They had the freedom to write whatever they chose, just as I’d had the freedom to paint what I chose; yet we’d agreed on a central premise: a recognition that Faerie, inextricably bound as it is to nature and natural forces, is gravely threatened by the ecological crises that human beings have brought to our world. — Brian Froud
I am here on this wonderful Spring morning to recommend four short novels planned for Brian Froud’s Faerielands from Charles De Lint, Patricia McKillip, Midori Snyder, and Terri Windling.
Back in the late Eighties, Brian Froud collaborated with four authors who would write a story based off of his artwork, rather than Brian creating artwork for an existing story. These four tales are called the Faerieland Series and due to publishing issues only three were released with Brian Froud’s artwork (The Wood Wife, The Wild Wood and Something Rich and Strange). Yes, three even though the Froud website says two as The Wood Wife was published in the UK with the intended artwork.
Each novel is among the best each of these authors has done. Indeed one of them The Wood Wife, is the only true novel that author has done to date! It’s arguable (at least by me though Terri Windling disagrees on this point) that in the case of The Wood Wife that the Susan Seddon Boulet cover art is more fitting to its setting than lush freeness of the Froud art she worked off of.
So how are the novels themselves? The Wood Wife, which deservedly won the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature, is, I think, the best of the four novels, with interesting characters, a unique setting in the Southwest USA desert, and a unique take on local folklore. I’ve re-read a half dozen times over the years as it’s that good.
Just as good in a different way is de Lint’s The Wild Wood, as the subject, an artist who though with sight can no longer see in an a artistic sense, and the Froud art perfectly match each other.
Mckillip’s Something Rich and Strange simply didn’t appeal to me. It’s set in the Pacfic Northwest where she lives and just feels flat. Nor did it really appeal to our reviewer: ‘This is an odd novel, and won’t be to everyone’s taste. It is, in itself, rich and not a little strange.’ it’s the only one of the four that I didn’t finish.
Midori’s Hannah’s Garden is a contemporary fantasy published as YA novel concerning fairies, folk music, and dysfunctional family dynamics. It’s set in rural Wisconsin and frankly felt flat to me both in terms of setting and the characters in it.
It was I think an interesting idea that really wasn’t as well executed as it could have been.