Bones of Faerie: Faults and sparks of brilliance

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsYA fantasy book reviews Bones of Faerie by Janni Lee SimnerBones of Faerie by Janni Lee Simner

The human world has been rendered almost unlivable, victim of the wild magic unleashed by the faeries in their war with the humans twenty years earlier. Liza, a teenage girl, tries to survive in a small community in the Midwestern United States that has been savaged by the remnants of the war. The corn fights back against the humans harvesting it, and the blackberry vines seek flesh. Everyone who survived the war knows that magic is dangerous and cannot be tolerated, so when Liza’s sister is born with the clear hair that marks her as magically tainted, Liza’s father leaves the infant on a hillside to die.

This is where Bones of Faerie starts, with a horrified young woman finding the remains of her baby sister’s body scattered on a hillside. In this dark, post-apocalyptic YA novel, Janni Lee Simner sets up an interesting story of a teenager seeking to find peace in a world torn by war. From this heartbreaking start, we are quickly whisked off in an adventure to find Liza’s mother, who disappears shortly after the infant dies. The relationship between Liza and her father is dark and disturbing,

The bones of a good story are here, but they lack the necessary flesh to hold them together in places. As important as the war between the humans and the faeries is to the story, it strikes me as odd that we never learn what started it. (It strikes me as even odder that the gate into Faerie is the St. Louis Arch.) As much damage as the faeries do to earth, we do at least as much damage to them, but how the humans manage to get bombers into Faerie isn’t explained either. The world needs more life breathed into it to seem believable.

Reading Bones of Faerie was a disjointed experience. It felt like a storyboard, with many different scenes that were only loosely stitched together into a cohesive body. Simner has an eye for descriptive prose, and the individual scenes are easily visualized, but like panels in a graphic novel, they provide snapshots of the story rather than conveying a sense of continuity. Simner also needs to develop an ear for language. She frequently repeats words within sentences, and Liza’s many visions are almost always described in very similar terms. This starts to grate on the reader’s nerves after a while.

But, for all the faults with this story, there are sparks of brilliance here. A week after finishing Bones of Faerie, specific scenes still haunt my memory, such as the journey through the dark terrors of the night, and the attack by the trees in the woods. Janni Lee Simner is a talent to watch, and I look forward to reading her future books as her gifts develop. Fans of Holly Black will find much to enjoy here, and anyone who enjoys dark YA fantasy will find Bones of Faerie worth reading.

~Ruth Arnell


Bones of Faerie by Janni Lee Simner YA fantasy book reviewsThe story Bones of Faerie takes place years after a great and tragic war between the Fae and the Humans. Those who survived the war on the human side greatly distrust any sort of magic. However, the war changed the human world; trees never shed their leaves, instead they attack unsuspecting victims. Plants have minds of their own, and only the most benign can be eaten. Some children are born with transparent hair; marking them part-faerie. These children are killed for what they may become, and the destructive powers they could possess.

Liza lives in such a town. Any child born with magic is cast out to die or else be taken by the faerie. Strangers are not welcome, and trade is nonexistent. The inhabitants of the town live off of what tame plants they can harvest and are not poisonous. Liza lives with her father, a strict man and firm believer in ‘the rules’:

Don’t touch any stone that burns with faerie light. Don’t venture out alone into the dark. And cast out the magic born among you, before it can turn on its parents.

When I first picked up Bones of Faerie the back cover intrigued me, so I bought it. It seemed right up my alley — post-apocalyptic earth with magic, mystery, adventure and the whole nine yards. As it went, though, I was more disappointed than satisfied.

I found it a less than engaging story. Characters mean the world to me in a story, and this book didn’t deliver. The characters were all quite two dimensional and highly predictable. Liza with her troubled past and abusive father, Matthew and Kate with their hidden secret, even Caleb and Karin, the faerie people were sometimes frustratingly like carbon copies of typical supernatural fantasy characters.

The other major downfall I found was that the adventure portion of the book was tediously uneventful. Much of the time, it was very keenly described hours of walking. Not the most gripping series of events that may have occurred.

However, the world they travelled through was very imaginative and well thought out. Things we deem innocent are suddenly treacherous. How many times have you seen a butterfly burst into flames? In this war-ravaged earth, that is the norm. Plants attack, shadows are dangerous, and the dark is deadly. All the grizzly details of what the earth has become after a war with another realm are what kept me reading. I wanted to see more of what happened, and how it changed what used to be a civilized world.

I didn’t find the plot exactly riveting nor the characters very engaging, so this wasn’t my cup of tea. But if strong imagery makes your reading experience, Bones of Faerie may just be for you.

~Skye Walker

Faerie — (2009-2013) Publisher: The war between humanity and Faerie devastated both sides. Or so 15-year-old Liza has been told. Nothing has been seen or heard from Faerie since, and Liza’s world bears the scars of its encounter with magic. Trees move with sinister intention, and the town Liza calls home is surrounded by a forest that threatens to harm all those who wander into it. Then Liza discovers she has the Faerie ability to see — into the past, into the future — and she has no choice but to flee her town. Liza’s quest will take her into Faerie and back again, and what she finds along the way may be the key to healing both worlds. Janni Lee Simner’s first novel for young adults is a dark fairy-tale twist on apocalyptic fiction — as familiar as a nightmare, yet altogether unique.

YA fantasy book reviews Janni Lee Simner Bones of FaerieYA fantasy book reviews Janni Lee Simner Bones of Faerie 2. Faerie Winterfantasy and science fiction book reviews


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RUTH ARNELL (on FanLit's staff January 2009 — August 2013) earned a Ph.D. in political science and is a college professor in Idaho. From a young age she has maxed out her library card the way some people do credit cards. Ruth started reading fantasy with A Wrinkle in Time and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe — books that still occupy an honored spot on her bookshelf today. Ruth and her husband have a young son, but their house is actually presided over by a flame-point Siamese who answers, sometimes, to the name of Griffon.

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SKYE WALKER, who has been on FanLit’s staff since September 2014 (after a brief time on staff as a YA reviewer in 2007-2008), is from Canada. Their HBA in Anthropology and Communications allowed them to write an Honours paper on podcasting as the modern oral tradition of storytelling: something they will talk about at any and all opportunities. Skye is a communications professional in the non-profit sector. These days their favourite authors include Ursula K Le Guin, Bo Bolander, and Chris Wooding. They can be found on social media @cskyewalker.

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