Except The Queen
Jane Yolen and Midori Snyder
cover - hell of a good cover. I liked it, it grabbed my attention and kept it.
Oh my god. There are fantasy book, fairytales, and then there are Fairytales. This is one hell of a story. Told by two writers, with two main characters and at least a few more important secondary characters, this story is one of the more interesting and intricate contemporary fairytales I've read.
Except the Queen begins in the court of the light fey - with two very close sisters, members of the high court witnessing something the queen has done. Unfortunately, though they tried to keep it locked away, after a time it comes out - accidently it's slipped out, and there are whispers and laughs about it throughout the court. The queen has to act, and is very angry, because she cannot afford to lose face with her subjects. She banishes these sisters - beautiful and magical Serena and Meteora. They're banished to the world of humans, separated and each ends up in a huge city far away from each other with no magic. Not only are they stripped of their magic, but of their beauty and immortal youth. They must live as aging women, with all the aches and pains and weaknesses of elderly women.
They have to start out with nothing - not even clothes. One ends up on a train with the legendary Baba Yaga, and the other wakens in a hospital, weak and taken for a homeless woman. Each of them are fortunate to end up in a place - one has to take care of Baba Yaga's house, and the other is set up in an apartment by a social worker. The book is told in alternating points of view - Meteora's story, then Serena's, then Meteora's etc. And once in a while the narrative cuts to the evil one, or to this kid who lives parttime as a dog, and parttime as a human - resisting as best he can his father's strong magical call. It's put together very well.
At first it seems they have only to live and survive, but slowly, they learn that there is a great danger coming from the dark fey. Even though they have been stripped of their magic, living in a modern world affects them, the metals hurt, the noise and pollution bother them and they have to learn to get along in a modern human world. They find that though they don't have magic, they are able to recognize certain magics, work with herbs and talk to animals, etc. Each of them gradually comes to terms with being separated and with their loss of magic and begin to learn how to deal in this new modern world without the other by their side.
Each of them makes friends and comes across evil until everything comes together in a huge threat to the world. Except the Queen was written so well, with so many legendary fairytale like characters popping up that this was a very interesting, compelling read. Though the women were suddenly in older bodies (instead of getting to gradually grow old like we do) and were so devastated by their losses, they ended up with loves, friends, and allies and managed to help others. A very well written dark fairytale with traditional characters and modern characters. The journey from the two being thrown into the modern world with nothing to their learning to live, to support themselves and to eventually make a difference in a major threat was inspiring and fun to read. These two authors should think about writing another book together, Except the Queen was a great read.