The trees had swallowed Tom whole. How often had she worried at those words, turning them over and over in her mind until they shone like river-polished stones?
–R. F. Long - The treachery of beautiful things - c.2012
Seven years ago Jenny and her brother were walking home one evening when the trees moved, and took her brother. Ever since she has had to deal with that fact, a fact that no one really believes. But now, she has decided, it is time for closure. To let the past be the past, to mourn and to move on. So she returns to the very spot where Tom vanished in an attempt to say goodbye.
But she hears music from among the trees. Her brother was playing his flute when he was taken, and this sounds so like him that Jenny dives in after. And discovers the world of faerie. And it isn’t a very welcoming world. From the outset she realises that very little here is as it appears and she shouldn’t trust to appearances.
She meets Jack o’the forest, the guardian of the Edge. HE wants to get her back home but Jenny is convinced that the piper is her brother and that once she has tracked him down she can take him home. But the piper belongs to the queen, and Titania does not relinquish what she holds.
I really liked aspects of this story. The setting and the atmosphere were great. But the action and the characters felt a little under developed for my liking. That could be an echoing of the whole fairytale tradition though, we never really get to know Cinderella or Tam Lin do we? Not in the traditional tales. It is all about the magic and the suspension of disbelief. And that is alive and well in The Treachery of Beautiful Things. I really enjoyed the references to folklore and mythology, from Shakespeare’s Robin Goodfellow and Oberon to the more elemental and raw original stories. Faeryland is not an easy place to live, especially for a human, with so many rules that can so easily be broken.
To be honest, I think this would have worked an awful lot better if it had been more dark and dangerous. It never felt like Jenny might not escape, peril was hinted at and she was often in grave danger, but I was never really worried for her. And I didn’t get the love story part either. It wasn’t off-putting, it just felt a tad formulaic. But again, that is part and parcel of the fairytale genre so maybe I should be praising the author for getting that so right :)