Survival Of The Fairest
by Jody Wallace, fantasy (2008)
Samhain Publishing, $6.50, ISBN 1-60504-070-3
There are fairies in Jody Wallace's Survival Of The Fairest, and young fairies are sent on "survival training" in the treacherous place known as humanspace before they are allowed to take on adult responsibilities. The reason for this is because, once upon a time, fairies lost their magic and as a result, those that survived realized the importance of being hardy and tough should such an incident occur again in the future. Hence, the young fairies being sent on commando training in some woods in humanspace, banned from using anything but their wits and physical abilities to make it through the course.
Our heroine, Talista, is the Crown Princess of her clan of Serendipity and when the story opens, it is her turn to embark on her survival training. Tali has no intention of rotting away for two weeks in some forest in a magic-free environment, however. She wants to get to know humans better and, therefore, she is going elsewhere to do her commando training. Besides, she thinks that it doesn't make sense for the fairies to train to be just like Rambo when the purpose of the training is to help fairies blend in with humans. Why not do her training in a place full of humans? Thus, she wants to go to... Las Vegas. Hey, don't laugh. I'm sure for some folks unused to seeing humans like Tali here, Clay Aiken performing in a Siegfried and Roy show would come off as scary as any B-grade horror movie out there.
A crazy woman who is dressed like an Amish and who doesn't understand what the traffic lights mean would blend in just fine.
Jake Story, our hero, is a magician. He first meets and rescues Tali when she happily crosses the street when she shouldn't. Understandably, he thinks that she's nuts. She doesn't help matters by telling him that her name is Smith Smith. But she makes a cute stage assistant, he has to concede, and she's also pretty easy on the eyes. He has no idea what he is in for, the poor man, however, when Tali's folks from back home decide to mount a mission to bring back Tali and Tali isn't sure that she's ready to end her Vegas adventure that soon.
Survival Of The Fairest is a pretty cute and amusing story, although the whole thing, barring some adult sexual elements here and there, feels a little too much like a very young adult story for my liking. Tali is a heroine that is generally clueless about most of the ways of humans, and therefore, many of her actions here are "cute" in the way that will either annoy or thrill you, depending on how you like your fish out of water scenarios to be. To me, I find Tali to be more akin to an earnest but naïve young lady. Sometimes she can get too "cute" for me, such as when she mistakes a bunch of gnome statuettes for dangerous real gnomes that will attack her, but she displays an exuberant nature that I find infectious. It's just hard to be down on someone as enthusiastic as Tali is about seeing and experiencing new things.
On his part, Jake is pleasant hero, but his role is mostly that to counter Tali's character. Sort of like a part babysitter, part lover, part best friend thing. I don't find him too memorable when the poor fellow is paired with Tali. Still, the romance, like the rest of the story, is pleasant to follow.
The author's prose is clean, with some healthy dose of humor reminiscent of the paranormal romances by, say, Stephanie Rowe thrown in here and there, and on the whole the story is most readable. The heroine is a little too much of a ditsy type for me to take in large doses, but the rest of the story is pretty entertaining indeed. I think I actually prefer the author's debut effort A Spell For Susannah in terms of storyline and all, but I also believe that I find Survival Of The Fairest to be a technically more polished follow-up effort. All in all, this is an above average comedy fantasy romp from an author that may just appeal to you if you like fantasy romantic comedies that are amusing but not too over-the-top amusing.
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