Paul Crilley’s young adult fantasy novel The Invisible Order: Rise of the Darklings sets up an interesting new series for the genre but is also enjoyable on its own terms.
Crilley’s fairy-infested version of Victorian London is richly imagined; the fairies (which Crilley calls faes) springing to life right beside an almost Dickensian vision of orphans, thieves, and other members of the lower classes. The heroine, Emily, is sensible and smart, ordinary yet special–just as a good heroine should be. She has shouldered the responsibility that should have belonged to her parents and yet still has enough of a child’s magic to see the whole fae world that lies beneath London. And an entertaining world it is.
Crilley differentiates his book’s non-human elements from the traditional definitions of many other fantasists, a ploy that results in many fascinating creatures, habitats established in giant trees, and excellent repurposing of human objects for non-human means. My favorite by far are the gentlemanly gnomes, who want nothing more than to belong to the Victorian upper crust.
Rise of the Darklings is full of unexplained asides, questions, and secret links between characters. These pop up continually, and many of them are quite magical–in the case of at least one character, literally so–but they do leave a great deal open for the sequel to explain. I look forward to seeing how the next book in the series can address and explain these connections, which include historical manipulation and time travel.
By the way, before handing this book to younger readers, parents may wish to take note of the fact that the book has some quite violent sections mixed in with the fantasy and some of its villains (Black Annis and Jenny Greenteeth are the most frightening) may provoke serious nightmares. Yet this violence and these villains are coupled with morality and lessons about trust. For Emily and her friends, childhood already seems to be a thing of the past. Being alert to so much magic and beauty simultaneously brings danger and more trouble–but also excitement and a sense of purpose that might have been missing (at least for Emily) in a magic-free Victorian London.
Rachel, who has a Ph.D. in English, is a freelance writer/editor and a voracious reader. You can talk to her about books at http://twitter.com/writehandmann.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Egmont USA. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.