Review of DREAMDARK: BLACKBRINGER by LAINI TAYLOR
(first in the DREAMDARK series)
I want to start by describing Taylor's fairies and the words tiny, whimsical, and fierce immediately leap to mind. Now that could be because I'm subconsciously stealing from the quote on the cover by Holly Black: "Laini Taylor's faeries are whimsical and tiny, but fierce" or that those adjectives are simply spot-on. In some ways, these seem like your typical fairies. Typical might seem vague now that are so many stories about fairies of all types, but I'm referring to the small ones about the size of a palm that seem quaint by their size alone. However, there's an edge to Taylor's fairies. The one this story follows, named Magpie, spends her days hunting down demons.
I liked the magic system in this world, a funny combination of vague and specific that functions quite well. The role of humans also seems standard for a fey story. We're the foolish ones who keep screwing with the world's order in ways that we're too stupid to comprehend. In this case, a long time ago there was a great war between fairies and demons. For reasons that are explained later, it's always better to capture and imprison a demon than to kill it and so the fairies managed to lock away all the demons, mostly in ordinary bottles. An obvious Pandora's box metaphor, humans see a strange, corked bottle and they want to know what's inside. So the humans go around opening these bottles and releasing demons into the world while fairies like Magpie and her parents clean up the mess.
Most of the demons are crude, brutish things with more brawn than brain. As long as Magpie keeps clear of whatever fangs or claws each one possesses, she can usually dispatch them without too much difficulty. However, an even worse kind of demon has been released, one that Magpie's not sure she knows how to handle.
In earlier reviews, I've professed my adoration of all books by Laini Taylor and this one is no exception. The story held me beginning to end, and any loss or failure on the part of the characters struck me with a strong emotional "Nooo!" and sometimes even a desperate "Maybe if I go back and read it again, it won't happen that way this time!" Also, Magpie is a very relatable protagonist. She's a rare combination of youthful and wise, something that seems entirely believable for her character. She's probably a pre-teen by fairy standards, but given that they live much longer than us, you would expect a pre-teen fairy to have more life experience than a pre-teen human.
The writing flourishes with Taylor's distinct style and she builds a story with such natural ease that you can forget about the writer and immerse yourself in the world.