We grew up on fairy tales wherein fairies would come to the aid of a young and deserving hero or heroine. They’re benevolent. And all they want to do is to help
But once you go beyond the children’s section of the bookstore, you’ll find that fairies or the fae are usually depicted as cruel or mad or simply out of touch with normal human reality and morality. Being near-immortal and powerful has them usually portrayed as looking down on humans (though that doesn’t stop them from taking humans as pets/lovers and producing half-human offspring with them)
Of course, this is not to say all fae characters in books are evil. Some harm humans as a way to protect themselves. Fae are usually portrayed as very connected to nature (eg. forests, lands, rivers etc). And with human beings doing whatever they want to the land, it seriously pisses the Fae off that their home gets polluted and eventually destroyed.
This just goes to show that once you browse the sections for young adults and adults, Fae get the morally gray and/or black shade
What are Fae anyway?
Every book has their own interpretation of what the fae are. But here are some of the general characteristics the Fae are imbued with:
- A lot of them have some sort of glamour that make them look like the most BEAUTIFUL THING YOU’VE SEEN ON EARTH
- They rely a lot on magic in terms of power and survival. Expect their magical nature to make them really long lived. Thus you don’t hear of any Fae dying of old age. Usually they die because something killed them (eg. iron, destruction of forests, etc). But it isn’t because their growing old.
- Fae are usually closely tied to nature. Hence Fae are often closely tied to forests, trees, rivers and any other thing related to nature.
- They are usually portrayed as having a weakness for iron. Thus, a lot of books would be shown to imprison or kill fae with iron
- A lot of books depict Fae as being unable to tell a lie. Though that doesn’t mean they can’t trick or deceive you. A lot of them have a good grasp of the language and will use vague or general terms to their advantage. Some may even just choose to omit some things.
With these characteristics, you may find yourselves looking at a dark story. Again, this varies from author to author. Some can take this as dark as it goes. While others manage to make their stories humorous
So here are some of the titles I loved involving Fae
The Call by Peadar O’Guilin
This book features a dystopia wherein teenagers are trained. But not for war against other countries. In this world, teenagers are “called” by the Fae to be hunted.
It goes without saying that most do not return alive or in one piece
I loved this title because of how gritty and dark it is. Don’t worry. No explicit sex here.
I really loved the main character. A girl who already has a handicap due to her legs. And I love how determined she is and how she manages to work through adversity
Impossible by Nancy Werlin
Lucy Scarborough comes from a long line of women who get pregnant as a teen and eventually go mad. Unfortunately the reader soon finds out that this is due to a Fae curse. Lucy’s distant ancestor did not return a certain Fae’s “love” and this Fae punished her by cursing her whole line.
And it looks like this Fae has been “winning” this game for a very long time. But unlike her predecessors, Lucy is not alone. She has her foster parents and her childhood friend Max to help her.
Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
A boy genius decides to get fairy gold by holding a fairy for ransom. That’s basically the premise of Artemis Fowl.
Unlike all the other incarnations of fairies or the Fae, the fairies of Artemis Fowl’s world not only have magic but also advanced technology to help them get one of their own back.
How can a boy genius go up against them? Just read to find out
Tithe by Holly Black
Kaye has been living in cities with her mother. But by the start of the book, they move back in town with her grandmother.
It doesn’t take the reader and Kaye long to find out that Kaye is actually a changeling. The real human Kaye is with the fairies. And Kaye is actually Fae.
Why was she exchanged for a human child. And what does that have to do with being a “Tithe”?
One of my favorite Fae books simply because of how different it is from other Fae books. There’s romance definitely and the main character is a teenager living in what we know as modern day USA. But the story certainly didn’t go the way I expected it to. And I loved it!
The Iron King by Julie Kagawa
Main character Megan soon finds out she’s half-fae born to a human mother and the fairy king Oberon. Unfortunately, this revelation (if I remember the story correctly) doesn’t come far from discovering that her baby half-brother has been taken with a changeling left in his place.
So it’s up to Megan and her trickster best friend to bring her brother back.
Stolen Songbird by Danielle L Jensen
Cecile is abducted and forced to marry the Troll Prince due to a prophecy that states her marriage will be the key to free the Trolls from their underground kingdom.
Troll may be a misnomer here because the way the Trolls are described, they sound more like Fae.
Anyone who likes Beauty and the Beast retellings might also want to give this book a try.
Paranormal Romance / Urban Fantasy
The Forest Lord by Susan Krinard
This title distinguishes itself by being a paranormal fantasy set in Regency England. The prologue starts of with Cyrus Fleming hunting in a forest even though he wasn’t supposed to and thus encounters the Horned One (aka the Forest Lord). In exchange for sparing his life, Cyrus’ daughter Eden has to bear the Forest Lord’s child.
This being Regency England, Cyrus makes it a condition that the Forest Lord woo and marry Eden first. The Forest Lord agrees. Eden meets her “cousin” Cornelius, falls in love with him and eventually elopes.
Having a change of heart, Cyrus tracks them to an inn and begs the Forest Lord to spare Eden. He wants to take his original punishment instead. Unfortunately, it is too late as Eden has already been impregnated.
Further complicating matters is that Eden heard all about the bargain between the two and sees the Forest Lord’s true form. She runs away in horror. And by chapter one you find out that it is five years later. Eden was married off to a dying wastrel who dies telling her that her child has been alive all this time.
Eden is forced to return to her ancestral home (the one near the forest) while planning to find her child. Her arrival reawakens the Forest Lord who has been tricked into thinking that the child died at birth and plans revenge on Eden who he thinks of as a faithless woman….
Omens by Kelley Armstrong
Olivia Taylor-Jones’ family is well-off. At the start of the book, she’s engaged to be married to a scion of a political family. But then she and the rest of the city find out that she’s actually Eden Larsen, the daughter of serial killers.
Olivia is of course shocked and finds herself without support from friends or family. Even her fiancee wants to take a break from the relationship. Thus, the town of Cainsville where the residents are friendly and accepting seem like a great sanctuary to her.
Olivia feels at home in Cainsville. But even she has to admit things aren’t quite normal in this town
For readers who want mystery thrillers with little mention of the magic element (even though readers know full well that it exists in the book), this would be the book for you.
Readers who want romance might want to give this book a try. The romance is more of a slow burn and nothing overtly sexual or romantic happens between Olivia and the guy. But as this book is only the first in a series, readers will probably get very invested by book two
Borderline by Mishell Baker
Millie’s suicide attempt cost her legs and her career. But she gets a new lease in line with the Arcadia Project.
Through the Arcadia Project, Millie learns of the existence of Fae who cross over to the human realm. And her first assignment involves helping to track down a missing Fae.
I find this book pretty refreshing. The main character has two prosthetic legs and borderline personality disorder. So I find Millie’s take on the world and her circumstances to be something new and enlightening. I cannot claim to know much about disabilities or mental illness. So I find this book to be a start. Also, not a lot of urban fantasy writers would make a story from the point of view of someone in Millie’s circumstances
Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire
Main Character October Daye is half-fae. By the start of the book she is working as a PI and has a fiance and little girl waiting for her at home. Unfortunately, she is turned into a fish for 14 years. And because her fiance and daughter do not know of her fae origins (and she is not allowed to reveal it), they want nothing to do with her.
Thus, the book starts at a very low point in Toby’s life. She wants nothing to do again with the fae world. But she is called back to action when one of her fae friends is murdered (and magically binds Toby to find the killer)..
First of all, I love the worldbuilding for October Daye’s world. Personally, I didn’t become a totally hardcore October Daye fan until Book 3. But I think readers should give Book 1 a try. It introduces you to the character and her world which I find fascinating.
Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning
MacKayla Lane goes to Ireland to solve her sister’s murder. It doesn’t take her long to find out that there are supernatural beings at work and that she has some sinister connection with them
This is the first book of the series. So romance lovers will have to wait for any romance to blossom in the succeeding books.
The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic by Emily Croy Barker
Nora unknowingly finds herself in a different world where she meets a charming woman and her very handsome son. It isn’t long before she marries him.
But things soon take a dark turn when the reader finds out that Nora is being held under Faitoren (Fae) control. And the only reason she’s there is to bear a child for them.
She is rescued by a magician Aruendiel. Sadly this happened after a miscarriage.
Nora is stuck in Aruendiel’s world and it seems that the best way to protect herself from the Faitoren (who still want her back) is to stay close to Aruendiel
A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J Maas
Feyre is a huntress who knowingly killed a Fae that took the form of a beast. In retaliation, another Fae came to her home and demanded retribution. To protect her family, Feyre chooses to go with this Fae.
Yes, this is another Beauty and the Beast Retelling. But readers who like action and don’t mind explicit sex scenes might want to give this a try!