“Spirits of the East and Air, I welcome you into our circle and bid you well tidings. On this sacred night of Samhain, come dance with us. Spirits of the South and Fire, I welcome you to feast with us on this sacred night. Spirits of the West and Water, I welcome you to drink and be merry with us tonight. Join our revelries on this sacred eve. Spirits of the North and Earth, I welcome you to this hall and ask that you tell us stories from ages past. Speak easy and loosen thy tongue on this sacred night.”
I’m always looking for faerie/elven stories to read so you could imagine how excited I was to find Heart of the Fae by Emma Hamm. Its a lovely retelling of Beauty and the Beast with an Irish folklore twist. Sorcha, a young midwife, is deep in peril when a plague sweeps across her village and takes root in her father. She had always been respectful of the Fae—leaving them offerings and praying to their deities—so when faced with such tragedy, she turns to them for a favor. In return, Sorcha finds herself sent on a suicidal mission across realms to the Otherworld where the Fae reside. It is there she will meet Eamonn, a banished king with a curse that allows for crystals to grow beneath his skin instead of flesh and blood. Together, they will need to rely upon one another in order to save her family and reclaim his throne.
I enjoyed this story. The world-building was rich and lyrical, the characters were beautifully described in their own gruesome makings, and the amount of references to Fae folklore made me beyond happy. Instead of just using the Fae as her mythical creatures, Hamm included beings like selkies, brownies, nymphs, and boggarts. And those are only a few. I think that when an author attempts to write a story about these specific beings they should always try to include a varying array of them, because, after all, the Fae are only one branch of species in relation to their thousands of kin. Its an entire spectrum of earth spirits we’re referencing.
Hamm even touched upon a favorite element of mine—the Seelie and the Unseelie. Often times, the Unseelie are described as the “dark” Fae (usually autumn and winter), and the Seelie are the “light” (spring and summer). In this book, the seasons don’t play any role but the notion of good and evil certainly does. Lesser Fae are those that don’t appear humanoid by Seelie standards, or don’t appear grotesque enough by Unseelie standards. There is a social contract within both major realms, and the political intrigue on the Seelie side will throw in a few plot twists that will make you question whether you’re reading about the right Fae.
The writing was easy to follow, simply put it was straight forward with a sprinkling of poetic moments here and there. I prefer more emotion and prose in the books I read, but maybe I’m biased because I still enjoyed this one very much. Another slight issue I had with it was the romance. Of course, I was rooting for the two main characters to get hitched since the first page because of the way the synopsis promises them to be lovers…but it somehow still felt forced. Thankfully it didn’t feel rushed, but there were a few times that I had to contemplate why the one character was confessing their emotions to the other when it felt like their wasn’t a basis to their emotional ties just yet.
The plot was decent, but you can surmise a great deal of what will happen because this is a loose retelling of a story that has been retold millions of times. People even draw parallels to another Beauty and the Beast inspired story that also includes the Fae and, yes, you guessed it: A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas. Even though I’ve already begun to see people compare the two, I will just put my two cents out there and say that while they share glaringly obvious similarities, these stories are highly different and unique in their own ways.
All that being said, if you’re in the mood for a cute romance, or (like me) in the mood to always read about the Fae—here’s your next book! I’m currently reading the sequel and thus far it’s even better than the first.