But this is a book I never could have written. I'm glad she did, though: it was an awful lot of fun. And her Kelpie is Just Right.
I often have a problem with YA in that a lot of what I read seems emotionally muted to me, as if adult authors or editors can have a hard time committing to really brutalizing young characters. (Which is not to say there's not adult work where we have a hard time committing to brutalizing our characters, either.)
Concisely, *I* remember childhood and adolescence as being pretty much dripping with pain and portent; I hadn't much in the way of emotional management skills or perspective. And blackholly captures that nicely, and doesn't tie up the main character's problems too neatly in a bundle at the end of the book. Her faeries are sharp pointy wicked tricksy things with teeth and inhuman morality, which is as it should be, and she's got the guts to talk about the seductions of having a heart of stone.
Which is something else faeries are traditionally about. Life is far easier when you only think of your own pleasure.
But you stop being human in there somewhere, don't you?
I read a bunch of urban fantasy when I was in college, and a lot of it, as I recall, privileged Faerie as this sort of otherworld where maybe everybody wasn't really nice, but... things got made a bit safe. The betrayals came from where and when you expected them, and the good folk were mostly just human, with pointed ears, perhaps prone to temper tantrums. And of course our heroes and heroines, being pure of heart and artistically gifted (why are they always artistically gifted?) were more or less privileged as well. And there was this undercut through some of it (and god, don't ask me titles: this was intensive reading fifteen, seventeen years ago) that dichotomized magic and technology, romanticized and exoticized the one and demonized the other. Black Satanic Mills, etc. (I was also left with this sort of racial memory of many of these books having a Kidnapped Princess fallacy thing going on--"You're not my real parents! I am special!")
There were never really the prices to be paid that traditionally there are, when you go into Faerie: a broken heart, a broken soul, a broken life, a broken back, a broken life. A hundred years gone by in a night.
Holly's book points out that being Special isn't always Good, and sometimes being Annointed is not a destiny you really should prefer.
(I'm not talking about Tam Lin and War For The Oaks and Thomas the Rhymer here, I should be plain, but certain more commercially oriented books that dealt with Faerie. I read highly commercial fantasy by the shovel-load in college, because it was what my brain could handle a lot of the time. Also, that's the source of my Lilian Jackson Braun thing. They're so light! And fluffy!)
Holly, on the other hand, does a pretty damned fine job of nailing the arbitrary and willful nature of faerie, the morality of a bored five year old, the air of pulling wings off flies because they were bored. Her primary elf-knight is maybe a little too virtupus (his first and second appearances are marvellously scary and just right, but he tames down a bit) but then, I can't whinge too much about that--I have a somewhat over-virtupus elf-knight myself. (I was attempting to split the difference between his legendary half-brothers (and wouldn't it be a spoiler to say who those people were?) and it became obvious about halfway through The Stratford Man that the temperament--along with the looks--came from the sire line in this case. *g*
It's okay, though. His descendents seem to have gotten all the mean.
Anyway, good book; I will be passing it along to an 11-year-old of my acquaintance, with her Mom's permission, I think. *g*