Low fantasy, you might be surprised to hear, has just as much a place in my heart as high fantasy. I love elves and swords and high stakes, don’t get me wrong, but a story about modern characters faced with magic in the real world takes me away just as easily. Probably because that stuff tends to be fluffier—easier to read. And, naturally, when those modern characters are teenagers, and the magic of a fairy sort, I know a journey is about to begin.
Morgan Sparks and Cameron Browne have been inseparable since they were young children, and they’re about to celebrate a grand, joint Sweet Sixteen birthday party. But then they discover something remarkable about Cam: he’s a fairy king, sent away from the fairy world on the day of his birth, now due to take the throne. Sent to replace Cam is Pip, a shy human boy who has never fit into either world. Cam will ultimately be sent back to the fairy world on his sixteenth birthday, so it’s a race against time to figure out how to keep Cam in this world, without upsetting the balance between the worlds…
This is actually my third time reading this book. It’s another one where, no matter how many times I read it, I can never decide if it is actually good, or just meh. Obviously, the story is melodramatic teenage fluff, which is part of its charm. But there is one thing that never gets a good explanation.
You see, Morgan’s key characteristic, aside from being kind of a snooty rich girl, is that she has visions of the future. It’s actually the first thing we learn about her: she has told her classmates’ futures for years, and she has never, ever been wrong. It’s clearly a unique talent, but it doesn’t hold a lot of water until the second act, when Pip, Cam’s replacement, tells her that she is an enchantress.
Okay, fine. But, question from the audience: if Morgan is an enchantress, where did that power come from? Is anyone else in her family a psychic? Does that mean that she might have come from the fairy world too? Would she be able to cross over into the fairy world on some other occasion?
Plainly put, I have a lot of questions about where Morgan’s psychic power even came from. It serves no other purpose other than shoehorning a lesson about Morgan not letting her destiny define her. And besides, if Morgan has been telling correct fortunes for so many years, why is Cam being a fairy any more surprising? Basically, this plot device is clumsily handled, even if it is an interesting one.
Flimsy plot devices aside, I do like this cast of characters. Morgan is very much a snooty teenager, but she still has a good heart. She cares very much for both Cam and Pip, but can also stand up to the fairies that threaten her. Her character arc goes hand-in-hand with her visions, so it’s not the most believable, but she’s still likable.
There isn’t a whole lot to Cam and Pip, but their dynamic is kind of interesting. Pip is the actual son of the family that adopted Cam, so Cam’s parents have to come to grips with Cam leaving them, as well as finding that their real son is alive. We don’t see it firsthand, but we get hints of how hard it is for this family to adjust to this fantastical turn of events.
Though I will say that Pip is freaking adorable! He’s a human who was raised among fairies, so Morgan tries to show him how to be a human teenager. The saddest—but also the cutest, kind of—part is that fairies don’t know what love is, so Pip has never known a true interpersonal connection. To watch him and Morgan open up to each other and work together is truly sweet; you just want to give the guy a hug.
Speaking of fairies, we never actually see the fairy world firsthand. We get a feel for this world and its rules through Pip expositing about his life there, and we do meet one real fairy named Dawn, who is in charge of prepping Cam for fairy life. But we never see this cruel but magical world. I remember being kind of disappointed about that the first time I read this book, but it makes sense the more I think about it.
Indeed, there are some parts of the story that I wish we had seen more of, but this is Morgan’s story. Cam becoming a fairy and Pip coming to replace him are compelling stories on their own, but this is not the story here. Morgan has to learn to control her own destiny and be her own person apart from Cam. If we tried to squeeze all these components into this story, it would be a little crowded. Maybe someday we’ll get this same story from Cam or Pip’s perspective, but Morgan’s story is just as valid as those ones.
Not everything really gels in this book, but the compelling characters and their honest relationships make it pretty enjoyable. It’s also a short book, so if you feel like escaping for a few hours, you could use this as your escapist gateway.