Publication Date: March 28th, 2023
Paperback. 416 pages.
About The Fairy Bargains of Prospect Hill:
"There is no magic on Prospect Hill—or anywhere else, for that matter. But just on the other side of the veil is the world of the Fae. Generations ago, the first farmers on Prospect Hill learned to bargain small trades to make their lives a little easier—a bit of glass to find something lost, a cup of milk for better layers in the chicken coop.
Much of that old wisdom was lost as the riverboats gave way to the rail lines and the farmers took work at mills and factories. Alaine Fairborn’s family, however, was always superstitious, and she still hums the rhymes to find a lost shoe and to ensure dry weather on her sister’s wedding day.
When Delphine confides her new husband is not the man she thought he was, Alaine will stop at nothing to help her sister escape him. Small bargains buy them time, but a major one is needed. Yet, the price for true freedom may be more than they’re willing to pay."
If you've read and enjoyed Rowenna Miller's The Unraveled Kingdom series, then you'll probably also adore The Fairy Bargains of Prospect Hill and know exactly what to expect. If you haven't, here's a taste of what's in store: strong female characters, a cozy setting and plot, magic in the best ways from the subtle to the overt, and beautiful writing that makes each page fly by. I really loved this latest release from Rowenna Miller and was so glad to see her writing something just as dazzling as The Unraveled Kingdom series, but with a much different setting and plot.
The Fairborn family has lived on Prospect Hill for generations as farmers, and it is where they now still own many acres of land and a healthy orchard. These farmers also learned that it was possible to bargain with the Fae folk for various boons, though the need for careful thought and consideration when making these bargains has always been critical so as not to be tricked. Alaine and Delphine have grown up on the land and Alaine now lives in a house built there with her husband Jack, and daughter Emily. Delphine is recently engaged to a wealthy man and will be leaving Prospect Hill. Alaine is saddened by this and concerned about Delphine's future, but is supportive and happy for her... until both she and Delphine discover that her new husband is not the man they thought he was.
The Fairy Bargains of Prospect Hill has a fairly slow start where we really take the time to get to know each of our main characters and the world they live in. The slow start is definitely worth the wait for everything that eventually happens, and I enjoyed experiencing this somewhat quieter fantasy novel that has hints of magic in every page. This book has an incredibly charming tone and atmosphere to it, full of whimsical notes and an abundance of folktale energy throughout. Within this cozy atmosphere, however, is a very persistent undertone of something a little more serious and even sinister, in a sense.
Alaine is a very determine and headstrong–I may even go as far as calling her stubborn–woman who has a lot of responsibilities between the orchard, her daughter, and seeming to feel a need to take care of everyone. She bargains a good bit and does more than she should. Delphine also has some of that stubbornness and it very compelling to watch both Alaine and Delphine come to terms with their own conflicts in order to help one another int he best ways possible. I liked getting a chance to see how these two women managed to handle very different struggles in ways that worked best for both of them, all while maintaining their loyalty and love for their family.
I loved Miller's creation of the Fae world and the rules around bargaining. There are of course many folktales about the Fae that exist in our own world, all of which come with their own unique rules and general customs. I appreciated the detail that Miller included in the bargaining rules in this book, which added so much life and authenticity to the story by doing so. These are not simple bargains or trades, but very rich and intricate exchanges between the human and Fae that have very real consequences if not done in thoughtful manners. I really appreciated how Miller crafted all of this and managed to create something that felt true to folktales and intelligent in how the Fae and humans interacted.
As mentioned, this is a bit of a slow burner of a story, and I found that this also played into the fact that we don't really get to interact much with the Fae world itself until near the very end of the story, which was a little disappointing to me because I knew it would probably be one of my favorite parts of the story–and it was. Much in the same way that Miller crafted the Fae bargaining, she also did an excellent job of developing a captivating Fae world that effortlessly captured the intensity, fearsomeness, and wonder that embodies any Fae world. This is not some cute Fae world where there is magic and fun, it is a harsh yet playful world that is not for the faint of heart, which is how a Fae world should be. Miller seems to take inspiration from a lot of the more traditional views of the Fae and how Fae worlds and bargains work, and it all worked beautifully in this story.
The only things I didn't love as much about this book were the pacing and some confusion around the setting itself. I don't mind a slower paced story at all, and in fact the style of this story is exactly what I expected from Miller Miller (in a good way!), but I do wish there had been just a bit more going on in the first or even middle portions of the story to keep things more engaging. As it stands, much of the action occurs in the final third part of the book, and while that generally works, it made me wish there had been more stakes or more intrigue in general to earlier parts of the book. With regard to the setting, my main complaint is that it felt a bit grey about when exactly this story takes place, and I wasn't even sure at first where this was meant to take place (such as in a real world or a fantasy world, in North America, Europe, etc.), which left me feeling a bit surprised whenever we'd hear about a historical event or something similar and I had to reorient how I perceived the world.
Outside of those minor issues, I really had a pleasurable time with this story! I think Rowenna Miller will continue to be an author whose work I will always pick up and will likely always enjoy. Her writing flows beautifully and always manages to include incredible women, themes that are both relevant and meaningful without being overdone, and storytelling that brings everything to life. Overall, I've given The Fairy Bargains of Prospect Hill four stars!