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Book Review: 13 Treasures by Michelle Harrison

 Book Review: 13 Treasures by Michelle Harrison

I once read somewhere about a list of things meant to break curses, says Tanya. The list was being near running water, like a stream or a book, the colour red, salt, turning clothes inside out, and iron.

Its a good thing that thirteen-year-old Tanya pays attention to what she reads, because the fairy realm that shes about to encounter has none sugar and spice and everything nice weve been conditioned to expect. No, this is pre-Disney fairy were talking about here: the unseelie, the cruel, and the cunning.

Tanya has long been at their mercy: as an individual with the dubious gift of being able to see the fey, shes singled out for the sorts of torment that other people dont have to worry about. After a particularly cruel prank on the part of the fairies, Tanyas mother finds herself at her wits end, and sends Tanya off to stay with her cold and distant grandmother at her ramshackle country estate. But Tanya is far from safe in her new surrounds: despite her best efforts, she finds herself swept up in all manner of superstition and intrigue: including a fifty year old mystery that rears its very ugly head.

Tanya and her unlikely friend Fabian, a dorky lad whos the son of the manors caretaker, set about unravelling the truth behind an unsolved murder case thats haunted Tanyas grandmother and the other residents of the mansion for many long years. But when youre dealing with fairy, nothings as easy as it seems, and soon the two are fending off charms and spells, avoiding the severe gaze of Tanyas grandmother, sneaking off into the woods at night, and perhaps more importantly of all, trying to figure out whos truly on their side.

Thirteen Treasures is a rich, lush book, and its beautifully transportative: the reader has a sense of the setting being so very real. Im always a sucker for a book set in a shambling country estate, and this one uses place to excellent effect. The ancient manor creaks and crumbles on the page, and its impossible not to be able to feel the sheer size and grandeur of the building. Theres a constant sensation of the manor being more than what meets the eye, and indeed this proves true of all of the other settings in the book as welleverything from the eerie fairy forest to even the local township. To be honest, its the setting that is the stand-out element of this book.

That said, the plot, too, is for the most part enjoyably clever, with the mystery well-drawn and studded with all sorts of small asides that end up being of importance to the larger plotTanyas mothers birthday, for one, and the strange bus passenger who tries to buy a broken compass from Tanya for another. I enjoyed the way the ending played out, but did find that there were some minor plot lines that seemed to parked for later examination in the books sequels: that involving the mysterious Red, who is found traipsing through the manors secret passageways, but then later all but vanishes, in particular. Theres also the inclusion of the thirteen treasures themselves: their appearance is so fleeting as to be only to justify the title of the book, and could easily have been done away with.

I also found some of the pacing a little off, and felt that certain scenes could have been conflated, or timelines altered. For example, at the beginning of Chapter 12 Tanya and Fabian begin a discussion of something designed to create the fairy sight in someone whos a non-seer, but then suddenly adjourn for no apparent reasonthis could have been cut altogether and worked into a later scene. A scene involving something that needs to occur exactly at midnight seems also to take much longer than the minute allowed.

In addition, because the narrative focuses so squarely in Tanya and Fabian, theres little room for the other key characters to be developed much beyond the initial impressions we receive. Admittedly, this is partly due to the fact characters such as Tanyas grandmother and the Fabians father quite actively distance themselves (for reasons that eventually become clear), but its a little disappointing not to see them as much more than their simple household roles.

In all, though I appreciated 13 Treasures for its immersive qualities and its unrepentant willingness to delve into the darker side of the fairy realm, and enjoyed the mystery element of the plot, I just didnt quite connect with the narrative or the characters quite as much as I wanted to. 

Rating: star Book Review: 13 Treasures by Michelle Harrisonstar Book Review: 13 Treasures by Michelle Harrisonstar Book Review: 13 Treasures by Michelle Harrisonblankstar Book Review: 13 Treasures by Michelle Harrisonblankstar Book Review: 13 Treasures by Michelle Harrison (good)

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  1. Book Review: 13 Treasures by Michelle Harrison These fairies arent the sugar and spice kind. via @readinasitting

  2. This sounds sort of like the Fever series by Karen Marie Moning, full of dangerous fae (Seelie and UnSeelie) and the protagonist trying to find out who is really on her side, if anyone. I do enjoy the darker side of . . . (I almost said Sears)the Seelie.
    Jami Zehr recently posted..Nodds & Nends: Books lists, a Pretty Ursula, and a Crazy Cat Lady Costume

    • Stephanie /

      Theres a series by Steve Augarde thats quite similar as well. I think its more usual for British authors to get in on the doom and gloom side of faerie, as, after all, its hardly all about pretty dresses and Tinkerbellsits the US authors who often seem to take a more sanitised approach.

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