Wondrous Strange – Lesley Livingston
Kelley Winslow is living her dream. Seventeen years old, she has moved to New York City and started work with a theatre company. Sure, she’s an understudy for the Avalon Players, a third-tier repertory company so far off-Broadway it might as well be in Hoboken, but things are looking up—the lead has broken her ankle and Kelley’s about to step into the role of Titania the Fairy Queen in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Faeries are far more real than Kelley thinks, though, and a chance encounter in Central Park with a handsome young man will plunge her into an adventure she could never have imagined.
For Sonny Flannery, one of the Janus Guards charged by Auberon, the King of Winter, with watching over the gate into the lands of Faerie that lies within Central Park, the pretty young actress presents an enigma. Strong and willful, she sparks against his senses like a firecracker and he can’t get her out of his mind. As Hallowe’en approaches and the Samhain Gate opens, Sonny and Kelley find themselves drawn to each other—and into a terrible plot that could spell disaster for both New York and Faerie alike.
I picked up my copy of Wondrous Strange while at the Leacock Summer Festival back at the end of July and just got around to reading it now. Lesley Livingston is a new author to me but after listening to her read from the book and participate in the discussion that followed I knew that I had to give Wondrous Strange a try and I’m glad that I did.
Wondrous is the first book in a trilogy and it is the coming-of-age story of a seventeen year old girl, Kelley, who has moved to the Big Apple to pursue an acting career. She is an orphan, raised by an eccentric aunt whom we do not meet until the end of the novel. While acting as the understudy for the fairy queen Titania in an off-off-Broadway version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream Kelley is literally surrounded by a colourful cast of characters that become her friends and makeshift family of sorts.
Kelley gets what could be her ‘big break’ when her character’s lead suffers a break of her own and is forced to withdraw from the play. Nerves get the better of her and a poor first rehearsal finds Kelley in Central Park, desperately trying to calm herself and learn her lines, when she meets an attractive young man, Sonny, who is every bit as charming as he is mysterious.
As rehearsals continue Kelley finds that increasingly strange things are happening to her, not the least of which is the reappearance of her mysterious stranger in a manner that leads her to wonder if he is stalking her. Being the spitfire redhead that she is, she fearlessly confronts the young man and an uneasy relationship begins to unfold. Kelley soon discovers however that Sonny isn’t quite what he seems – in fact neither is she. What Sonny knows that Kelley does not is the fact that she is actually a fairy princess who was stolen shortly after her birth and hidden in the human realm.
Unfortunately as events continue to unfold around them it becomes evident that Sonny isn’t the only one who knows the secrets of Kelley’s past, forcing him to enlighten Kelley as to her heritage and birth right. Kelley is in grave danger as the missing fairy princess and Sonny finds himself falling in love with her as he swears to protect her at any cost. Now Kelley must decide if she wishes to remain hidden and living as a human, forsaking the fairy world altogether, or to embrace the fairy blood that runs in her veins and the young changeling who would be her saviour.
As I finished reading the book earlier this evening I sighed at the ending and wished that I had the second book in the trilogy, Darklight, so that I could dive into it right away. Wondrous Strange is a quick, refreshing read and I’m looking forward to its sequel. I enjoyed the way Livingston explained the existence of the fairy world and introduced its various players. Livingston lays it out in such a nice simple manner that I wish I had read this book prior to reading Laurell K. Hamilton’s A Lick of Frost as I now have a much better understanding of the characters and plot of that book due to having read Wondrous. Of course, jumping into a series such as Hamilton’s Meredith Gentry on the sixth book rather than the first causes its own problems, but I digress…
Wondrous is a clean read that blends the popular fairy myths into the modern world in a way that is both entertaining and easy to understand. The action is fast paced, the developing love story sweet (none of the Twilight style angst here), and the characters are extremely likable, especially Bob and Gentleman Jack, in addition to Sonny, Kelley, her quirky room mate, and Sonny’s friend Maddox. I look forward to seeing these characters again in the sequels Darklight and Tempestuous (due out December 21, 2010).
The perfect summer read and a YA novel that manages to appeal to teens and adults alike without relying on sex or gratuitous violence, I rate Wondrous Strange 5 out of 5 Bites.