Forget cute fairies in pretty dresses. In the world of Aluvia, most fairies are more like irritable, moody insects. Almost everyone in the world of Aluvia views the fairy keeper mark as a gift, but not fourteen-year old Sierra. She hates being a fairy keeper, but the birthmark is right there, showing everyone she was born with the natural ability to communicate, attract and even control the tiny fairies whose nectar is amazingly powerful. Fairy nectar can heal people, but is also a key ingredient in synthesizing Flight, an illegal elixir that produces dreaminess, apathy and hallucinations. Sierra is forced to care for a whole hive of beasties by her Flight-dealing, dark alchemist father. Then one day, Sierra discovers the fairies of her hatch are mysteriously dead, and the queen is missing. Desperate to protect her sister from being sold to another alchemist to make up for her father's lost profits, Sierra sets out to retrieve the lost queen and restore her father's operation. The problem? Sierra's queen wasn't the only one to disappear, they all did. Sierra journeys with her best friend and her worst enemy - assigned by her father to watch her every step - to find the missing queens, but along the way they realise that more than just her sister's life is at stake if they fail.
I'm not a big fan of fairy stories, so I was quite hesitant going into this book. But I am really glad to say, I was pleasantly surprised. The story itself had some really interesting twists and turns, even though I can't really say that I didn't see most of them coming. That seems to be an issue with most YA/fantasy books I've been reading recently, but I guess this hunger for originality is a necessary side-effect of reading so many books. What the plot lacked in uniqueness, though, was more than made-up for by the author's writing abilities and the characters. I had no problem immersing myself in the land of Aluvia, and I loved the way the author managed to give all the information necessary without it ever feeling like a lecture.
I really enjoyed the characters in this book. I loved how Sierra spent most of the journey trying to make sense of her feelings and resolving her inner conflict about her role as Fairy Keeper. And the bond she shared with her sister, her willingness to sacrifice everything just for her definitely made me like her a lot. I love strong sisterly bonds between characters, and the way this was constructed really made me feel the depth of Sierra's love for her sister, even though sometimes it reminded me just a bit too much of Katniss and Prim's relationship in The Hunger Games. The secondary characters were also great to read about, and I really enjoyed getting to know them better throughout the book. I particularly liked how deep Nell turned out to be, and my feelings towards her definitely changed a lot by the end! The only thing I really wasn't sold on was the romance. It felt way too much like something that just had to be there, because hey, we can't have a YA without some romance, right? But, at the end of the day, it didn't bother me terribly, even though it did considerably slow down the pace of some sections of the book that just could have moved faster without it.
Overall, this was a very pleasant read. It is likely to amuse non-fairy-lovers like myself as much as those who love a good fae story, since while the fairies are essential to the plot, a lot of space is actually devoted to the characters and their complexities. Throw in a good bit of action, magical creatures and some humor, and you have a very good way to spend a Sunday afternoon.