• The Good: A mother’s quest to save her daughter through the dark and creepy worlds beyond
  • The Bad: Too short; beware the madcap mushrooms!
  • The Literary: Celtic and Greek mythology

Fay Orr is still struggling with the death of her daughter Daisy. She goes through the motions of life, talks to her therapist, and when she can’t sleep at night, runs through the streets of London. One night she spots something that is more like a dream than reality, and making her way into London Beyond, she encounters the strange creatures that dwell there as she quests to save her lost daughter from the Shadowless Man and his Kingdom of the Dead.

In addition to the warming homely stories of Chocolat, Joanne Harris has a knack for fairy tales and fantasy folklore. In addition to some Norse mythology I haven’t yet read, there is a collection of stories based on the Celtic Child Ballads. Orfeia is one such story, with a nod to Orpheus and Eurydice, the underworld, and faerie.

This modern fairy tale is beautifully written, balancing the line between our world and worlds beyond. It’s decidedly dark and creepy (as all good fairytales are), lush and vivid, with themes of life and death, and a love so strong it’s worth insanity and sacrifice and shadows. The hero’s journey narrative arc is familiar but the story is unpredictable. The accompanying pencil illustrations by Bonnie Helen Hawkins only add to the otherworldly beauty.

I love the characters she first meets as homeless people, Alberon, Cobweb, Mab, Peronelle, and Moth, who follow her throughout the story and come back again and again. I love the juxtaposition of decay and crumbling buildings overgrown with vegetation so ripe it’s choking. I love excessive parties of fae and the stark land of the dead.

The only thing I personally would have liked to see left out is Fay’s previous connection to the worlds below, although I’ll admit I’m not sure how the story would have made sense without it. But I like the idea that Fay’s love for her daughter is like any other mothers’ love, and her determination traversing through the worlds below is what makes Fay special, nothing else.

Recommended for fans of fairy tales and folklore! This is a quick read and well worth your time!