R.J. Anderson does a good job developing the adventure of the faeries of the Oakenwyld in Wayfarer (known as Rebel in the United Kingdom), the sequel to her debut novel Fairy Rebels: Spell Hunter (known as Knife in the United Kingdom). The story picks up the pieces of the mystery set down in the first book, tells an engaging tale, and promises more for the third book in the trilogy, Arrow, now released in the United Kingdom.
As you will recall in the first story, the faeries of the Oakenwyld — an oak in the yard of an English country home — live a precarious existence. Stuck in Tinkerbell-mode, and with no magic to protect them from such dangers as crows, foxes and other small predators, these faeries are the sole survivors of a mightier group, that used to have magic and mix with humans until a paranoid faerie named Jasmine tried to break the connection between faeries and humans, robbing her people of their magic and creativity. After Jasmine’s defeat at the hands of the current Queen Amaryllis, the faeries have had no choice but to hide.
Fortunately, one of their number, a heroic faerie who took the name of Knife, fell in love with a young human male named Paul. For the past fourteen years, Knife (now named Peri), and Paul now reside in the country home as husband and wife, and extra protectors of the Oak.
But without any magic to sustain them, the faeries of the Oakenwyld continue to dwindle and Queen Amaryllis, nearing the end of her reign, calls in her long-time advisor Valerian and Knife’s foster-daughter Linden (the youngest faerie of the Oak). As she is now dying, she confers on them two grave and important tasks. To Valerian, she bequeathes half of her magic, to sustain the glamour that protects the Oak from prying eyes. Linden receives the other half of the Queen’s magic, to prepare her for the task of leaving the Oak in the hopes of finding other faeries (whom they haven’t seen for decades) and convincing them to help the faeries of the Oak restore their lost magic. She is cautioned, though, that this quest will not take place for years, since she is still too young. But being young, Linden is also impatient.
Into the mix blunders Paul’s cousin, Timothy. Timothy is fifteen years old and the son of missionary parents. A caucasian child born in Uganda, he finds going to an English private school hard to take, as he hates the weather, and is easily ostracized by his fellow students who pounce on every difference. After getting into a fight and getting suspended for two weeks, and with his parents on vacation in Spain, he has no choice but to go to Paul and Peri for the time being. He arrives with hope that Paul and Peri will welcome him and give him time to think about what’s been bothering him for the past few months, but that hope is shattered when he gets the distinct impression that he’s getting in the way of something important and mysterious.
Feeling unwelcome, Timothy decides to run away and while away his two week suspension in a London hostel, playing his guitar for spare change. He quickly finds himself in trouble, though not for the reasons you’d expect. After being enticed to a suspiciously clean hostelry, he encounters a group of young men and women who encourage him to play, and seem to bring an almost preternatural talent out of him. One young woman in particular, named Veronica, leads him away, reveals her faerie origins, and tries to steal his creativity by force. It’s at this point that Linden reveals herself, having stowed away in Timothy’s backpack, fighting off Veronica and pulling the boy to safety.
Linden and Timothy’s journey is basically a disaster, but it brings much news to the Oak: the faeries of London all owe fealty to a mysterious Empress, who has forbidden all contact between faeries and humans, beyond that which is necessary to steal individual humans’ creativity from them. News that a faerie has come to the aid of a human is now sweeping through this faerie empire, and Timothy and Linden are to be hunted down and executed.
Fortunately, the Oak now knows that there are other faeries out there, and though those that oppose the Empress are afraid to do so given the extent of her powers, there is still hope. There exists in legend a group of Welsh faeries called the Children of Rhys, who might have the power not only to restore the lost magic of the Oak, but grant the rebels the strength they need to face the Empress. Suddenly, Linden’s task for the Oak has taken on world-changing import.
Can Timothy and Linden make it to Wales and find the Children of Rhys without being caught by the minions of the Empress? If they find what they’re looking for, will the Children of Rhys restore the lost magic of the Oak? And if so, will that be enough to stave off a full-on attack by the Empress?
As with her first novel, R.J. Anderson takes risks with Wayfarer. You would expect a series to follow a particular character or set of characters through its length. In Wayfarer, however, the characters that readers of Knife have invested much time to get to know — Paul and Peri — are shunted back a few steps and previously unknown characters Linden and Timothy are brought to the fore. This is absolutely natural to the way Anderson’s story has to be told, as it unfolds over the course of years rather than months, but it is still a challenge that Anderson expects her readers to overcome. Should they do so, they will find much to enjoy.
The hints that Anderson gives of Peri and Paul’s relationship are a great reward to readers of the first novel, and the story anchors well with Linden and Timothy, who are both well drawn, sympathetic characters with good chemistry and good individual story arcs. There are also good touches of humour, as the younger Timothy is able to learn far more about the Children of Rhys from the Internet than either Peri or Paul, his elders.
Finally, Anderson offers plenty of action as Timothy struggles against incredible odds, pursued through a suddenly hostile England. The world that Anderson builds is detailed and instantly believable, and it is hard to see how Timothy and Linden can make it out of their situation alive. Wayfarer is a definite page-turner to see what Anderson has up her sleeve.