Review: Some Kind of Fairy Tale / Author: Graham Joyce / Publisher: Gollancz / Release Date: Out Now
When stories featuring fairies work, it’s often because the fairies themselves are not cute, winged cartoon characters but strange, unknowable beings. Tales of people being whisked away by the fairies are a deep part of our folklore, and Graham Joyce’s latest work Some Kind of Fairy Tale taps into the deep vein of mythic storytelling to deliver a tale set firmly in the real world.
The plot revolves around Tara Martin, a girl who vanished 20 years ago. Her disappearance tore apart her family and destroyed close friendships as the unresolved trauma of a missing loved one left those who knew her lost and afraid. But on Christmas Day, Tara comes back, looking as young as the day she vanished. Each person affected, from her brother, her parents and the man she left behind, have their own stories to tell, and the way this fantasy drama plays out is superbly managed. We get a powerful feel for each of the characters, and Tara’s tale (and where she’s really been) is told in an effortlessly believable way.
The author lines up his folklore references one-by-one and takes great pleasure in knocking them to the floor only to pick them up again, dust them off and give them a whirl. Expect ominous sounding pubs, blacksmiths, dancing to excess, bluebells and lonely musicians with a tale to tell. A casual fan of old fashioned stories will find a lot to smile about, especially as there are plenty of original twists added into the mix.
Joyce has created a truly modern fairy tale, and it will appeal to the fantasy and non-fantasy fan alike. However, those looking for supernatural grossness along the lines of the TV series Grimm or wacky fairy antics common amongst stories inspired by Brian Froud should look elsewhere; this is a clever (and rather dark) take on where the tales of fairies abducting the innocent come from, and though there are plenty of lovely ideas for fans of mystery and the supernatural to enjoy, it is subtle and dream-like, rather than slime-covered and obviously alien.