Spells by Aprilynne Pike
Six months have passed since Laurel saved the gateway to the faerie realm of Avalon. Now she must spend her summer there, honing her skills as a Fall faerie. But her human family and friends are still in mortal danger--and the gateway to Avalon is more compromised than ever.
When it comes time to protect those she loves, will she depend on David, her human boyfriend, for help? Or will she turn to Tamani, the electrifying faerie with whom her connection is undeniable?
Spells suffers from middle-book syndrome. Aprilynne has created a big fantasy world in her Wings series. She uses Spells to tell us everything that Wings didn't get to and that we will need to understand for the third book. As a result, Spells flies all over the place. We get boarding school, herbology, human family concerns, fairy politics, boy trouble, trolls, fairy festivals, and more.
That's not to say Spells is boring - it's quite enjoyable as long as you're expecting a place-setting book rather than a plot-driven book. It is emphasized throughout the book that Laurel and her family's land are still in danger from the trolls. I kept expecting a big action sequence. There were so many hints - characters acting strangely, unexpected events - yet the action wasn't there. When we finally do get an action sequence, it seems like an aside. Everything seems focused on thoroughly immersing us in the fairy world.
Laurel annoyed me throughout this book. For one thing, she leads on poor Tamani and David horribly. She is committed to David, but she's clearly attracted to Tamani and certainly acts like she wants something more out of their relationship. You can chalk this up to her being confused about her feelings and being "cursed" with two equally fabulous guys, but the girl really needs to make up her mind. Also, she is furious over the social structure of fairy society, one that establishes Spring fairies as fourth class citizens and fall fairies as second only to the rare winter fairies. Laurel, understandably, hates that Tamani is expected to bow and walk behind her. While I wouldn't like this class structure either, I wish Laurel was a little more open-minded about fairy culture and didn't try to force modern human mores upon a separate species.
It sounds like I hated this book, but I didn't. The fairy culture is very interesting. I like how each season of fairy has a different function. Fall fairies are "mixers," who use their mind to create herbal concoctions to heal and protect fairies. I love the artsy summer "sparklers." I love that the fairies are the good guys - in so many YA fairy books I've read lately, the fairies are the evil, cunning ones. It's nice to see something different. I love that the love interests are both nice boys. Laurel has reasons to care for them beyond some mystical physical attraction. I loved the ending. A good ending can make up for many flaws in a book and this one did that for me. I was completely surprised by the last few pages and can't wait for Book #3.
Rating: 3 / 5 (this probably merits a 3.5, but I was harsher on this book than perhaps necessary after being so enchanted by Wings)