Fantasy Girls Gone Wilde: Cassie-la Is Enchanted By “Fairytales for Wilde Girls” by Allyse Near

Fairytales for Wilde Girl Allyse NearFairytales for Wilde Girls by Allyse Near
Genre: Fiction, young adult, fantasy, fairy tale, magic, ghosts, horror, everything I love wrapped up in one fantastic book
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Summary: Seeing dead people isn’t that uncommon for Isola Wilde, she’s had a connection to the World of Nimue since she was four, but when she finds the body of a dead girl imprisoned by a witch inside a bird cage her life is thrown into turmoil and no one is safe. Not her parents, not her next door neighbor and love interest Edgar Allan Poe and certainly not her Six Brother-Princes who make up her circle of protection. Can she save those she loves and escape from becoming the damsel in distress or will her life end as dark as the fairy tales she loves?

I went on quite an adventure to procure myself a copy of Fairytales for Wilde Girls after stumbling across a review of it on Hypable back in June. After reading the description, which touted the story as a “dark bubblegum-gothic fairytale” and the obvious allusions to Oscar Wilde I made it my duty to read a copy of this novel which was only being sold in Australia. Thankfully, around the same time that the lovely author Allyse Near gave me some info on how to get her debut novel in the States a friend of a friend decided to come visit and was more than willing to bring a copy in her luggage as well as the deluxe Hunger Games trilogy collection. At which point I abruptly died.

Of course there’s also a few online options for those of you who want to read it which I have included at the end of this post for any intrepid explorer who wants to get their paws on some amazing Australian fantasy. You would be remiss if you didn’t.

As a whole, Fairytales for Wilde Girls is a charming love letter to fairy tales and all the intriguing and dark parts of the world, real and imaginary. Complete with unicorns, faeries, dark and stormy nights, evil witches, first loves, magic, poetry and the heavy weights of the gothic literature world this novel has everyone and everything.

Our heroine is Isola Wilde, who if written the wrong way she could be a most unlikeable protagonist. She’s quirky, she has some gothic sensibilities, she has the ability to talk to members of the fairy world and has fantastical friends and normally that would drive my crazy, but rather than hating Isola for being a trying too hard phony you immediately like her.

Ruslana Wilde GirlsNamed after Oscar Wilde’s deceased sister, Isola Wilde who passed when she was a child, Isola has been taught all her life to live extra hard, for both her and her namesake who died too young.

The happy, carefree life that Isola has built around herself begins to crumble when she finds a dead girl in the woods, a princess to be precise inside a birdcage who was being held captive there by a witch who forced her to sing until she died. Upset by Isola’s loudly beating heart, the princess returns as a angry spirit to take her pain out on Isola, the girl who can see her and the girl who is lucky enough to be alive, all the while singing in her ruined and ragged voice. Terrifying!

In something akin to a security blanket, Isola surrounds herself with her protectors, or what she calls her Brother-Princes inspired by her childhood fairy tale “The Seventh Princess.”

There’s her first brother, the Victorian London cutie Alejandro who died in an opium den, the frightening spirit of vengeance the Fury Ruslana, Rosekin the dramatic faerie, her lanky childhood friend James Sommerwell, mermaid and possible serial-killer Christobelle and of course, the ghost of Grandpa Furlong and his pet spider Dame Furlong.

I’m slightly partial to Christobelle the mermaid because one she’s a mermaid and two, despite being spurned by love as evidenced by the blood pearls which are woven into her pink hair she’s still a hopeless romantic at heart. Or maybe I just love her dark, tragic back story more than anything.

Isola’s creation of the Brother-Princes runs parallel to the story within the story by the fictional authoress Lileo Pardieu who writes tales of “girls who kill, girls who are killed, girls who are alive and girls who are otherwise.” In the tale, a beautiful princess i stolen by some dragons and her six brothers and their various talents head out into the wilderness to save their beloved sister with disastrous consequences. Consequences that beautifully parallel the main story occurring in Wilde Girls.

Other stories within the main book include lilting tales about unicorns seeking revenge. You’ll never look at unicorns the same way again.

Christobelle Wilde GirlsAnd that’s not just to say the novel is only full of fantastical and horrifying events. It’s also incredibly witty. Isola makes reference to people doing things like as drinking “Dickensian helpings of gin” and dating advice from her mother that suggest “never pick the beast or the wolf on the off-chance he won’t devour you.” Isola’s school, St. Dymphna’s (who is the patron saint of the mentally ill, true story) has a tournament every year between teams divided into Arthur and Guinevere houses while Isola decides to make her own team who she dubs Team Mordred. And she even has a crazy friend who is under the impression that Kurt Cobain is merely between records rather than gravestones.

Don’t worry lovers of obscure religious trivia, there’s also references to St. Dominic the patron saint of juvenile delinquents, petty criminals, teen anarchists and “terribly sad people about to commit an in changeable act.” Dominic died at the age of 15 with the dying words, “What beautiful things I see” upon his lips. Just thought I’d throw that in there.

Besides being an enriching modern day fairy tale and a terrifying horror story about the secrets we keep hidden from ourselves, Near’s book is also a treasure hunt of allusions. Isola lives in the town of Avalon (the island in the Arthurian legend) and the nearby woods are dubbed Vivien’s Woods after Vivien, AKA the Lady of the Lady AKA Nimue. And who else lives in Avalon but the shut-in doomsday hermit Boo Radley and Isola’s next door neighbors Edgar Allan Poe and his brothers and sisters Puck, Portia and Cassio.

There’s also references to Annabelle Lee, Alice Liddell, Cinderella, The Virgin Suicides, the most beautiful word in the English language according to J.R.R. Tolkien “cellar door,” the Sword of Damocles, Madame Guillotine, Orpheus and his Underworld wife Eurydice, Sylvia Plath and even Batman. And those are just the ones I remembered.

Near will have you hooked from page one with her rich and inventive prose, keep your reading with her compelling story, and have you gripped all the way to the end. At which point you will then have to immediately re-read the novel because that plot twist. Then you might cry because she’s only 24 and her debut novel is perfection.

THE GOOD:
-Writing is lush, rich and unlike anything you’ve read before
-The fairy tales in the story within the story are superb, I would read a whole collection of them (hint, hint, nudge, nudge)
-Wholly inventive and original plot and setting
-Characters were engaging, compelling and frightening all at the same time
THAT ENDING

THE BAD:
-Whatcha talkin bout Willis?

If you happen to be outside Australia or you don’t have a friend who can ship Wilde Girls to you or a friend of a friend who just so happens to be visiting the States or whichever country you’re located in, you can order the novel from Fishpond.com which has free shipping worldwide and is based out of New Zealand. Which honestly seems to be your best option. Bonus: you can basically just pretend the book is being sent from Middle-earth.

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