Disclaimer: I received a free electronic copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.
The Fairy Wren by Ashley Capes is a fantasy novel. It follows Paul Fischer during one of the worst times of his life. Paul is separated from his wife, about to lose his bookstore, nagged by a shady friend, and dealing with an Italian runaway. On top of all of that, he receives a mysterious phone call that makes him concerned for his ex-wife and seems to be stalked by a fairy wren, who appears to be more than just a normal bird.
Paul is the working person’s hero. While he is not in a blue collar field, he has that “real” person charm, which is most strongly reflected in his fights (both literal and figurative) with the rich real estate tycoons. Paul is a complex, imperfect character, and I mean “imperfect” in the best way. He is flawed, and he recognizes it. He reacts poorly under stress, and he quickly becomes the underdog that the reader cannot help but root for.
There are a lot of secondary characters in The Fairy Wren, and Capes does a fantastic job of balancing them. Each character feels fleshed out, even the ones we do not see often, and fits firmly in his/her place in the community. Likewise, the relationships between Paul and the supporting characters feel organic and filled with history. This chemistry makes the story that much more compelling.
As far as the plot goes, there is a lot going on in The Fairy Wren. Paul’s life is falling apart, piece by piece, and he is juggling conflict from all angles. However, Capes masterfully leads the reader down each path and manages to interweave them in a way that is simultaneously creative, sensible, and satisfying. There is rarely a dull moment in the novel, and with the wide variety of Paul’s problems, there is something that will interest nearly every reader in this novel.
That being said, my one critique of The Fairy Wren is that I think the author’s classification of it as a fantasy novel isn’t entirely accurate. There are fantasy elements, most notably at the end, but the rest of the novel reads much more like literary fiction, or perhaps light magical realism. Likewise, there is a thriller element to the novel, especially with the plots around Paul’s friend and Paul’s ex-wife. This was a pleasant and captivating surprise, and I think advertising the thriller edge might attract even more readers.
Overall, The Fairy Wren is a compelling and complex novel. It grapples with serious themes—everything from life, death, and love to financial problems, psychological imbalance, and criminal activity. The novel is captivating and will pull readers through to the end quickly. With the diverse plot points, there is something for everyone (specifically readers of fantasy, literary fiction, magical realism, and thrillers) in The Fairy Wren.
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