Author: Laini Taylor
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Publication Date: June 2007
Paperback: 448 pages
Stand alone or series: Book 1 in two book series called “Faeries of Dreamdark”
Magpie Windwitch is not like other faeries, most of whom live in tranquil seclusion. When she learns that escaped devils are creeping back into the world, she travels all over with her faithful clan of crows, hunting them down. The hunt will take her to the great forest of Dreamdark, where she must unravel the mystery of the worst enemy her folk have ever known. Can one small, determined faerie defeat the forces that threaten to unmake the world?
How did we get this book: Bought
Why did we read this book: We have heard nothing but AMAZING things about Laini Taylor’s writing, and both of us were eager to finally give her books a try! What better place to start with her first novel, Blackbringer?
Thea: I have heard nothing but singing praise for the books of Laini Taylor, so my expectations were pretty darn high when I started Blackbringer. But holy winged fairies, Batman! This first novel of the Faeries of Dreamdark was totally awesome. I found myself falling in love with Laini Taylor’s descriptions, her characters, the cadence of each character’s speech, and the world she has created with Dreamdark. Yeah, you could say I’ll be back for more.
Ana: I am no newbie to Laini Taylor’s fantastic writing, having read the amazing Lips Touch last year. I can safely say that after reading Blackbringer this author has been cemented as an auto-buy: and how could it not be so? Great plotting, great characters, great prose combine to an altogether solid reading experience that can only make me a happy reader.
On the Plot:
Thea: The overall plot for Blackbringer is a familiar one – a great evil, a darkness, has risen and threatens to not only take over the land, but to destroy the very fabric of the world. Young Magpie Windwitch (granddaughter of an elemental wind, sister to seven crows, nomadic fairy and monster-hunter) comes across an opened bottle, fished out of the sea by men (“mannies”) and it’s magical seal broken – but this is no mere underling monster. Magpie discovers that however unwittingly, these ignorant humans have unleashed a great darkness that threatens to destroy everything. In order to prevent this hungry beast’s advance, Magpie journeys back to Dreamdark to find the oldest and most powerful of the seven Djinn that created the universe, named the Magruwen, and implore his help. Though her task seems impossible, Magpie is no ordinary young sprout – she has a destiny beyond her wildest dreams, and the world rests on her tiny, winged shoulders.
How much did I love the writing in this book? How much did I love the world Ms. Taylor creates with Dreamdark, Issrin Ev, and the Moonlit Gardens? The powers of the long-slumbering Djinn, the ever-destructive force of the Blackbringer, the ignorant Mannies, the serendipitous imps, and the forgetful faeries?
I LOVED IT ALL.
Just as the Djinn weave their magics and create a tapestry of being, so too does Ms. Taylor weave an enchanting world for her readers. I, for one, found myself completely immersed from the first page – from the descriptions to the character mannerisms. The background conflict is familiar (as is the “special” nature of protagonist Magpie), but it’s written in such a whimsical way, in such a beautifully layered and described world, that it made me feel like a little girl again, reading a fairy story for the very first time.
And speaking of fairies – in Blackbringer they are tiny, fierce, magical creatures once more! Faeries are hardly ever tiny anymore (though they certainly are ferocious and cruel) – and I dig that. Blackbringer makes me think of Peter Pan, of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, of John Anster Fitzgerald (pictured below in Additional Thoughts) and Brian Froud’s illustrations.
While I loved basically everything, there were a few tiny drawbacks. For one, I think this book was on the protracted side – I found my attention wavering eversoslightly by the last third of the book. In comparison, the final battle comes pretty quickly and is resolved without much ado. Still this is a very minor quibble – I found myself thoroughly enjoying this lovely book.
Ana: Yes, the plot is a familiar one; yes the main character is the special heroine who is destined to save the world and yes, it all seems impossible at first, seeing as how aforementioned heroine is a miniscule sized fairy. Yet, as Thea, I LOVED it and here is why:
For Laini Taylor’s grasp of familiar Fantasy tropes which she infuses with creativity and heart, making them if not necessarily new, at least charming, enchanting and engaging. And that is one the signs of a good writer to me.
And even as familiar as it was (the dark is rising!), I still was very much interested in learning about how it all came to me and the intricacies of the fairies’ and Djinn (that yes, wholly unique to me) mythology. The only drawback was the anticlimactic ending. The entire book was a huge build- up towards the face off against the Greasest!Darkest!Baddest! force of all time and when it came, it was over too easily and too fast. It was like Lord of the Rings all over again. I remember that sentiment of frustration I had when after all they went through after what felt like a millennium of suffering to fight Sauron the only casualty was…..Frodo’s finger. But I digress. My point is, there was enough plot here, enough good things to extend this fight for at least one more book. It just ended too fast.
An aside: Thea cited a few examples of miniscule-yet-fierce fairies and that reminds me of another recent example which I also loved, Knife by R.J. Anderson
On the Characters:
Thea: Just as with the storytelling, the characters of Dreamdark are a pure delight. Magpie Windwitch, our intrepid heroine, is in many ways the typical, gifted-beyond-her-wildest-dreams ragamuffin, but she’s so damn endearing, the use of the trope hardly registers. She’s wild, brave and impossibly gifted with abilities – but that’s all tied into her unique heritage. I loved her relationship with her brother/protector/friend crows, with her old nurse imp, and with her friends Poppy and Talon. ALL of the characters are varied and wonderful, my favorites being Talon (O.M.G. love Talon – as I’m sure Ana will reiterate) the prince whose father and kingdom rejects him because of his stunted wings, Poppy the kind and softspoken faerie that can talk to plants, the formidable Magruwen, and – of course! – the beautiful, legendary faery warrior Bellatrix.
Although, I will have to agree with something that Kristen of the awesome Fantasy Cafe says in her review of the book – the only quibble I have with the characters is how clearly good or evil they are. Not that it’s a bad thing, necessarily, but I love me my ambiguously (im)moral characters.
Ana: I believe that the characters Blackbringer are the added flavouring in this story. As much as Magpie (and what a GREAT name!) is wonderful if not especially complex, I completely lost my heart to her clan of Crows and to Talon. The former for their mixture of fierceness in time of need or for their mothering of Pie or for just how much FUN they were. I mean, they used to be a travelling theatre band! Crows. Who put on wigs to perform. How whimsically fun. And with dialogue pearls such as “curiosity killed the eejit”, how could I not love them?
And then there was Talon. The moment he stepped into the story, daydreaming at the top of a tower, part of a clan of warriors of which he could never be truly a part of as he couldn’t fly because of his stunted wings, I knew. I knew that he was the hero, if there was going to be one. And I fell in love with him, and he was awesome. His scenes with his wings (the lack of them) were poignant but also genius.
And the tattoos. I am easy that way.
I loved them all so much that the thought of the lack of ambiguity didn’t even cross my mind…
Final Thoughts, Observations & Rating:
Thea: Blackbringer was my first exposure to Laini Taylor, and I am one very happy camper. I loved this fabulous book, and I cannot wait to read more from this very talented author. (And, as I’m told, her books just get better – I cannot freaking wait!)
Ana: I highly recommend this to YA and Fantasy readers alike – Blackbringer is a wonderful book with a vivid characters. And I can’t wait to read the sequel either. Another joint, Thea!
Notable Quotes/Parts: You can read an official excerpt online at Amazon.com via the “Look Inside” feature HERE.
Additional Thoughts: The art! Oh the art! Blackbringer is illustrated by Laini Taylor’s husband, the very talented Jim Di Bartolo. In fact, he’s the artist for all three of Ms. Taylor’s current books. Check out his interior illustration below:
And, as mentioned earlier, Ms. Taylor’s take on fairies is reminiscent of some old favorite works of literature and art. In particular, this picture from John Anster Fitzgerald comes to mind.
Thea: 8 – Excellent
Ana:8 – Excellent
Reading Next: Fade by Lisa McMann