Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Book Review: Faery Tale by Signe Pike

Faery Tale: One Woman's Search for Enchantment in a Modern World by Signe Pike is, pardon the repetition, an enchanting book. Overall, the book struck me as a version of Eat, Pray, Love but for modern, American pagans - and those that love them. The only reason I say pagans is due to the, seemingly, very specific audience Pike was aiming for: those that love spirits, earth spirituality, and magic. While Pike admits she isn't necessarily pagan, she further admits to not truly claiming any belief system. (Though, she dabbled in Wicca in her teenage years.)

So, please, when you read this book - and you should - read it for the full story that it is. Too many people read books like Pike's (or her spiritual older sister, Elizabeth Gilbert) and focus on one part of the story. Most reviews I've read seems to be upset that Pike's personal journey kept inconveniently getting in the way of all the faery-hunting. The reviewers seem to be completely missing the point of the story, as it was not a field guide on how to properly hunt for nature spirits. Let me repeat that:

THIS BOOK IS NOT A HOW-TO-HUNT-FAERIES BOOK!

Or, at least, not completely. There is definitely that element to the book. It is a journey book. A book about deciding to find the mystical in the mundane, about seeking the divine with logic and reason and learning when to throw those things aside and follow your intuition. It tells grown, educated adults that it is ok to be curious about magic and faeries and ghosts and all the beings of folklore, and it is further ok to seek them out, sit them down, and have a chat.

The book came to me at a time when I was in need of a spark, an impetus to re-engage with my spiritual quest. Oddly enough, faeries had been on the forefront of my thoughts. After reading Faery Tale Pike inspired me to hunt for those winged sprites in my own backyard. I'll keep you posted on what I find. 

Read below for my 5 Torch Breakdown & Rating. 

  • Technicals: Signe Pike used to be a book editor. As such, the sentence structure and grammar don't inhibit your reading. However, as with any book, there are typos. While it seemed like there were a few more typos as the story went on (perhaps her editor doesn't use a very fine tooth comb?), Pike assured me that they were being corrected for future editions and re-releases. Thus, this torch is earned.
  • Obtuse/Obscure: The author is an open book. She tells you right up front what kind of story this is, whether the reader wants to focus on the entire book or not. While the story isn't for everyone, that isn't a negative. It is written for an audience, as is every book, and it is quite easy for members of that audience to become engrossed in the story. Torch earned.
  • Characters: Sometimes in memoirs such as this the characters can be a bit one-sided, the author's narrow remembrance. While you don't see many of the characters for very long, you are able to get to know a very intimate piece of them during the conversation between the author and the person. Pike was keenly aware of every nuance of her interviewees and didn't write in a question/answer format. The folks in her story are believable, though they are a bit stunted. Many of the conversations didn't seem as fleshed out as I'd like, and I found myself thinking, "But why didn't you ask this? Or that? Or...really, you're already done talking?" These are the earliest interviews, however, and don't represent the latter meat of the book. Torch still earned, though some points get deducted out of sprite...I mean spite. (Come on...someone had to make the fairy joke.)
  • Memorable: If you're a member of Pike's target audience, then this book will stay with you. In fact, I don't doubt you'll pick it up and flip to a particular chapter/country and re-read just for the pleasure or reference. While it doesn't break new ground in the travel-book-as-spiritual-and-emotional-journey category, it does do its predecessors justice. I wouldn't be too surprised if this turned out to be a movie. Or, at least, a really good show on Lifetime. Torch earned.
  • Story: The story is a treasure. Though, to be fair, it vacillates rather quickly between flashbacks of an emotionally abusive and physically ill father to singing in a field with chocolate in hand trying to catch a faery. I sort of get what the other reviewers were saying. It's not that the two stories don't fit together, but the transition between the two, the blending of past and present, wasn't always the smoothest. Just as you're getting used to intuitional kismet of black feathers and blue jackets and hunting for the Sidhe, you're back with a young girl who doesn't understand why her dad broke her stopwatch. Granted, this is Pike's first book, and I am sure things will be smoother in future endeavors. 
I'm a picky reviewer. So, please, don't let anything I say stop you from reading the book. There are a few imperfections, but all books have them. All in all, I'd say this book is 4 1/2 Torches! The only reason it didn't earn the full 5 is because of those minor details. The abrupt change of tone and pace that could happen when a flashback hits you right in the middle of an emotional high in the faery-hunting, present-day storyline. The characters who were so interesting that you wished there were just a page or two more spent filling out the interview. 

I had the pleasure of speaking with Signe Pike, the author, for an interview on Inciting A Riot: the Podcast. I truly hope each of you will go and take a listen, because she is a wonderful person. She is bright and bubbly and knowledgeable and deeply wishes to share her experiences and hopes they fuel your own journey. Buy this book. It has my full recommendation. 

Have YOU read Faery Tale? Send in your emails to FireLyte@incitingariot.com, because Signe has agreed to do a follow-up show where she will answer listener/reader questions about the book, about faeries, about tolerance in the pagan community - oh yes, there's a whole sub-plot involving snooty pagans - and anything else you want to know. So get those in or leave a comment below!

Love and Lyte,

Fire Lyte

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like an excellent read and not only do I want to read it myself I think I'll be passing it on to a friend when I'm done. Thanks for the review!

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