By Michelle Harrison (June 7th 2011, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)
Weeks after a horrible car accident left Red an orphan, her baby brother James is taken by fairies. For nearly two years, Red has toiled to find a way to retrieve her brother. But when her chance comes and she finals finds herself in the fairy realm, she is kidnapped by an evil witch.
Back in Elvesden Manor, things are back to normal for Tanya – that is, until Warwick, the grounds keeper, falls into a fairy ring and is spirited away to the fairy realm.
In the fairy realm Red and Warwick find each other, and journey to the fairy court to try and find James. But things aren’t as they seem, and when Red strikes a deal with fairies, she gets more than she bargained for…
Red is the undeniable star of 13 Curses. I’d had some reservations about the author’s decision to change the protagonist mid-series (13 Treasures follows Tanya’s story) but I need not have worried.
Red, or Rowan Fox, is more than a worthy heroine: brave, intelligent, resourceful, and eternally dedicated to getting her brother James back. There is much to love and admire about her. Not only was she an excellent hero, but a complex character as well. There is a certain harshness about her that the author wisely maintains throughout both books which I felt made her more empathic and realistic, considering her situation.
The secondary characters are excellent, too, from kind Tanya to brave Warwick. The only complaint I have is that I wish there was more about Raven and Gredin, Tanya’s fey guardians.
If I had to choose, I would say plot was the aspect I enjoyed most. Despite being over 500 pages long, 13 Curses is a tight story, full of intrigue and secrets. Even when Harrison goes back to tell Rowan’s story, none of it feels derivative or irrelevant.
There are some events that felt a bit contrived to me, like how Warwick ends up in the fairy realm for, example. I felt that it happened far too easily, which was quiet unbelievable, considering Warwick’s expansive experience with fairies.
Also, some of the dialogue was a little too info-dumpy. There were several instances of page-long chunks of dialogue that made the characters sound like robots rather than people.
The ending was also a problem for me. (Possible spoilers) I felt that the author just wanted to get rid of James, and chose a rather heartless way of doing it. It was especially cruel considering that Red had dedicated every waking moment of the last two years to retrieve him.
Though I personally don’t believe it’s a weakness, it’s important to consider who to give this book to. Since 13 Curses is quiet dark and scary in some instances, it may not be suitable for very young readers.
Darkly magical, thrillingly plotted, and well executed, 13 Curses is a star entry in an already excellent series.
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