Faerie Tale Reviews By Asta
The Fashion Collection from the House of Ellwand
For those intrigued by fairies, this season there seems to be a few books about them flitting around. From fiction to illustration, from returning visionaries to up-and-coming lookers, there should be something for anyone that has the capacity to believe that there's more out there than meets the eye.
The Fashion Collection from the House of Ellwand
Not many people are aware of the most prestigious courtier to the fairies - the House of Ellwand. For the first time, mortals can purchase the catalog for the fairy season. With fashions that start as the dew dries and continue until the frost comes, the season is full of balls, dances, and other excuses for merriment and showing off clothing. From formal to frolicsome, the outfits follow the normal fashion show, from formal wear to swim wear to the penultimate - the wedding dress. The male fairies seem to have more of a choice for color, although it still seems as if the females are the peacocks of the fairy world. However, the "Elvis" outfit does deserve a mention with Top Ten Topper hat, Aloha Jacket, Let's Have A Party Pants and These Shoes Weren't Made For Walking levitating footwear. The theme of flower power is not far from the mind, as most outfits use flowers, as well as leaves and feathers, with shell and stone accents.
Luscious photography captures the painstakingly created outfits at the height of their color and beauty. The fashion illustration expressively shows in a few strokes how the garments will look, while preserving the elusive quality that fairies maintain about themselves. The text does a marvelous job of cataloging the materials used, and then moves to a higher realm, mischievously suggesting how to wear the clothing and for what occasion and personality the outfit might suit. While the art direction is not considered to be authorial, the fold-out booklets, as well as a mix-and match section, and other design features, make this book truly magical.
Until now, a doll with plastic, unrealistic dimensions and a wardrobe of synthetic clothing has ruled the minds of young girls, reinforcing unattainable perfection. This pink powerhouse enforces the stereotype that you have to have the latest fleeting craze, whatever it may be, or else you have failed. In Fairie-ality we are presented with beautiful fashions that will magically fit any body size with the added benefit of having ample space to accommodate wings. The emphasis on the organic shows what fashion should reflect - a consciousness of the planet and all who live on it, as well as a respect for nature. The wonderful thing about fashion is that you can be anything you want, just by choosing what clothing you put on. The emphasis in the book is on natural beauty, and letting your personality dictate your clothing choices, in order to have the most enjoyment wherever you're going, whoever you are.
In the science fiction and fantasy world, where imagination is routinely paramount, when something so new and different is created, it has to be applauded with a standing ovation. It would be one thing for a photographer to create clothing using flowers and other items found in nature. To create a world of fairy fashion takes extraordinary vision and talent. Now, with Fairie-ality, we are afforded a glimpse into another world that makes you wish you were several feet shorter and a bit more magical. One look inside, and you'll be amazed.
It comes as some relief to the admirers of Lady Cottington's Pressed Fairy Book that it isn't the only book out there to have documented the fairies that have been pressed by Angelica Cottington. In fact, new light has been shed that reveals that the Cottingtons had an older daughter - Euphemia. In Lady Cottington's Fairy Album, it seems that the sister was able to capture the fairies in a different medium - photographs.
Given a blank book to combine watercolors and photographs, Euphemia did her part, cataloging different photographs of fairies as well as her impressions of meeting them. Years pass and her sister Angelica begins to read the notes, remarking on the other side of the page where the watercolor was supposed to go her reaction to her Euphemia's words. However, fairies seem to surround Angelica and she does her usual job of squashing them. The two personalities of the sisters are remarkable. However, intrigue lurks in the pages as well. Who was Euphemia really trysting with in the woods? Why could Angelica not be Euphemia's sister?
Although presented as a children's book, the text alludes to trysts Euphemia had in the forest, and some of the references seem a bit risqué, especially for children who don't understand the birds and bees, let alone the consequences of such actions. The illustrations and photographs also seem a bit mature for youngsters. In this book, the nudity is tastefully done and instead of drawing attention to the fact that some of the fairies aren't wearing clothes, the main focus is instead on their beauty, exuberance, and fun-loving spirit. Regardless, the photographs of fairies seem to be the product of computer generation. Although they are aged, with a child-like sophistication, all seem to include a superimposition over a leafy background. The models seem to have had their wings attached, but for all their simplicity, they are fanciful, just the product of Victorian times. The illustrations reflect the psychic impressions the fairies have left on the pages, and the use of green, blue and purple emphasize the psychedelic, quirky, and magical. In fact, the fairies seem to regard being pressed as mortal children seem to have fun in photo booths, trying to make the most ridiculous of poses. The challenge, as with any sort of capturing of images is the fact that it's hard to express a three dimensional character on a two dimensional plane. The idea of pressing fairies or capturing them in photographs is inspired.
to the Art of Brian Froud by
For those intrigued but the world of Froud, also of note is an enhanced CD. The eleven songs are from a variety of artists, although the track "Allegria" by Cirque de Soiel will be familiar to most. Also of note is Delerium's "Nature's Kingdom", and some may remember the band's song, made popular a few years ago "When Flowers Become Screams". The enhanced portion of the CD comes when you turn on your computer. Available are interviews with Brian Froud both filmed, and text, an animation of his drawings, which is more like a slide show of pictures available in the gallery. Also included is a preview of Lady Cottington's Fairy Album. The only detraction is that while exploring the enhancements, a track called "Nightblossom" is the only song that plays and there is no access to the other 11 tracks from the CD. Seems more of a marketing tool than anything else, but the compilation really does transport you to another world. Whether or not that world is one of Brian Froud's making or not depends on how much of a fan you are of his work.
25th Anniversary Edition by
Brian Froud and Alan Lee
Not only does this book have Brian Froud, but also Alan Lee (of Tolkien illustration fame). In contrast to the Cottington fairies, the colors used are mostly grays and browns. The text is more of a serious catalog of the different types of fairies, with reference to different sources, mostly European and Celtic. The two artists' styles of rendering bodies are almost always identifiable by their lines and form, with Froud leaning more towards mischievous points and curves, while Lee has a more Romantic, Victorian sensibility that infuses his drawings. Regardless, it is a wonderful work that is a wonderful reintroduction to all those who intrigued by the world of fairies.
Charles de Lint states it best on the back cover when he says, "In a fair world, a new book from her [Melling] would be anticipated with all the fanfare of a new Rowling title, but the world's not fair and so, for now, she remains a secret treasure for those luck enough to have found her books." I couldn't agree more. Penguin Canada's got it made. Alison Baird's Witches of Willowmere series have got witches and teens covered, while Melling does the same for fairies. Somehow the veil between fairy and human seems to part so easily, but putting down the book proves to be inversely difficult. What's unique about Melling is that while all the books are set in Ireland, she has references to Canada. She doesn't have to and they make a statement.
According to the publisher, O.R Melling's three novels The Hunter's Moon, The Summer King, and The Light Bearer's Daughter have been compiled into this volume in order to appeal to older readers. That is, adults who don't want to grow up but are embarrassed to read juvenile novels on the subway in the morning. Potter's OK, the millions of copies and merchandising deals have made it cool to read about the boy wizard. But anyone outside Rowling is definitely not respectable.
What also irks me is that the three books are collected together, but at the end of the edition, is a teaser chapter for a fourth book that is billed as the conclusion to the series. Why put three books together? Why not put four? It's not that I'm not appreciative (for anyone up there listening and taking notes) because I'll take Melling's books any way I can get them. However, it seems a bit ridiculous to put three together when there will be four out there. I'm also a bit miffed that the glossary for the second book is in the middle where I'd never try and find it. Book design issues aside, I'm awaiting The Book of Dreams, whenever Melling's fourth entry decides to make an appearance on my shelves. I'm willing to bet that it's better than finding a leprechaun's pot of gold.