Review: “The Seelie Princess” by Jill Turner

Title: The Seelie Princess

Author: Jill Turner

Genre: Children’s Fantasy

Rating: ***

 

To be perfectly honest, I knew I was going to love this book from the moment I read the synopsis. Who doesn’t love a good faerie story, let’s be honest? Jill Turner does a fantastic job of weaving together old folk tales with a modern setting and with characters I had no trouble relating to almost immediately.

Clary, the main character, is a sweet little girl who I was mentally cheering for from the get go. She seems like a very ordinary child, even though it’s plainly evident from the events surrounding her that she is far from that, and her fragile humanity makes her such a fantastic character. She seems unable to protect herself through much of the book, mostly because of her young age I think, and as a reader you feel a very real sense of danger at her back throughout.

This is permeated by the very focal presence of her nasty teacher, Mrs De’ath, who while often comical in her attempts to sabotage Clary, is still a quite frightening antagonist. Her utter ruthlessness doesn’t become completely apparent until the second half of the book, but even without that I found her a well-written character that I think will resound with anyone who has had to deal with an unpleasant teacher at school. After all, as a child, what can you do if a teacher hounds your steps? It’s a cleverly written plot point, so I have to take my hat off to the author for that.

The magic of the tale is really beautifully scattered into the story, too. It’s subtle, but lends a sense of wonder to the whole set up. All of the supporting characters are wonderful too, and it’s interesting the way the perspectives swapped from that of a helpless child, to the almost equally helpless magical beings. The only one who seemed able to make any real difference was Clary’s mother, a particular favourite character for me.

I think this is wonderful story for older children to read and have on their bookshelves. It teaches a very important lesson about dealing with bullies and making friends, and I can’t wait to give a copy to my niece. It’s a very comforting read, even for adults, but I think any child who is suffering with bullies at school would feel very akin to this story, and to Clary, too. What lonely little girl doesn’t dream of being a fairy princess, after all?

“The Benefits of Global Warming”

Author Note: I wrote this little story a few years ago as a birthday present for a very dear friend. Since I’m rather fond of it, and her, I thought it would be nice to post it up here. Please excuse the huge piles of artistic license I’ve taken with the original story; this was just for a giggle!


Millennia had passed.

The Earth had turned. Humanity had changed. No longer did they worship the Gods that resided upon Mount Olympus, finding other, kinder religions to follow. Some chose to believe in themselves instead. Others worshipped other humans, singers and performers, or the greatest receiver of all their praise, The Internet.

Those that had once been the most powerful beings in existence were now all but ignored. Their temples were in ruins, their great deeds little more than stories used to pass the time. The world no longer needed them, moving along on its own after so many eons of repetition. Still, they continued with their immortal lives, living in the past even as their powers dwindled. Hephaestus forged until the beautiful treasures piled up worthlessly, Hermes carried messages between the Gods despite how predictable they had all become, and every year Persephone would move between her mother and her husband like a never ending pendulum.

ooo

Hades, Lord of the Underworld, awoke slowly from his shallow sleep. It had been a long time coming, his dread of the ensuing morning making him want to count every moment he had left with his wife before she returned to the surface for the next six months. This would be their last day together for half a year, and it broke him every time. She was his obsession, even now. The blood in his veins, the air in his lungs and the beat of the heart that many said did not exist. It was torture to be parted from her, and the pain never relinquished its hold on him until she was back.

Already he felt pain at their upcoming separation, and trying to quell it, reached across their bed to pull her closer while he still could. His hand found only cool sheets instead of the much beloved form of Persephone, and he blinked his eyes open in confusion. She wasn’t there. He frowned. It wasn’t unusual for her to rise early, but this was their last morning before she was taken from him, and usually they would share the heated intimacy of their bed until gone noon.

Stretching out his power to try and locate her, concern began to override his annoyance when she was nowhere to be found. What he did find was Hermes waiting in his throne room. The concern was mixed with fury now, as suspicion spread like the dark shadow that clothed and moved him to where the messenger God was waiting. Hades had him by the throat before he even knew he was in the room.

Where is she?’ he bellowed.

‘Upstairs!’ the smaller God flapped uselessly. ‘Mount Olympus! She asked for an audience with her father, and now he wants to see you!’

Hades was gone almost before he had finished speaking, not waiting for any further explanation, his mind already turning dark and thinking the very worst. To ask for an audience with Zeus could only mean one thing, and though he had known this day would eventually come, he wasn’t ready for it yet. She was no longer a child, the near powerless Goddess he had first met as distant a memory as her shyness in their bedchamber. She was strong, and she was self-assured, and he loved her for it. It was just unfortunate that with this confidence came the obvious realisation that she was well beyond becoming her own mistress.

He had given her all the freedom he possibly could without letting her go, taught her how to use her powers and encouraged her to strike out by herself. She had blossomed into a strong, free-thinking woman who knew who she was and what she wanted, and apparently now, how to get it. He couldn’t begrudge her that, but he had thought they would have more time.

She had been asking a lot about the humans and the changes above ground lately, studying the strange weather problems they seemed to be experiencing, that they referred to as “Global Warming” and reading their holy scripture by their newest deity, Science. At first he had thought it simple curiosity – she was inquisitive by nature, after all. Now though, he realised she had been researching if the humans still relied on the seasons as much as they had in the past. The answer was a loud, resounding no, and with that came the knowledge that she could go where she pleased without having to concern herself with keeping in sync with the turning of the Earth.

She was going to leave him.

Of course she was. Why would she stay if she no longer had to? There was a strong attraction between them, the same instinctual desire that had brought them crashing together in the first place, but that was just sex. She was kind-hearted, and he didn’t doubt that she must at least be fond of him, simply because she was fond of everyone. She could not laugh as she did if she hated him, and despite the warped version of events the humans told, save for a handful of would-be deities who spent their spare time tinkering with established stories for entertainment, he had not forced her to his bed. It had been a mutual clash of bodies and desires.

What he had done, however, was to trick her into eating the pomegranate and forced her to stay in the Underworld with him. Her mother had gone to Zeus and the agreement had been reached that Persephone would move between the two of them with the changing of the season, the harbinger of both warmth and cold to the humans.

Hades knew well how she resented the arrangement, her own opinions not even being considered when the decision had been made, but she had never been openly hostile towards him for his trickery. She had shared herself willingly, and it had been enough for him. It had to be.

It was no secret that he wasn’t worthy of her, everyone spoke of poor Persephone. Even knowing that he hadn’t forced his body on her, the knowledge that he had forced his presence on her was enough for the other Gods to cluck pitifully when they saw her. Demeter didn’t help matters by insisting that he was guilty on both counts, but he had never cared much for that kind of prattle. The opinions of others didn’t concern him, but his own opinion tended to agree that he was a monster for stealing his Persephone, even for the few months he had her. He was torn between knowing she had earned her freedom and knowing how dismal his existence would become without her.

As he at last ascended to the halls of Mount Olympus, the darkness of the underworld clinging to him like smoke in the brightness of the day, he knew he could not simply let her go without a fight. He had to try and keep her. Zeus had no real power anymore, as did none of them, and Hades would use that fact for his own purpose if it came to it. His proclivity for spite and rage was often not exaggerated.

He emerged fully, and took in his brother’s troubled expression, even as Demeter made her own presence known by grabbing at her daughter and trying to pull her back. Not thinking straight and furious to see their reunion brought forward if only by a few hours, he too stepped forward, clasping a hand around Persephone’s warm wrist.

‘She is still on my time, sister,’ he growled at the stout, but short Goddess. ‘And I am already beyond my patience today.’

Demeter, to her credit, was not intimidated so easily and snapped right back. ‘Get your filthy hands off of her! How dare you?’

‘My filthy hands have touched every conceivable place, I assure you.’

The argument might have spiralled on and on from there, Demeter’s face turning a furious pink at his taunt and readying herself to spit back something of equal bile, but Persephone’s soft laughter made them both take pause. It was a dry laugh, but her eyes sparkled with a mixture of emotion that ranged between annoyance and acceptance.

Hades looked at her properly for the first time since he had entered the hall, and wished he could have simply woken as he had intended this morning, pulling her soft, pliant form to him and satisfying both of their needs. Imprinting the memory of her warmth onto his bed and his heart until they would be reunited again next autumn. She, however, was looking to her father, and when she held up her arms, neither Hades nor Demeter stopped her, but refused to relinquish their hold.

‘Do you see, father?’ she spoke softly, but with an edge Hades recognised as the ending of her patience. ‘This is my life. How can you allow it to continue, especially knowing that my powers are no longer needed in the world?’

‘How can you say such things?’ Demeter gasped, trying briefly to shake Persephone away once again, but ceasing the action when her daughter stood firm and defiant. ‘Of course your powers are needed! Without you the winter would be eternal and the humans would perish!’

‘They would do no such thing,’ the young Goddess corrected. ‘They have become clever. They can warm themselves efficiently in ways they never could before, and even if they could not, the seasons turn without my interference now. This is fact.’

‘It is not fact! It is madness!’ Demeter pointed accusingly at Hades and fumed. ‘He has done this! Put these ideas into your head, made you think… things!’

Persephone sighed so deeply he could feel the weight of it, then looked once again to Zeus, sat silent and bemused as he watched the three of them. ‘Please father, I must be allowed to speak. I was not before, and this time I insist my opinion be heard.’

‘Release her,’ Zeus ordered easily, and when neither of them budged, furrowed his thick brows. ‘Immediately.’

Hades still held on, despite his sister jumping back as though burned by the edge in Zeus’ voice. She had reason to fear him, or believed she did, where Hades did not. It was only when Persephone looked up at him, her eyes pleading, that he let her go. As she slipped from his fingers, he felt certain it was the last time he would be permitted to touch her.

As she stepped forward, away from him, he felt a great pain begin to pierce his soul, and could do little more than watch as she began to plead her case in earnest.

‘There was a need for the balance before, to keep both my mother and husband appeased, and saving the humans from the wrath of winter. Now our powers have weakened and the Earth moves on without us, and the humans are able to care for themselves.’

‘Those words are dangerous, child,’ Zeus chided, but looked at Hades as though it was somehow his fault. It probably was. He knew she had not learnt to think for herself from her mother. They had spent many a long night discussing art, philosophy and literature in great depth between love-making. If his heart had not been breaking into tiny shards of ice in his chest, he might have felt proud to see the influence of this in her now.

‘But they are true,’ she pushed, determined to make her point. ‘I made an experiment of it last year and withheld my powers from the land, but spring still came.’

If Hades was shocked that she had gone to such lengths, he did not show it as much as Demeter. She all but shrieked, the horror plain on her features.

‘You did what? You stupid, irresponsible girl! Anything could have happened!’

‘But it didn’t!’ Persephone pleaded. ‘Didn’t you hear me? The spring still came! It was late and a little disorganised, but it came none the less. That proves it!’

‘If anything all this proves is that you are still a foolish child who isn’t ready to make her own decisions!’ Demeter continued to bluster, looking to Zeus for support. Their brother, however, appeared unmoved. He turned them to Hades instead.

‘What say you of all this, brother? Did you know of her plans?’

‘Of course he did,’ Demeter fumed. ‘It was probably his idea. What cares he for the deaths of humans?’

‘I was speaking to our brother, Demeter,’ Zeus reprimanded, but with a listlessness that killed any threat it might have held. ‘But as it happens, since you first brought the winter to kill the humans and keep him too busy to touch your precious Kore, I imagine he cares a great deal.’

As Demeter clucked in in stunned shock at the very precise accusation, Zeus nodded back to Hades, urging him to speak. He had no idea what to say, impressed by Persephone’s resourcefulness but shocked almost as much as her mother that she would take such a risk.

‘I was unaware of any of this,’ he confessed carefully, looking to his wife and trying not to get swept up but the sheepish smile she gifted him with. ‘But I am certain she would have corrected her actions had it not gone as planned.’

‘Oh, of course!’ she looked quickly between him and Zeus. ‘I had set a time limit, and if spring had not come I shouldn’t have continued to try. I don’t want anyone to suffer on my account, but I had to know. I just had to.’

He was placated by that, at least, and understood her need to be free. He just wished there was some way to keep her, to do something, anything, to leave things as they were. Such actions, however, would crush the shining light of hope in her beautiful face as she looked eagerly at her father and waited for his judgement. As much as Hades needed her, he loved her more than his own flesh and could not be responsible for that. For all it would condemn him to hopelessness himself.

‘In that case,’ Zeus began, quite grandly, considering how obviously bored he had been throughout the discussion so far, ‘on the understanding that if the spring should deteriorate without you and the humans suffer, you are to return to your duties, you may go where you wish. You are no longer bound by the old agreement and may move between worlds as you see fit.’

The joy on Persephone’s face was something to be beheld, her beauty radiant with it even as her mother began to shriek incoherently, but Hades could not stay to witness it a moment longer. He had missed his chance, given it up in his love for her, and now she would remain with Demeter in the sunshine for eternity. With a stiff bow to his brother, he was gone.

000

Hades did not know or care how long he sat upon their bed –his bed, now- and stared into the deep oblivion that lay before him. If what Persephone claimed was indeed true, and there was no reason to doubt that it was, the dead could sort themselves now. If they could not, he found himself unable to care, having already resigned himself to taking today for rest. He had not, of course, expected to get very much rest at all when he had initially made that decision, but with Persephone gone from him forever, he knew he was still owed this time, if only to mourn.

Shadows gathered in the corners of his mind and filled the void of his heart. He felt heavy, almost mortal in his anguish and wished he had the lack of composure to scream to the stars of his pain. He did not, and continued only to stare at nothing while he keenly felt the pain of his loss.

When the door to his chamber clicked open, it took him a moment to register the intruder, and when he saw her he could almost not believe his eyes. Persephone smiled awkwardly, her small shoulders curling inwards as she stood before him.

‘I, ah… You left before I could say goodbye.’

Sorrow gave way to anger then, the agony of having her so close and flaunting her presence when he could not touch her near blinding him. He did not want to say goodbye to her, could she not see that? Was she punishing him? Taunting him? He looked away from her and clenched his fists tightly, not wanting their last meeting to be full of harsh words when they had shared so much passion and companionship through the ages.

‘Will you not miss me?’ she asked quietly, and feeling the softness of her touch upon his cheek, the rage melted. He looked to her shining eyes, glasslike with hurt and confusion. She had not done this to hurt him, of course she hadn’t. Such vindictiveness was beyond her.

Reaching out to her, slowly and cautiously enough that she could move away if she so chose, he mirrored her action, and caressed her jaw, his thumb rubbing gently her soft cheek. When she leaned into his touch, a smile playing about her mouth, he released a shuddering sigh from his aching lungs.

‘I shall miss you as no one ever could, my love. Without you there will be nothing but darkness and sorrow in my heart for as long as the Earth continues to spin meaninglessly on.’

To his surprise, but delight, she moved forwards, pressing their bodies together and insinuating herself on his lap, straddling his legs with practiced ease. Her arms wound around his neck and her delicate fingers twined in his hair as she pressed her mouth to his. He knew he was torturing himself to allow this to continue, but he wanted to savour her for as long as he could.

‘So dramatic,’ she breathed when she pulled away, that little smile all too inviting on her well kissed lips. ‘I shall be back tomorrow. I’m sure you can manage until then.’

He looked up at her, stunned into motionlessness by her words. ‘Tomorrow?’

‘Well mother did make such an awful fuss,’ she shrugged, putting her hands on her hips in pretend huffiness. ‘And you just left while she tried to summon an eternal winter, which of course failed abysmally, much to father’s amusement. I think it best she have company tonight in case she tries to do something foolish, or I would quite happily stay here and never move again.’

‘You…’ he stopped, trying to process what she was saying, his fingers gripping her thighs tightly enough that she fidgeted a bit. ‘You mean to stay with me?’

‘Well not tonight,’ she frowned back. ‘I just said mother could use the company, and I haven’t seen her since last autumn, so one night won’t kill you for all your theatrics. But yes, for the most part.’

He still could do little more than stare at her and she seemed to grow uncomfortable. The uncertainty and confusion in her expression made him realise he had worried her, but he still couldn’t seem to speak.

‘Do you not want me?’

It was his turn to pull her close, to crush her lips to his own in silent disavowal of such a thought, banishing all uncertainty from her mind. They became lost in one another, the elemental clash of their desire burning as fiercely as it had the day they met. When at last he released her, they were both panting, legs tangled and bodies burning with need.

‘Of course I want you,’ he whispered. ‘Do not ever doubt it, for without you my life is as nothing.’

He lightly ran his fingers down her back and she shivered against him, her eyes brimming with affection and relief. ‘I am glad. If I had thought for a moment that my actions might mean the loss of you, I should never forgive myself. I would gladly go back to living with my mother for half of the year if it guaranteed the other half to you. I know it was selfish, but I wanted you always.’

She kissed him once, chastely, and watched for any sign that her plan had gone awry. The idea that he could ever tire of her, ever want her gone, was ludicrous, and he was baffled that she might consider such a thing in any way viable. He cupped her face in both of his hands, looking seriously up at her and willing her to understand and believe.

‘I love you. I have always loved you, and I will continue to love you as long as even a thread of my existence is present in the universe.’

‘I love you too,’ she confessed shyly, and such happiness the words brought that Hades was certain his heart would implode from it. ‘And though the world may not need us any longer, that we still need each other is reason enough to be here. With you.’