Stranger Magics: These are Faerie troubling times

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Stranger Magics by Ash Fitzsimmons fantasy book reviewsStranger Magics by Ash Fitzsimmons Stranger Magics by Ash Fitzsimmons

Colin Leffee (aka Lord Coileán le fae) is an immortal half-human, half-fae being, who’s exiled himself from his mother Titania’s court in Faerie for her various misdeeds. For approximately the last eight hundred years he’s been whiling away his time on Earth, protecting humans from the terrors and mischiefs of less conscientious faeries, running an antique bookstore, and drinking far too much ― easy to do when you’re magical and can make booze, money or anything else appear with a thought.

But one day his past comes back to haunt him: Colin finds a teenage changeling that Titania has tossed out of Faerie, practically on his doorstep. Colin realizes, with a great deal of alarm, that this girl, Moyna, has magical powers and, worse, that his past connects him to Moyna and her mother Meggy, the only woman Colin has truly loved in all his years on Earth. In the process of locating Meggy and trying to reunite her with her daughter, who was stolen by Titania when she was a two week old baby, a trap is tripped that separates Colin from Meggy and her daughter and blocks the gates between Faerie and our world. Now the limited magical power that exists on Earth is slowly fading away; once the magic on Earth is exhausted, the magical gates sealing off Earth from the Gray Lands (“sort of a dark reflection of Faerie”) will fail, and dark magic will flood the earth. Besides, Colin can only imagine the tortures that his vindictive mother Titania is likely inflicting on Meggie and Moyna.

As Colin and his allies study the complex binding spell that executed the trap and cut Faerie off from Earth, they realize that they will need some help to break it. They end up on an extended quest, searching for certain devices that contain previously stored-up magic that will power their spell-breaking efforts, since the magic on Earth is too weak now. Luckily the Arcanum, the organization of Earth’s wizards, just happens to have an interest in these magic storage devices. Not so luckily, Colin’s past run-ins with Arcanum wizards haven’t been entirely cordial.

Stranger Magics (2017), a debut novel by Ash Fitzsimmons, is an enjoyable, breezy urban fantasy adventure. It focuses on fae characters and their society, but also features a few witches, wizards and merrows (merpeople who don’t look at all like the popular conception of mermaids). Colin’s helpers include a Catholic seminarian, a priest in training who begins to develop doubts about his vocation in the course of helping Colin with his search, and who has an unlikely enthusiasm for suits of armor, swords and nail guns.

The world-building in Stranger Magics is well-structured and, for the most part, clearly explained … with the exception of a frequently-mentioned distinction between spellcraft and enchantment that never really made sense to me. The three key power players in Faerie ― Oberon, Titania and Mab ― have been at odds for centuries, with ongoing power plays that affect both Faerie and humanity, and the heartlessness that is typical of faeries. Colin and other half-fae have all of the powers and immortality of full-blooded fae, but are also able to feel love and guilt. This and some of the other plot developments occasionally seem suspiciously convenient. But the plot rolls along fairly smoothly, though a few extended flashbacks from Colin’s long life do create some speed bumps along the way.

Stranger Magics is a light fantasy with a fairly minor romance element and appealing characters. It doesn’t noticeably expand the boundaries of the urban fantasy genre, but fans of that genre should enjoy it. While Stranger Magics is currently a stand-alone novel, Ash Fitzsimmons leaves the door wide open for further adventures of Colin and his friends.

Published November 21, 2017. No one holds a grudge quite like a faerie . . . All Colin Leffee wants is to be left alone: to run his used bookstore in peace, and to quietly drink himself to sleep every night in an attempt to drown out the memories of eight-hundred-plus years of existence. Unfortunately, when a sullen teenage changeling is flung out of Faerie and onto his doorstep, the long-suffering, wayward son of Titania knows his dreams of solitude are dust. Colin—or Lord Coileán, as he is known to the Faerie court—must track down Meggy, the love of his life, and figure out how her child ended up in Titania’s clutches to begin with. But with family, it’s never simple. He finds Meggy, only to see her yanked into Faerie—and the doors between the realms slammed and locked behind her. Now, it’s not just her life at stake . . . but the fate of magic itself. Always the loner, Colin reluctantly joins forces with an intensely stubborn wizard, a young priest-in-training who fancies himself a knight, and his half brother Robin (the last most definitely not by choice) on a quest to reopen the doors and restore the balance between the realms. And with exiled queen Mab plotting in the shadows to take Titania’s throne, and the wizards of the governing Arcanum hiding their own agenda, Colin can’t be sure whom to trust—or whether he’ll live long enough to see the mission through.

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TADIANA JONES, on our staff since July 2015, is an intellectual property lawyer with a BA in English. She inherited her love of classic and hard SF from her father and her love of fantasy and fairy tales from her mother. She lives with her husband and four children in a small town near the mountains in Utah. Tadiana juggles her career, her family, and her love for reading, travel and art, only occasionally dropping balls. She likes complex and layered stories and characters with hidden depths. Favorite authors include Lois McMaster Bujold, Brandon Sanderson, Robin McKinley, Connie Willis, Isaac Asimov, Larry Niven, Megan Whalen Turner, Patricia McKillip, Mary Stewart, Ilona Andrews, and Susanna Clarke.

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3 comments

  1. I’m always interested in the view of Faerie as the heartless ones with their own internal political squabbles. This sounds like Fitzsimmons was inspired by Jim Butcher’s books a little bit (the religious sidekick with a way for weapons, for instance), but that’s all to the good.

    • The comparison to The Dresden Files books occurred to me too while I was writing this review. I’ve only read a couple of those books, so I wasn’t sure if they were really on point, but I think the similarities are distinctly there.

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