This was one of the most interesting YA fantasies I’ve ever read! Matt Mikalatos has combined the tropes of high fantasy with present-day life of teenagers in real trouble.
Madeline is dying of a lung disease. She hates being an object of pity. She tries to break up with her boyfriend Darius to spare him pain when she dies. Her loyal, kind, and improbably good boyfriend is forced to live with the pain of her constantly pushing him away, when he wants is to spend what time she has with her.
Jason, a friend from school, also wants to spend time with her. Even though he is not her boyfriend, he wants to protect her despite her trying to push him away as well. He is in constant trouble at home and at school, in part because he can’t keep his mouth shut, in part because he is insatiably curious, in part because he has vowed to always tell the truth whatever the consequences, and finally because he has a severe case of ADHD. The reason for the vow to always tell the truth is heartbreaking.
Jason provides a lot of comic relief. He names his mount in Fairyland Delightful Glitter Lady. When he is assigned to a dorm that has a magic toilet, he makes a massive mess as he inserts everything he can carry into the toilet in an attempt to figure out how it works. He asks the goofy question, “Where does the poop go?” Oddly, that turns out to be the most important question in the book. The answer does not involve plumbing.
Madeline receives an offer of healing if she will fight for the fairies against bad, ugly guys who want to exterminate them for a year. A seasoned fairy tale reader will instantly wonder how long that will be in Earth years and how the fairies will trick her. When Jason is offered a wish in exchange for fighting for a year, he asks for a pudding cup every day for the rest of his life. And so the two friends go to Fairyland, leaving their families and Madeline’s boyfriend behind. Madeline and Jason make bargains that neither understand with a fairy who has his own hidden agenda. He leads them to fairyland where nothing is explained about the wonders and terrors of the place. How do you make a choice when you have no idea what is going on or what the rules are? Theoretically, every fairy they meet is telling the truth, but not a single one of them is telling enough of the truth. As time passes, so many contradictions arise that Madeline and Jason must investigate to find the dark underside to fairyland and to understand what the fairies are asking of them.
How do you make a choice when you have no idea what is going on or what the rules are?
One of the really neat things about the book is there is a scene where a character is given an either/or kind of choice. This or that. The character rejects the binary choice and chooses a third option that no one had thought of before. I think it’s important for our children to be able to reject false either/or arguments.
The fairies are human-sized, glamorous, and argumentative. The monsters are original. The magic system is an interesting mix of ancient tropes and creative new ideas. There are all sorts of fun creatures, such as the rideable possums and eagles. Madeline and Jason are given magical powers to fight off the invading bad guys and join an army of conscripted humans in many battles. Fairies engage in politics and hiding secrets from the humans fighting for them.
There is much to like in this book. All the characters are interesting. The scenery is fascinating. There is lots of humor. The writing is clean and well done. The plot is intricate but easy to follow. I have not been surprised by a fantasy in years, but the twist at the end of this book truly surprised me. I have never seen a fantasy go where this one did, and in the end, I learned something about real life that I had not known. I don’t know if the ending will make the book outdated in ten years, or if the ending will still be all too relevant then.
I have not been surprised by a fantasy in years, but the twist at the end of this book truly surprised me.
I was a little disappointed that fairyland has a zero-sum economy, a theory that says that if Joe has a widget, then Josette does not. To me, that ignores the fact that factories can make more widgets. If you have a particular economic theory that you feel strongly about, this book’s take will allow you to have discussions about that. However the book never names economic structures or goes into lectures or boring numbers because it is about so much more than that. Important questions are raised about wealth, motives, loyalty, truth, righteousness, social structures, beauty, and death.
If you like fantasy that is deep and full of rollicking fun, you’ll love The Crescent Stone! I recommend the book to all lovers of fantasy above the age of twelve. Someone younger than twelve might be able to follow the action in the story, but there is a lot of subtlety they will miss or be confused by.
Heat: There is some hugging of a nonsexual nature. Madeline does spend time thinking about how handsome Darius is.
Profanity: I don’t remember any
Violence: There’s quite a bit with a number of battle scenes wherein people die from their wounds, but there are no blood and guts splashing around described.
Genre: Fantasy, YA Fantasy, Clean Fantasy