Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Good Fairies of New York

The Good Fairies of New York
By Martin Millar
(Author's Website, Blog)
Publisher: TOR Fantasy
Published on June 2008
ISBN-13: 9780765358547
288 pages

First sentence: Dinnie, an overweight enemy of humanity, was the worst violinist of New York, but was practicing gamely when two cute little fairies stumbled through his fourth-floor window and vomited on the carpet.

I do not know where to begin when I sat down to write this review after I had finished The Good Fairies of New York by Martin Millar days ago. It is an eccentric, funny and crazy fantasy. In the story, there are all kinds of fairies: the Chinese, the Italians and even the Africans. The 18-inch-tall stars of the story, however, are the two often-intoxicated Scottish fairies. There are also a few other fugitive ones who are running away from the evil Tala, Cornwall's fairy king.

Equally important are the human protagonists namely Kerry who is stricken with Crohn's disease who hopes to win a local arts competition with her Ancient Celtic Flower Alphabet; Dinnie, a foul-mouthed, overweight man who is always on the verge of being evicted from his apartment; Magenta, a homeless bag lady who thinks she's the ancient Greek general Xenophon; and even the ghost Johnny who was a former rockstar and has not given up searching for his stolen guitar, the 1958 Gibson Tiger Top. Johnny even capitalizes on the Chinese Hungry Ghost Festival for that purpose.

The story is like this: Thistle fairies Heather MacKintosh and Morag MacPherson end up in New York, into the apartment of the fat and foul Dinnie MacKintosh. Both fairies have the intention of starting their fairy punk rock band, but are distracted in matchmaking the two humans for their own gain. These two unusual-looking, punk fairies often bicker with each other. In a heated fairy argument, Heather stays on with Dinnie while Morag takes off to be with Kerry.

Not only that, because of these two fairies, a street brawl happens between gangs of Italian, Chinese and African fairies. Misunderstanding after misunderstanding occurs until it is dizzying just to keep up with them. Kerry’s beautiful and rare triple-bloomed Welsh poppy keeps going in circles, falling into the hands of various people and fairy alike, and always—it always ends up in Magenta’s hand. That poppy is an important part of the Flower Alphabet; without it, Kerry cannot enter the competition. Could you imagine the frustration and anxiety of the whole situation?

It is absolute chaos when everything starts closing in on Heather and Morag. Not forgetting in the meantime, they are to unite Dinnie and Kerry together. Heather attempts to teach Dinnie to play the fiddle without him sawing the instrument into two, and supervises him on a diet to lose weight if he were to win Kerry’s attention. She even robs the Italian bank (thus the problem with Italian fairies) to pay for Dinnie’s supply and to avoid him from being evicted. Morag, on the other hand, gets into trouble with the Chinese fairies. In Central Park, the fugitive fairies have another set of problems.

A word of warning though: If you intend to pass this on to a young child to read thinking it is a fairy tale, you would be exposing them to pretty heavy sexual elements. For example, almost at every end of sub-chapters involving Dinnie, his television would be blaring out advertisements of phone sex of every kind. Here’s a milder one minus the F-word: “Call 970 C-L-I-T for the hottest phone sex in New York,” whispered a naked woman on the television screen. It shows a glimpse of life in New York.

And then, the fairies do engage freely in sexual acts even between siblings. Seriously, I did not know that such parts exist in the story, but if you could overlook all of that, it actually makes a pretty intriguing tale; sweet, funny and heartwarming. I read some reviews saying that the book is a waste of time, but I beg to differ. It is funny to see how the props in the book (including the poppy) keep circulating, and fairy behaviours mirroring humans too. I had lots of laugh-out-loud and “oh no, not again!” moments. Some of the LOL moments (at least it was when I first read them):

She was also a talented painter, sculptor, singer and writer, a dedicated shoplifter and a serious collector of flowers. And she is keen guitarist, but her technique was dreadful. (p.4)

A squirrel hopped over to join them.
“Hello,” said Brannoc politely, despite his terrible hangover.
“What the hell are you?” demanded the squirrel.
“We are fairies,” answered Brannoc, and the squirrel fell on the grass laughing, because the New York squirrels are cynical creatures and do not believe in fairies.

There is a five-page introduction by Neil Gaiman (64 miles from New York; Millar is in London) and he said: “Read it now, and then make your friends buy their own copies. You’ll thank me someday.” So yes, go get yourself a copy and I hope that you will enjoy it.

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