The Fair Folk by Su Bristow

Rife with British historical fairy lore but laden with imagination creating a tale that feels fresh and new, the reader will find the story of Fliss, a young English country girl swept up in a fantastic world that offers both glamour and danger to be compelling and charming.

The Fair Folk by Su Bristow
Europa Editions
Paperback | $18
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We’ve all read fairy tales, story about fairies, elves and all the “fae” who inhabit the shadow realms near, but not on, the earth. We’ve heard how they bewitch hapless humans, with promises of bright rewards which seldom benefit those to whom the promises have been made. They are tricky, aloof, care nothing for the well-being of their earthbound pawns and always, always exist for their own pleasure.


Felicity Turner, “Fliss” to family and friends, of whom there are few, is an independently minded eight-year-old living on a farm in the English countryside. Her home life is drab, without any sort of imagination or appeal, but she begins to find clues that there are other ways, enchanted ways available to those who seek and are open to them. She encounters beings who live in light, music, games and frivolity and who seem to be willing to admit her to their sphere. As she grows, occasionally encountering Elfrida, a kind of faerie queen and her attendants, playful and volatile goblins, given to rough but cheerful play, her connection to this tempting life matures until she is offered admission, given certain concessions on her part. The impulse to accede is great, but Fliss resists, trepidation dwelling in her heart. Something, however wonderful, seems fraught with danger.


Bristow has created a world of dark and light, of ecstasy and deep fear, of the dichotomy embedded in the life of music, dance, bright images and magic with which Fliss is courted. But, as Hob, a goblin who is singularly attached to Fliss is wont to say, “Promises are piecrust.” Be careful, the pledge to bestow favors may hide a sinister motive and may not bring what you truly want: they are also notoriously brittle and can crumble in ways that negate any benefits that may accrue.


Lyric and captivating, the story flows rapidly and with unceasing appeal as the complex machinations of the fae emerge, all crafted with skill that seems invisible but works its magic constantly, keeping the reader enraptured. Any reader of fantasy will love this, but just about any reader can find within this tale much of interest. Certainly, the inclusion of numerous examples of “real” myths and tales from the British tradition of the invisible world shore up the feel of substance to this gossamer story.