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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Except the Queen by Jane Yolen and Midori Snyder

Except the Queen  was a pleasure.  After my initial doubts in the first short chapters, I settled in for a beguiling story.   In the beginning...

Serana and Medeora are beautiful Fae sisters who have all of the Fae tendencies for mischief.  One day the two sisters learn a secret about the Fairy Queen and realize their own danger.  Although they intend to keep the secret (and their own safety), the secret slips out, and the Queen banishes them instantly.

Serana and Medeora are exiled into our world, but what comes as an even greater shock:  they are no longer young and beautiful.  In the human world, the sisters are old and fat, and they have lost their magic and each other.  Not only did the Queen banish them, but she separated them as well. They try to figure out the human world which mystifies them in so many ways; they mourn the loss of the Greenwood; and most of all, each sister longs for the companionship of the other.

Being dispossessed of youth, beauty, companionship, magic, and familiar surroundings creates an interesting premise, but things get even better as Medeora and Serana discover a secret threat to both this world and the world of Fairy.  Perhaps the banishment has put them in the right place at the right time.

The narrative moves from one sister to the other (and I found Medeora's sections the most involving).  Each sister forms attachments and finds kindness in unexpected places.  Some of the  curious characters include Baba Yaga, a small tribe of Changelings,  a young girl troubled by nightmares (and a tattoo with sinister power), a young man who wants to escape the powers of evil that have haunted his life, a kind grocer, a helpful Jack.

Two rather selfish and arrogant Fae sisters discover within themselves compassion and concern for others as they learn to deal with life without their youthful beauty and magic.  Finding strength and the courage of conviction, Medeora and Serana become totally engaging characters who band with others to defeat the evil that threatens two worlds.

If you like fairy tales or fantasy, I highly recommend this little novel that becomes more and more engrossing as the plot thickens and twists.

Fiction.  Fairy Tale/Fantasy.  2010.  371 pages.


  1. I too read this recently - what a coincidence! I do agree, the book became more and more involving as I read on. I loved it. (And, in case you and your other readers are interested, Jane Yolen is a guest on my blog this week:

  2. This looks like a fun read. I'm not a very big reader of fairy tales but in the right mood this could be a lot of fun. Great review!

  3. This looks really good! I haven't even heard of it before. I will have to see if my library has it. :)

  4. Katherine - I really ended up loving the two sisters (and hope that maybe Yolen and Snyder will consider visiting them again). I'll be sure to check your blog for Yolen's guest spot; thanks for letting us know!

    Iliana - Medeora and Serana as old, fat women, mostly ignored in our society, give a perceptive look at aging. Although our youth and beauty may leave us, our heads and hearts stay young. Unfortunately, in our society, appearances are so important and the elderly often find themselves almost invisible or simply discounted.

    Kailana - I think this one would really appeal to you! Hope your library has a copy. It was on the new book shelf at our library. The book was touching, exciting, and fun!

  5. This book does look fun. I've yet to read any Jane Yolen, but I intend to soon.
    From your description, it seems to have some interesting parallels (while being a completely different plot) to another YA novel (and also a movie) Howl's Moving Castle. The motif of young women transformed into old women changes the protagonists of both novels but in different ways.

  6. Connie - Thanks for reminding me that I still haven't read Howl's Moving Castle, although it has been on my TBR list for a long time! It will be perfect for Carl's Once Upon a Time!

  7. Intriguing. I liked that it sounds as if one could read it in many different ways. Will make a note of it and as soon as I allow myself new books this might be an option.

  8. Caroline - I really enjoyed it, although I had my doubts at first!

  9. Hi, Jenclair! Thanks for visiting my blog! I'm a lifelong reader and bookworm, so your blog appeals! This is one book I'd not heard of though. The fantasy genre isn't one I dip into a lot, but this sounds like a very engaging read. Thanks for the tip! Happy Days :o)

  10. Tracy - I love fantasy, science fiction, nonfiction, mysteries...just about any genre. This was an entertaining read and made me think about how the elderly in our society are often dismissed. Thanks for stopping by!