deal, is never as it seems. And the steal kids from the cradle to raise as their own–changelings. What mom could like creatures that do that?

There is no good or bad in Faerie. It’s all relative, defined by the individual (sounds very post-modern, doesn’t it?). They live in a supernatural realm from which mortals cannot return, where time works differently and the inhabitants are cruel but beautiful. Mortals are treated as inferior, as slaves.

No wonder the Faerie realm bothers me. It seems there are a lot of parallels between Faeries and demons.

I’m pretty sure the author didn’t set up her novel to have demonic theology. Stories about the Fey are popular. There’s always that “Devil went down to Georgia” mentality of attempting to outwit Satan that people enjoy.

On the bright side, there are a lot of Shakespeare references, so if you’re a Midsummer Night’s Dream fan, you’ll enjoy the book. The story within a story aspect of this book is quite clever.

So what about you? Have you read this book? What did you think? Do you have a problem with Faerie theology or am I just kerfluffed?

Rating:

PG-13 for mild profanity and violence.

Social Issues:

Can you escape who you are? How much of our heredity can we shed? Must we suffer the consequences of our parent’s actions? How do you define good and evil?

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6 thoughts on “wondrous strange by lesley livingston

  1. Wow. When I first read this last week, I was so astonished that I didn’t know what to say. Still don’t, really. Obviously, you didn’t care for the book. But I think your review is a little extreme – like your emotions were so kerfluffled that they just permeate the review. You go on & on equating this version of fairy to demons, and even pick on the name of the book tour the author is part of? (which I’m pretty sure is a joke – they’re not seriously saying, “read our books before the world ends!”)

    When does anyone – faerie or mortal – ever condone what Mahb did with the Wild Hunt? Most of your arguments for faeries=demons are inapplicable if you read the entire series. Faeries and mortals alike put their lives on the line to fight evil. They continuously strive to do the right thing, though not always making the right decision for how to do that. People repent for past wrongs and take steps to redeem themselves. As for, “characters that care more about their own power than their own family” – that’s an assumption the main character makes in the first book. An assumption disproven later in the series.

    Also, I’d say there is mild profanity & violence in the book. So mild that I had to go back & look for it after reading this review – that’s how little impression it made.

    My first thought after reading the review was, “She better never read the Mortal Instruments.” And then I saw you gave them 5 stars on Goodreads. And you have the Obsidian Trilogy on your favorites list. I haven’t read it but my sister quit after the 1st book because she felt it was too dark – and she generally reads darker than I am comfortable going.

    Mostly, I am writing to let you know that I liked and trusted your reviews. I felt you had good insights into books that I might be interested in. It just concerns me that this book got such harsh treatment when it seems like other novels that push things as far or further get off lighter. I don’t mind a bad review of a book I loved. I just felt like this one was unfair.

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  2. In the first version of this review I did admit that the book, which I did enjoy, was getting the brunt of my non-faerie rant. So, I think you’re right, I was kerfluffled (great word, btw). This was a topic that had been bothering me for a while—why don’t I like these obviously great books because they are about faeries?—and I was glad to have finally figured it out. I have revised my review to try and show that its mythological faeries that I think are similar to demons, not specifically this author’s portrayal of them. I also removed the reference to her blog tour.
    “When does anyone – faerie or mortal – ever condone what Mahb did with the Wild Hunt? Most of your arguments for faeries=demons are inapplicable if you read the entire series. Faeries and mortals alike put their lives on the line to fight evil. They continuously strive to do the right thing, though not always making the right decision for how to do that. People repent for past wrongs and take steps to redeem themselves. As for, “characters that care more about their own power than their own family” – that’s an assumption the main character makes in the first book. An assumption disproven later in the series.”

    I haven’t read the rest of the series, so thank you for clarifying some of the issues that were brought up in the first book. As I wrote above in the update, one of the problems I had was at the end of the book where the protagonist was stripped of light and left dark but beautiful. I can see where it might have been set up this way because she will have to fight Mahb in later books, but without clear divisions between good/evil and light/dark the idea of giving someone over to the dark bothered me. Is that where redemption comes in the story?

    On the subject of profanity, it depends on the sensitivity of the person reading the review. I have a dear friend who is so keyed in to sanitizing her vocabulary, that she finds some curse words that I find mild, completely unacceptable. So for her sake and others like her, I mentioned profanity. It is mild, but there is quite a lot of it at the beginning of the book, and then a little again at the end. I revised the review to say “mild profanity” as well, to make it clear.

    ‘Mortal Instruments’ – great books, but I would have something to say about theology if I was to review them here. Just because I have problems with the theology portrayed by the book, it doesn’t mean I don’t like the books. In Mortal Instruments the subject of Nephilim is interesting, based on Genesis 6, on which scholars do not agree, but it’s a great premise for a book. Do I agree with how good/evil/God is portrayed in the books. Not really.

    The thing that is different about Mortal Instruments and the Obsidian Trilogy from Wondrous Strange is that demons are clearly evil. You don’t have to guess. Both books are set up as good vs. bad. The Obsidian Trilogy, which was co-written by someone with a degree in Comparative Religion which permeates those books, is very dark at times because you go into the head of the enemy (demons) who are deeply, darkly, evil. So much so that it is hard to read. But through them we learn an important truth, that evil cannot overcome good because it will always fight against itself. (Plus, God is awesome and mighty in power, forever and ever, amen). With Wondrous Strange, my concern is that by not being able to tell clearly what is good and what is evil, you might end up cheering for the wrong team. Kind of like dressing up as a devil for Halloween. I personally wouldn’t do it. Others might and see no problem with it.

    I’m so sorry my review upset you. I am glad you spoke up and said the review wasn’t fair. I think that’s important. Thank you for your insights. I hope we’re still friends.

    Blessings,
    Lisa

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  3. Sorry this a few days late. Thank you so much for taking my comment to heart and not being upset. (I was so afraid of saying anything and endangering our friendship.) I wanted you to know I absolutely love your revised review. It’s amazing how, by rearranging things and changing some wording, it still expresses your opinion & feelings but the vibe is so different now. And I understand what you mean about both, the Mortal Instruments & the Obsidian Trilogy.

    I’m rereading the last of the trilogy now as I don’t 100% remember how the story goes but, just in case you’re curious (don’t read this, everyone, if you don’t want SPOILERS!!), I do know that Mahb doesn’t end up being the “bad guy” at all. She has a lot of attitude and pride but seems repentant of what she had done way back when. She’s still not a very nice person, though. And neither is Auberon (the bad guy, I mean). The books keep you second-guessing for a long time but it was actually Gwynn ap Nudd (the King of Spring) who was once the sole ruler long ago before Auberon displaced him and split the kingdom (he has some help via Titania, too.). It’s part of a huge power play stemming from the Green Man’s assassination long ago. Herne and Sonny are heavily involved in it all. (Herne accidentally passed along the Green Man’s power to Sonny, his son. The entire incident – Sonny being taken & Kelley stolen as revenge and the locking of the gates – was an elaborate manipulation by Auberon and Herne to keep both children hidden and safe.) The big thing I can’t remember is why Auberon thought it was important to take Kelley’s power. I do know he ends up giving it back but he doesn’t exactly have a lot of choice in the matter (all the anger she poured into the transfer poisons him from the inside, leaving him susceptible to a deadly poison from Gwynn ap Nudd so he basically has to give it back or die).

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    1. It sounds really complicated. 😉

      After I posted I was thinking more about good and evil and how maybe the metaphor for the book is that sometimes it is hard to tell. We all sin (dark magic?) and we all have a war inside of us – flesh vs. spirit – so maybe my uncomfortabless is saying something about my inner war. I dunno.

      I liked the review better once I changed it as well. When I was writing it at first I was thinking it was a rant–more of a spilling out of what I finally realized was bothering me that had nothing to do with the book, per se. I definitely want my reviews to be balanced so thank you SOOO much for speaking up!

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      1. The plot does get pretty complicated. I think that’s definitely the metaphor for the book though I’m not sure how fantastic a job the author really does fleshing it out. Kelley feels the potential to become like her mother hidden in her power and ultimately refuses to touch it. Mahb says she senses the same ability to do great evil in the name of love in Sonny that caused her to do the wild hunt – which ends up being somewhat true (more of that in a minute). The Green Man’s power is so strong that it corrupts almost everyone it touches – he was good and kind and the oldest magic of all but his two sons (the leprechauns) and many daughters (glaistigs) are all pure evil. Herne doesn’t really use the power but when Sonny thinks Kelley is dead, his grief unlocks his power and he goes ballistic; killing the leprechauns, wiping out most of the glaistigs, destroying the entire theatre and paying no attention to the many friends he endangers while on his tirade. They are barely able to distract him enough to knock him out and quickly lock the powers & his memories of the incident away. (A temporary measure, and a dubious one anyway – there’s a lot of making decisions for someone else’s good without consulting them in the books, though it always is confronted and never works out.) This is a power he later deliberately taps (and becomes the hunter again) in order to defeat Gwynn ap Nudd and get this – only his love for Kelley brings him back from the brink and then he gives up the power (destroys it/locks it away forever) so it won’t be available for anyone to ever misuse again. So – a bit sketchy on the good/evil struggle, I’d say.

        I’m working on a review for Dee Henderson’s Full Disclosure and struggling with the rant inside me. Maybe I’ll email it to you when I finally finish it so you can help me make sure it’s fairly balanced, too. 😉

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