Except the Queen
by Jane Yolen & Midori Snydor
Review by Ellen Russell
Roc Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780451462732
Date: 02 February 2010 List Price $23.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Except The Queen is an engaging collaboration from two excellent storytellers: Jane Yolen and Midori Snyder. The story is about two Faerie sisters from the Seelie Court who are exiled after one of them reveals one of the Faerie Queen's most closely guarded secrets: her dalliance with a mortal man. Not only are the sisters banished to earth, they are also stripped of both their powers and their beauty, each relegated to inhabit the body of an aging mortal woman. Furthermore, they are each sent to a different location in the United States, many miles apart.
While trying to find her place in her strange new environment, each sister encounters a troubled youth in need of her aid. When they finally realize the gravity of their situations, they resolve to bring their charges together in order to better weather the coming storm. Members of the Unseelie Court, including the murderous Red Cap, are trying to take power and the sisters and their charges have an important role to play in the coming battle.
This story is about discovering strength through adversity and the power of kindness and love. Above all, it is about the bond of family, in all of its forms, and how, for better or for worse, familial ties form and shape the individual identity.
The story is told mostly in first person, from the point of view of many of the different characters. It switches to the second person point of view to narrate the Queen's perspective, which gives a distant and removed feeling to those sections. The use of many first person narratives allows the authors to weave all of the individual stories into the narrative and pull them all together for the climax. However, this technique also makes the story more confusing to follow. It is especially difficult to distinguish between the individual narratives of the two sisters. They are so similar that keeping the details about each sister straight requires a lot of concentration.
Aside from that, Yolen and Snyder's characterization is excellent and their portrayal of modern America from an outsider's perspective is fresh and funny with moments of warmth, puzzlement, elation, and despair. The plot moves somewhat slowly, focused more on world-building and character development. However, it is worth following for its keen insights into the triumph of the individual over adversity. All in all, an excellent product of collaboration between two master wordsmiths.