Friday, February 10, 2012

The Faerie Ring by Kiki Hamilton

It's 1871, Queen Victoria is on the throne, and in an abandoned building near Charing Cross Station in London, Tiki and her adopted family of street orphans are just trying to get by picking pockets.  Then one day, Tiki hitches a ride on the back of a cab and ends up in gorgeous house, where she sees a compellingly beautiful gold ring.  Tiki can't resist and she pockets the ring.  However, it turns out that her cab went to one of the most important residences in the country and the ring Tiki's just stolen belongs to the royal family.  Even worse, the ring is the key to maintaining a very important treaty--an agreement to keep peace between the human world and hidden realm of Faerie.  Now that treaty is on the verge of collapsing and it's up to Tiki to fix it.  With the help of the mysterious thief Rieker and curious Prince Leopold, Tiki must try to save the treaty--and her family--in time.

A unique little subgenre of fiction combining either actual historical facts and setting or strong historical elements with magic appears to be emerging from the sometimes overwhelmingly diverse area of fantasy novels.  I've taken to calling books that fall into this group, 'historical fantasy'--a name I'm blantantly borrowing from wonderful author Elizabeth C. Bunce, whose first novel A Curse Dark As Gold fits into this category quite nicely.  As a huge fan of both historical fiction and fantasy, I'm thrilled to see more novels coming out that manage to meld these genres.  The Faerie Ring, Kiki Hamilton's debut novel, is a delightful and thrilling addition to this growing subgenre!

Blending together elements from fairy tales like Cinderella with Dickensian street orphans and a unique take on darkly powerful fairies, Kiki Hamilton has created a throughly original and enjoyable tale.  Tiki is an appealing heroine: a spunky, sturdy survivor with quick wits and big heart.  She's tough yet vulnerable and she will do anything to protect the family of other orphans that she holding together.  The supporting characters are also interesting, especially the mysterious Rieker.  From the gritty streets of Victorian London to the glitter of the royal residences, the historical setting is rich with detail and deeply enjoyable to get lost in.  The magical elements blend well into the world of Victorian England, where superstitions and fairy stories exist alongside emerging technological and social change.  The multiple mysteries surrounding the ring and both Tiki and Rieker's identities are full of exciting and unexpected twists and turns and although the novel's plot winds to a satisfying conclusion, Hamilton definitely leaves enough interesting loose ends to keep the way for a sequel wide open.   I definitely look forward to the possibility of reading more of Tiki's adventures.

The various takes on fairies/faeries, such as the Wings series by Aprilynne Pike, have been popular among my 7th and 8th graders recently and in my first post-Winter Break booktalk to the 7th grade, The Faerie Ring was one of the most demanded options.  This enchanting debut can appeal to fantasy fans, faerie tale fanatics, and historical fiction lovers of a wide age range and I look forward to seeing more from Kiki Hamilton!

4 1/2 STARS

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