So there’s a whole bunch of these urban fantasies (meaning they take real cities, and real life, and then put fantastical elements into it) that feature faeries that are evil/bad/dangerous and MALE, interacting with girl heroines who are either just plain human, changeling, or part fairy.

Some well-known ones in order of my own personal taste:

Tithe by Holly Black

Lament by Maggie Stiefvater

Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr

Wondrous Strange by Lesley Livingston

First, before I explain, let’s compare capsule reviews.

Tithe: Girl meets fairy knight in forest, finds out she’s a green pixie, falls in love with knight, finds out faeries want to sacrifice her to Hell for 7 years of peace. No happily ever after with knight. Faeries are cruel and capricious and bleak.

Lament: Girl harpist meets changeling, finds out she has fairy powers, falls in love with changeling, finds out queen wants to kill her for her powers. The power of luuuuuurve and music set them free. No Happily ever after with changeling. Love triangle with best friend. Faeries are cruel because of human frailties in the queen, not because of their nature.

Wicked Lovely : Girl who can see fairies meets fairy prince. Doesn’t fall in love ’cause she already has a human boyfriend. Prince needs her to become King of Summer. Complicated relationships and shenanigans ensue. Girl gets boyfriend, but has to be fairy consort. Cool fairies who are capricious and powerful and angsty.

Wondrous Strange : Girl meets changeling boy who kills fairies trying to cross over to our world. Girl finds out she’s the daughter of fairy king. Girl and boy fight bad fairies. No Happily Ever After with boy. Fairies are cruel and self=centered, but don’t seem to cause lasting damage to anybody.

So now let me explain my ranking.

I love Tithe because the fairies are scary. They can and do lasting emotional damage to the humans. There is no feeling of safety, even the fairy knight seems dangerous. I also love how Holly Black pulls no punches in portraying the equally capricious and difficult world of teenhood in the real world. So for danger and true-to-life teens with true-to-life problems, I go with Tithe as #1. I also liked the other two in the series.

Lament and Wicked Lovely are actually neck in neck in my book. I like them because the relationships portrayed between the girls and their love interests are a focal part of the story, not just the fairy goings on. I love how the girl in Lament feels so awkward all the time even though other people see her as an accomplished harpist. I love how Aislinn in Wicked Lovely is so capable and worldly, and yet can’t figure out how to be both a friend and lover to the two important men in her life.

Wondrous Strange gets the lowest in the ranking not because it’s badly written or the characters are uninteresting. People who read the first three books would probably enjoy this book. However, there is less at stake in this book for me. The fairy danger seems removed. The ‘bad’ fairies end up helping the main character. The attacks on humans aren’t described in enough detail to let us know there is lasting damage. The secondary characters around the girl are revealed to be fairies in disguise when the whole premise of the book is supposed to be that the love interest kills fairies who try to come through to the real world. I just didn’t feel tension. Although, I LOVED the whole juxtaposition of the main girl being an actress in a production of a Midsummer’s Night Dream with all the fairy action.

And so I am looking forward, also, to another book in this same vein, Eyes Like Stars by Lisa Mantchev which is also fairies and Shakespeare plays together in an urban fantasy. It’s on my reading list.

However, as a wrap up, let me say that one of the reasons I like reading this fairy stuff is because these books portray fairies not as your tinkerbell friend, but as dangerous and potent male beings who are intent upon getting something from the girl protagonists. Just substitute sexual awareness for fairydom and you’ve got a whole interesting way to look at the old trope of a girl awakening into her sexual maturity while being tempted by powerful male beings already conversant with the magic and power plays of how humanity interacts with itself.

Pretty cool.

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