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Reading Log: Faeries of Dreamdark: Blackbringer by Laini Taylor

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Faeries of Dreamdark: Blackbringer by Laini Taylor was so much more than I expected it to be. I heard about the book on one of the children's lit blogs that I read, and since I realized it is a brand new book, I went through the library rather than waiting for it in paperback. I'm glad I read it, and I may need to buy it when it is out in pb..

The book takes place in the realm of Faerie, primarily in the forest of Dreamdark. Dreamdark is protected from human interference by a variety of magicks: hedges that dull axes, forests that turn people around and lead them right back out, etc. Magpie Windwitch, the grandaughter of the West Wind, is one of the very few faeries to venture beyond Dreamdark. Her role is to recapture devils, or snags, unknowingly released by humans. Taylor has a clever twist on the "genie in the bottle" motif; humans, usually fishermen, find a bottle at sea and open it, which releases the demon: "Magpie siged. One devil, just one in all of devil history, had granted three wishes to the human who freed it. Magpie had caught that troublemaking snag five years ago and put him back, but the damage was already done. The mannies had a mania for it now, and every chance they got they freed some wicked thing back into the world, and they surely didn't get wishes for their trouble" (8). In the instance that opens the book, however, not only was a devil freed, but one that had been sealed in its bottle by the Magruwen, one of the Djinn who created the world. Taylor also nods to Garth NIx's Sabriel (The Abhorsen Trilogy) with part of what makes up the magic in the book: "Glyphs--symbols drawn in one's thoughts--were the basic element of faerie magic. The simplest were mere shapes that every sprout mastered with learning to read. . . . Real magic came with the more complex glyphs and fusing multiple glyphs together in precise ways, being able to conjure them from memory and 'vision' them, hold them burning in one's mind with perfect concentration" (9). Glyphs in Blackbringer are very like the Charter marks in Nix's Abhorson trilogy. [I had already mentally made this comparison before reading Shannon Hale's interview with Taylor, where Taylor points to Nix as an example of fiction she enjoys. Yay me! I figured something out on my own!]

The majority of the story is about Magpie and her crow brothers/companions' search for this new evil. She returns to Dreamdark in search of the Magruwen and ends up discovering that this devil is actually the eighth elemental present at the creation of the world. Astaroth was the "world-shaping wind" (263) who helped feed the seven Djinn's fires as they created the world: "He had no dreams of his own, but he shared theirs. When the time came to shape the Tapestry into a sphere and bind closed its seams, he chose to remain and witness the burgeoning of the world he had helped forge" (263). In that choice, however, the Astaroth became bound; every attempt to escape created a new snag in the Tapestry, a new devil. Eventually, he became a new thing, a new devil, "the heavens with the stars ripped out" (275).

But there's even more complexity than that. Six-hundred years before the beginning of this story, the Djinns and their champions faced the Blackbringer and forced him into a bottle that the Magruwen himself sealed. It wasn't without loss, though, as his champion, Bellatrix, lost her husband of only a few hours. Shortly after, she disappeared from record, until Magpie found her in the Moonlit Gardens, the afterlife for faeries. Rather than "becoming," the ultimate destiny of a faerie, she remained in the Gardens, communicating with Magruwen, until he gave up on the faeiries and also went into hiding, a deep, deep sleep. Bellatrix and the Magruwen's dragon companion Fade (also in the Moonlit Gardens) planted a dream in the Magruwen's mind to create a new faerie who could re-write and repair the damaged Tapestry, and bring memory back to Dreamdark and the faeries. (Throughout the book I could hear Cate Blanchett's voice as Galadriel at the beginning of The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy as she notes that "that which should not have been forgotten was forgotten." Scroll down to the bottom of this entry for the example.)

I'll stop there in order to stop this entry from becoming more of a book report than it already is. Amazon lists the book as for ages 9-12, which is probably appropriate, but there is so much more complexity that older "children" can also enjoy it. Taylor plays a little with legends and fairy tales, such as the "genie in the bottle," with animal gifts and blessings, with gods and their creations, with the relationships between different species and creatures, and with human emotions and fraility (disguised, of course, as faery emotions and fraility). Characters in the novel are born with defects; the prince of the Ratherstring clan was born with the wings of a moth, unable to support himself in flight. Yet he learns other skills to compensate, and comes out a hero (plus, he knits!). I got so caught up in the adventure that I could hardly put the book down, and I was sorry to see it end.

This book was a wonderful surprise as a debut novel. In terms of readability and general storyline, I'd rate it higher than Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone; I suppose HP is so popular because it's about a human in a magical world, but I prefer the faeries any day.

(Here's a YouTube video of the opening sequence from LotR, while the clip is available:)