I read this book as part of a review exchange with the amazing Claire Banschbach, published author of two other YA fantasy novels, The Rise of Aredor and The Wildcat of Braeton. She kindly reviewed my novelette, Secrets in Seaport, and the wonderful things she had to say about it immensely relieved much of the low book-esteem I’ve been suffering with since publishing it. 🙂
An original story of love, conflict, adventure, and chock-full of mythical creatures, Adela’s Curse has to be one of the cleanest YA fantasy novels I’ve read in a while. Adela, a happy young faery, is tricked by a pair of conniving “mortals,” who bind her to them with dark sorcery and force her to use her magical powers to suit their twisted agendas. Adela is forced to do whatever they tell her – or die. And every faery fears death above all nasty fates! (To borrow another science fiction franchise’s terminology, faeries typically “ascend to a higher plane of existence” when their material bodies expire, instead of dying the way people do.) Adela is a clever faery, and finds creative ways to resist and delay her captors’ machinations, but can she find a way overcome her curse completely before it’s too late?
Claire Banschbach is true a master of world building and fantasy storytelling. There’s a certain light, airy, jovial tone to her writing that makes me (as a reader) feel like I’m being carried through the fantasy world on my own pair of faery wings.
The supporting characters are endearing and complex – my favorite has to be Estella, Adela’s caring but meddlesome cousin and guardian. (Estella reminded me a little of Aunt Melanie, rather the real-life “Aunt Melanie” who inspired my book’s character.) At times, we are offered a peek into the story from their perspectives, which in turn provides explanations to several things our heroine wouldn’t otherwise know – a convenience that only the third-person narration (and the wit of a clever author) can offer.
I’ll be honest, I’m a little wary of books categorized as religious fiction, especially for a religion I don’t practice. Religious fiction in general is still not my cup of tea, but having read this book from cover to cover, I feel like Adela’s Curse is more of a regular fantasy book that happens to appeal to a religious audience, because its content wouldn’t conflict with traditional values and sensitivities.
I’ve started making a list of books that I hope to someday read with my children before bedtime, a chapter at a time. These books need to have positive messages, gripping plots, and minimal to no content that needs to be skipped over. This book is for sure going to be on that list. Adela’s Curse is a thrilling original fairy tale that I would recommend to fantasy-loving readers of any religion, ages 12 and up.
And now for the content advisory stuff. I’ll start off by saying that I have not read a cleaner YA fiction book. There’s some cute, clean romantic tension between Adela and the Count / Adela and another faery, but Claire handles this element of the story with great care and class. There’s some kissing, but it’s described in only the briefest and politest of terminology. Claire proves that writing about “love” can be done tastefully. If that still bothers you, I’d go so far as to say this book is tamer than your average Disney movie.
In terms of overtly religious/theological/spiritual elements, Adela worships a “Creator.” This entity is mentioned only a few times in passing.
Enchantments and sorcery play important roles in this story. The author presents the good magic, which practically radiates from Adela and her faery kin, and dark magic, used by the selfish and wicked sorcerer. The dynamic between good and bad magic parallels the two sides of the Force in Star Wars. The faeries bestow kind, positive, poetic “blessings” on special people. In the case of the dark magicians, we don’t ever learn the words to their enchantments. If anyone’s worried their kids will be running around the house repeating spells of witchcraft and wizardry after reading this book, fear not. 😀