This story reminds me a LOT of “A Court of Thorns and Roses,” but I like it better because the main character is far more likable. (Also, while it’s still a bit on the cheesy side at times, it’s not so painfully sappy.)
Isobel is a very skilled painter whose primary patrons are Fair Ones (faeries of the various courts with the names of the seasons). There’s a law that mortals and Fair Folk cannot fall in love, or they’ll be killed — you just have to accept that. You also have to accept some of the other rules of their world: if Fair Folk do anything that can be considered a craft, they will immediately disintegrate into nothing, which is why they so greatly admire anybody who does produce craft of any kind. One day, Isobel’s patron is the Autumn King, Rook — and she starts to fall for him. But in process of painting his portrait, she sees something in his eyes that she cannot identify at first. She eventually realizes it’s sorrow, which is out of place because Fair Ones supposedly can’t feel human emotions at all. She paints it, and when Rook goes back and reveals the portrait in his court, there’s an uproar and the people no longer respect him because he’s been “outed” as having emotion. (Why they can identify it in the painting and not in real life, I don’t know–this is something else you just have to accept.) He comes back to take Isabel to stand trial for her crime. Along the way, though, they encounter a hunt that sets them in danger (I wasn’t clear on the reason for this) which delays the process, and Isobel wrests a confession out of Rook that he loves her. But since she doesn’t yet love him officially, they haven’t broken the law yet.
In order to escape the hunt, they venture into the Summer Court. They stick around for a ball, Isobel of course realizes she loves him, and they’re condemned to death by the Alder King, the king of the Summer Court. Isabel and Rook have to flee for their lives, and eventually Isobel concocts a crazy plan to save them both.
Spoiler alert: it’s a happily-ever-after story (which I’m glad about, because I like happy endings, but it did feel a little too convenient.) Still, I enjoyed the story, and liked Isobel’s and Rook’s characters fo the most part. I also really liked the fact that, unlike most faery stories, the Fair Ones aren’t *all* glamour. In Rogerson’s version (if not in other versions, I don’t know the lore that well), their glamour covers ugliness in their persons, mold and rot in their clothes and food and dwellings. They are immortal, but apparently not immune to time in other ways. The best they can do is hide that under their glamour. I thought that was an interesting twist.
My rating: *** 1/2