Most urban fantasy that's currently being published is made up of werewolves, vampires, dark cities and lots of violence and/or sex.
Not so for Martin Millar. Instead, he creates a different kind that is no less urban or fantastical -- incredibly complex, comedic little novels spun out of thistledown prose. And "The Good Fairies of New York" is a primo example of this -- a mixture of rock'n'roll, Celtic fairy tales, and New York chaos, with a little love story and lots of fairy warfare woven in.
Two Scottish thistle fairies arrive on the surly, overweight Dinnie's window, and puke on the carpet. "Don't worry," one says. "Fairy vomit is no doubt sweet-smelling to humans."
But soon the fairies Heather and Morag have a spat, and Morag ends up stomping to Dinnie's neighbor Kerry, a sweet neohippie. The two fairies stick with their new friends throughout the days that follow -- Heather tries to teach Dinnie to play the fiddle, and Morag accompanies Kerry on a Chinatown shoplift trip, and the making of her Celtic flower alphabet. Then Kerry's rare triple-bloom poppy is stolen repeatedly.
And Heather and Morag decide (separately) to bring Dinnie and Kerry together (for very different reasons). Unfortunately, the fairies' attempts to help their friends ends in massive warfare between the Italian, Chinese and Ghanaian fairies of New York -- especially when Scottish thugs and Cornish royalty arrive. Wrecked fairy banners, a legendary violin, a deranged homeless woman who believes herself to be Xenophon, Johnny Thunders' ghost, and Tullochgorum are all thrown into the mix. Can Morag and Heather overcome their differences and somehow save the day?
You can tell what kind of book "The Good Fairies of New York" is by the title alone. Obviously it takes place in New York, and it is mostly populated by (mostly) benevolent fairies. But it's also a gloriously frothy fantasy story that grows more wonderfully chaotic as it goes on, and tackles everything from the proper way to play a fairy reel to avant-garde adaptations of "A Midsummer Night's Dream."
It's also very tangled up. There are about a hundred different subplots all interwoven together like little strips of silk, and Millar is magically able to juggle all of them throughout the book before tying them neatly together at the finale. Some of them are sweet little stories (the rebel leader desperately wooing his enemy's daughter), and some are just delightfully kooky (the spirit of Johnny Thunders trying to reclaim his prized guitar).
And not only is the frothy plot complex, but it's also hilariously funny. Millar has a spare, tongue-in-cheek style that breezes by smoothly, and it's peppered with jokes on every single page ("So this is the end of the romance?" "Of course not! A passionate young fairy like myself does not let a little thing like a knife attack put him off"). The height of the hilarity involves Morag's confession about what she and Heather did to the fairy flag.
Heather and Morag are a fun pair -- punk rock thistle-fairies who feud constantly when they aren't fast friends, and who have a knack for causing mass mayhem. The airy neohippie Kerry is a likable foil to the fairies, and her crippling disease adds a bit of pathos to the story. Dinnie remains too surly to ever be quite likable, especially given how many TV sex ads he watches.
"The Good Fairies of New York" lives up to its name -- a charming little book with a rock'n'roll edge, a big grimy city, and an abundance of very odd fairy characters. Not your average urban fantasy.