rating: 4 of 5 stars
By luck, I received the elusive 11th copy from Simon & Schuster’s LJ Giveaway and am so very glad I did! I started reading this book in the evening before bed and got halfway through before forcing myself to find a not so scary part to stop on and put it away until the morning.
Tanya isn’t your average 13-year-old girl (or is she 12? She’s young, let’s leave it at that): she can see fairies. These aren’t the kind to grant you wishes or help clear up acne. The fairies in Michelle Harrison’s 13 Treasures are dark, malevolent, and sometimes hideous creatures with foreboding agendas and secretive movements, determined to keep their existence a secret from bumbling mortals and make life miserable for those, like Tanya, with the Second Sight. The ability to see fairy folk has been a negative experience for Tanya.
Part One opens with a group of three fairies, Raven, Gredin, Feathercap, and a squat toadish thing Tanya dubs Mizhog, scolding our protagonist for having written about them in her diary. Despite having buried it, the fairies discovered her mistake and threaten Tanya least she slip again. To insure the lesson’s learned, the fairies wreak havoc in her room and leave before Tanya’s mother is alerted once more to what she believes are her daughter’s tiresome antics. Finally fed up, she sends Tanya and her dog, Oberon (a lovely, slightly plump doberman), away to live with her maternal grandmother for two weeks at Elvesden Manor, an enormous family property well outside London on the outer edges of Hangman’s Wood.
Tanya is resigned to her fate: her grandmother seems to find any and all reason to avoid her and when she doesn’t, never fails to act distant and cold; the groundskeeper’s son Fabian is a nosy, bothersome boy around the same age as Tanya. Sure that the next two weeks are going to be a boring, irritating, and insufferable existence Tanya is surprised when she discovers a door downstairs normally kept locked, like most other rooms in the Manor, opened. Peering inside and finding no one to deter her curiosity, Tanya steps inside to discover Florence (her grandmother) has a library. Inside are dozens of books on magic and fairies. Unable to resist, Tanya makes a stack and just as she’s about to leave, flips through a copy of A Midsummer Night’s Dream when a newspaper clipping left inside catches Tanya’s eye: a girl named Morwenna Bloom disappeared in Hangman’s Wood under mysterious circumstances fifty years ago and was never found.
Florence startles Tanya out of her musings and before she can get away, is shocked when her grandmother gives her some jewelry that had been stashed in the desk: a silver bracelet with 13 charms dangling off the metal. Taking her unexpected gift and stealing a copy of Myth and Magic Through The Ages, Tanya makes her way back to her room hoping to find in its pages more insights into fairies and why she in particular can see them when it seems no one else can.
What follows is the dark adventures of Tanya and Fabian working together to discover the truth behind Morwenna’s disappearance, unlock mysterious doors, travel hidden passageways, all while avoiding the suspicious, watchful eyes of Florence and Fabian’s father and grandfather, Warwick and Amos.
Harrison writes a wonderfully scary tale of love, family, and friendship with none of what I would have expected. The protagonist is a strong female figure who relies on her wits and strengths, unafraid to ask for help from those around her and thankfully, does not fall in love with anyone. It was such a relief to read a YA book that didn’t involve a romantic coupling with the female protagonist. Rather, the romance in the book was as dark and menacing as the fairies themselves.
I really enjoyed Fabian’s character and hope to see him explored a little more in the sequel, as well as, now that the events of 13 Treasures are wrapped up, Warwick and Florence. The surprise twist ending that revealed the true relationship between Warwick and his employer was perfect! I never would have guessed it on my own.
I also am impressed with Harrison’s interpretation of the fey folk and their magical world, even though I’ve heard a lot of it before, but her execution was especially pleasing; their interaction with the mortal world was as seamless and charming (or frightening) as I could have hoped for.
There isn’t too much I want to go into because I do feel this is such an amazing find, you really need to go out and read it for yourself.
I definitely recommend this book to anyone who’s a fan of fairies or wants a fun, dark, and easy read. But if you’re anything like me, and your imagination gets the better of you, don’t read this before you go to bed. Read it in a well-lighted room, or outside, in daylight even, with people around and lots of reassuring, life-affirming things surrounding you. The Crooked Man from The Book of Lost Things really creeped me out. There’s a lot in this book that gave me the same skin-crawly feel. As sinister as it was, I can’t believe I was lucky enough to get a free copy. If you liked Holly Black’s Tithe books (I’ve only ever read the first and am clueless on the name of the trilogy), you may like Michelle Harrison’s 13 Treasures. Albeit intended I think for a slightly younger crowd, the book manages to appeal to an older audience with its dark turns and unexpected revelations. I think it comes out in the US later this year, but if you’re in the UK, get yourself a copy!
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