Tor Books, 2018, 368 pages
Charming and lyrical, The Fairies of Sadieville concludes Alex Bledsoe's widely praised contemporary fantasy series about the fairy descendants of Appalachia.
"This is real." Three small words on a film canister found by graduate students Justin and Veronica, who discover a long-lost silent movie from more than a century ago. The startlingly realistic footage shows a young girl transforming into a winged being. Looking for proof behind this claim, they travel to the rural foothills of Tennessee to find Sadieville, where it had been filmed.
Soon their journey takes them to Needsville, whose residents are hesitant about their investigation, but Justin and Veronica are helped by Tucker Carding, who seems to have his own ulterior motives. When the two students unearth a secret long hidden, everyone in the Tufa community must answer the most important question of their entire lives - what would they be willing to sacrifice in order to return to their fabled homeland of Tir na nOg?
This is apparently the last book in the series. I have enjoyed the Tufa saga, a cheesy Appalachian soap opera of fractious hillbilly faeires in the modern world, but the worldbuilding fell apart a bit for me here.
We have known since book one that the origins of the Tufa - a people supposedly here since before even the Native Americans arrived in North America - are in the Old World. They are the descendants of the Tuatha Dé Danann, exiled ages ago by their Queen over a lost bet.
The Faeries of Sadieville finally tells that story, in flashbacks-within-flashbacks.
The inciting incident comes about when a pair of grad students arrive in Needsville, wanting to research the Tufa, the mysterious lost town of Sadieville, and a mysterious film that shows a faerie from early in the 20th century.
Our two mortal grad students stumble upon a cavern hidden by glamour that leads back to the fabled land of Tír na nÓg, from which the Tufa were banished. When the Tufa realize that the passageway has been discovered, they all gather in the hopes of returning home. This includes Tufa like Bronwyn and Bliss, who are simultaneously young women with mortal husbands and immortal beings who remember when they first stumbled naked out of that cave into the new world.
"Time works differently for the Tufa" has been a theme throughout the series, but I still had trouble with some of the premises. They are described as arriving in this world in a time before there were any other humans here, and the mountains were much taller. Well... that would be before there were any humans, anywhere. This stretched my suspension of disbelief about them being banished because a woodcutter made a bet with a queen about splitting a walnut with an axe.
But okay, it's fairyland, and time runs differently. There are several flashbacks, telling the original story of Sadieville, and within that, the tale of the Tufa's arrival in North America. Then back to the present, where the Tufa are all preparing for a possible abandonment of their home for the last few millennia, in between a lot of turgid sex scenes that have also been a mainstay of the series.
I appreciated some loose threads being tied together, and characters who have made fleeting appearances in all six books assuming more important roles. The resolution is, well, somewhat unsatisfying, but I suppose the author wanted to keep his option to continue the series open.
Also by Alex Bledsoe: My reviews of The Hum and the Shiver, Wisp of a Thing, Long Black Curl, Chapel of Ease, and Gather Her Round.
My complete list of book reviews.