The #YABookmeet made a magical return this May 11 with Jodi McAlister, author of the recently completed Valentine Series (Penguin Random House). If you missed out, catch up on everything from Fae to Z(appleby) below–and find out who’s coming next month!
Valentine, Ironheart, and Misrule, follow steely-willed Pearl as she tries to protect her family and friends from the Fae who invade her small town. Two rival Courts seek a lost Fae child called the “Valentine”: The Seelie Court wants to bring the Valentine home to their realm, while the Unseelie Court wants to kill them. But Pearl’s determination to defend her loved ones makes her an obstacle, and the Fae are as merciless as they are selfish when it comes to getting what they want.
Jodi’s Fae villains are grounded in the understanding that while human in appearance, they are a species with no humanity. Unlike vampires, Fae were never human, and don’t have that connection or perspective to influence–and moderate–their actions. Their motivations come from their pettiness and detachment, with Jodi comparing them to human toddlers who might aggravate those around them out of curiosity, and then laugh at the reaction. It’s the Fae’s immortal lifespan and awareness of their own power that transforms this curiosity a cruelty.
Australia’s environment contributed to the hostile ambience of the series. Jodi drew parallels between the ominous enchanted woods in old English folktales about the Fae and Australia’s open, lonely landscape while studying Australian fiction at university. This connection was the first inspiration for the series, followed by Jodi’s fascination with those same terrifying folktales. (The scariest of which were read to her by her father at bedtime.) The vastness of Australia’s land could–and does–literally swallow people up, in an eerie reflection of the Unseelie Court’s own flesh-eating habits. With the bush bordering Pearl’s small town, there’s a constant sense of foreboding in the series, even during crowded, public scenes.
The humans of the Valentine Series also grapple with realistic struggles, though many are further problematised by the introduction of supernatural forces. Pearl’s morally-grey actions are largely a result of her circumstances, but she’s still forced to conceal them from her family, to her guilt and discomfort. Friendships are also strained by her fumbling heroics, and the emotional boundaries she fails to respect while she attempts to save lives. These acts have devastating consequences, reminding us that while Valentine is a work of fantasy, the narrative’s stakes of mortality and interpersonal connection are unapologetically human.
One fascinating aspect of the series is its steadfast validation of emotional intensity and complexity. Each novel was written around an emotion that society teachers teenage girls to suppress–desire, rage, and ambition, respectively–and these concepts are explored through Pearl’s character arc. The integration of elements of crime fiction in the form of the police and the media circus also mean that Pearl’s rebellions against society’s emotional shackles land narrative beats that maintain an engaging plot and pacing. Rejecting societal norms has a whole new set of consequences when the news and internet misrepresent it, as Pearl unfortunately discovers. Jodi said that if she were ever to write another book in the series, she’d explore frustration next, with the “fae patriarchy” as the main target. (Or, as I called it, the faetriarchy. Please save your applause for the next Bookmeet.)
Of course, we talked about many more things: the struggles of writing the perfect love interest without him being an “ideal”, her current writing project about community theatre antics, and the truth about Zappleby. But if I said anymore, I’d spoil your appetite. If you want to know more about the Valentine Series, you can check them out on Goodreads here, and read the free online prequel Galentine here to get a taste. Goodnight, sleep tight–and don’t let the Fae bite!
And if you want to come to an event like this…
The next #YABookmeet will be on June 8th at 2:30pm at Dymocks Sydney, with special guest Helena Fox visiting for an in-conversation about her new contemporary novel How It Feels to Float. You can find out about her book here, and RSVP for this free event by sending a quick email to firstname.lastname@example.org !
See you there!
Publisher’s blurb for Valentine, book one of the Valentine Series
Four teenagers – all born on the same Valentine’s Day – begin to disappear. As the bodies mount up, Pearl Linford has to work out what in the supernatural hell is going on, before it happens to her.
Finn Blacklin is the boy with whom Pearl shares a birthday, the boy she has known all her life and disliked every second of it, the boy her subconscious has a totally annoying crush on. Finn is also the Valentine: a Seelie fairy changeling swapped for a human boy at birth. The Unseelie have come to kill the Valentine – except they don’t know who it is. And now both the Seelie and the Unseelie think Pearl is the Valentine, and if they find out she isn’t, she’ll disappear too.
Pearl must use all her wits to protect herself. Finn must come to terms with his newfound heritage. And then there’s the explosive chemistry between them that neither of them know quite what to do about . . .