The Treachery of Beautiful Things
By Ruth Frances Long
The trees swallowed her brother whole, and Jenny was there to see it. Now seventeen, she revisits the woods where Tom was taken, resolving to say good-bye at last. Instead, she's lured into the trees, where she finds strange and dangerous creatures who seem to consider her the threat. Among them is Jack, mercurial and magnetic, with secrets of his own. Determined to find her brother, with or without Jack's help, Jenny struggles to navigate a faerie world where stunning beauty masks some of the most treacherous evils, and she's faced with a choice between salvation or sacrifice--and not just her own.
When I look for a good book, I look for something that transports me from my world into the story. I want to get lost and whether the story is pretty or not, I want to feel like I'm a way from my world and in another. While reading The Treachery of Beautiful Things not only did I get fully immersed in another world, but I was reminded of the fairy tales I read as a child that weren't always so pretty, that had bad things happen in them to teach lessons and punish and sometimes just because. As I read, I remembered those old stories and was enchanted by fairy tales once again. These were the fairies I grew up with, not the ones that have been created by some of my favorite authors. These are the ones to be frightened of at night and when you walk in the woods alone.
Jenny and Tom, sister and brother are walking home from his flute lesson when Tom is literally snatched by the trees in Branley Copse when he was just fourteen and she was ten. It haunts her for years through countless psychiatrists and pills they try to convince her she didn't see what she saw. And her mother and father silently blame her, she thinks, wishing it were her instead of him. But, after she graduates from boarding school, she faces her fears and thinking she hears Tom playing his flute, she ventures into the woods. At once, she finds herself not in Branley Copse, but in a different world, the fairy world though she doesn't know it yet, and she learns the lesson of the treachery of beautiful things.
Such a befitting title. It conveys so many meanings. Jenny is caught up in a war between Titania and Oberon between Mab and Titania between the Oak King and Oberon between the Wild and the Tame, between the Fae and Human. It's a timeless war fought for centuries and the winners never seem to change. Jenny meets Puck who goes by many names and Jack, who also goes by many names, one very surprising to me. Jack guards the edge between the two worlds and it is his job to escort Jenny back to the edge to her world. But she wants to stay to find Tom. And Jack can't escort her at night. He has other duties at night. So misadventures begin and Jenny learns that she can't trust anyone. Jack does give her a few rules like don't eat anything except fruit or water so she won't become Fae. She remembers these rules and a few others as the story goes on to keep herself safe.
I found it a little hard to get into the rhythm of the writing but after a few chapters I began to fall right into the story. Jenny is smart and after an encounter with "beautiful things" that leaves her hurt, she is mistrusting of anyone and anything. She does find herself in need of rescuing a few times, but she's also the rescuer of more than one thing in the forest. She is the antithesis of all that is wrong in this Fairyland. Jack is described as mercurial and I'll agree to that, though there are reasons for it and I was just waiting for the full truth to be revealed.
Puck is Puck. He's a trickster, not to be trusted, sometimes to be trusted. a friend, a betrayer. He's just Puck, but how can you not like Puck? He was there when it counted the most and that's what mattered. Jenny knew not to trust him yet she did anyway because who else could she trust?
The Sidhe, the Queen's court, is as cold and unfeeling as Titania. The first we see of her is when she is trying to track the Piper, who we believe might be Tom, who has run away from her. He's to be the blood tithe in a few days time and they need to find him. When the tracker is unable to locate him, she gives him a head start then sends her hounds after him. The Sidhe courtiers, with Titania behind them, follow with glee as the hounds tear him to shreds.
This is a long story, almost four hundred pages, but any shorter and it would feel rushed. It has beautiful, lush imagery and dark adventure. The woods are alive and something is always watching them be it day or night as Jenny, Jack and Puck travel to find Tom. It's a great story and again, you'll get lost in the telling of it. There are creatures from all over the fairy lore, Kobolds, Nixies, Sprites, Goblins, Elves, Foletti, and Leczis. There's even a dragon.
It made for a beautiful fairy tale and one I won't soon forget. It isn't typical, it isn't a retelling as far as I know, but it was sure worth the reading. It was a savory read, not one I rushed through. I took three days to read it instead of one and I enjoyed each and every word. Definitely going on the special shelf.
Great for any lover of fairy tales, just not the sweet lovable fairies. This was a clean read though the protagonist is older, just graduated I think any YA lover of fantasy would enjoy it.