Review: Signe Pike’s ‘Faerie Tale’

Love this!- ‘Fairy Forest’ by C.E. Cornwell, from here

As a lover of all things fairy (or faerie)-related , the premise of Signe Pike’s Faery Tale seemed too good to resist: a young American woman resigns from a high-flying job in publishing so she can travel to various mystical places where the veil between faeries and mortals is thin- all in search of the little folk. I was intrigued by the idea of a New Age guide-meets-memoir, and in particular its focus on supposed hotspots such as Glastonbury (I love Glastonbury!) and the Findhorn community in Scotland.

At first, I was enchanted by Faery Tale’s dreamy prose- for instance, how she deftly describes a vision of an unpleasant, hairy, gnome-like Mexican fairy, the raw beauty of a sunlit forest, and the tokens left at the Fairy Bridge at the Isle of Man. At some points, I felt intrigued by her journey not just to find faeries, but- to an extent- actually summon them into her life. Her encounters of faeries took place in the form of instinctive mental visions, which were both fascinating and thrilling in places.

‘The Fae Dance’ by Asako Eguchi, from here

However, I regret to say that, for me, the enchantment of Pike’s prose soon wore off. Although endearing, gutsy and independent, Pike’s tone seemed to waver between being cynical of the faery folk, and believing wholly in them. This in itself mirrors the way the book flits from being a search for faeries, to a search for consolation following her father’s death. The deeper Pike strays into faery territory, the more she gives herself over to bittersweet memories, dreams and visions of her loving-but-troubled father. I loved the poignancy of these chapters, but to me they felt a little disjointed, as if the author was trying too hard to draw parallels between her quest for faeries and her quest for peace. As a novel, it seemed to be unsure whether it was a magical memoir or an Eat Pray Love style tale of self-fulfillment.

From here

One of the most disappointing features was, for me, the lack of any real faerie presence in a book purportedly all about faeries. In one chapter, Pike buys exquisitely-crafted faery homes, and leaves gifts of watermelon and honey outside themin an attempt to usher the little folk in. She warms spices, recites an incantation (yep, really) and lights candles. Despite her efforts, no faeries appear to her, apart from one very persistent starling outside her window.

Meanwhile, it is not the author but Raven- a Reiki practitioner- who experiences shimmering lights and the music of faery pan-pipes. Personally, I began to wish the story had almost been told from Raven’s point of view, or at least from the point of view of someone not quite so green to the myths, legends and legacies surrounding faeries themselves.
At one point, the author investigates various methods for apparently summoning faeries, from using a ‘small chime and striker’ to burying ‘six white rose petals under an apple tree’ under a full moon. But then dismisses the whole thing due to the lack of apple trees in Central Park. (‘The last time I saw an apple tree in Central Park was…never.’- p.50)

The truth is that Central Park is home to thousands of trees, including apple trees, cherry trees and pear trees. I began to feel that, if the author had done a little bit more research before setting off on her journey, the journey would have been much more well-rounded. She also had a nagging ability to see faery-given ‘signs’ in rather mundane things- for example, a persistent bird.

‘Gnomes’ by Brian Froud (from previous link)

Having said that, what I found most fascinating were the personal accounts the author included from faerie-believers such as Brian and Wendy Froud, a (perhaps a little too deliberately) mysterious faery ‘champion’ named Ninefh, (don’t try saying that when you’ve been drinking too much of that faery mead) and a down-to-earth Irish storyteller. In my opinion, Faery Tale may have worked better as a selection of tales from various sources, rather than as a personal memoir, but is still refreshingly imaginative, daring in parts and highly readable.

-Overall rating: 7 out of 10

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