“By Fairy Means or Foul: A Starfig Investigations Novel” or why I’m still not into fantasy

My first fantasy novel, ever. Yeah, I admit, I haven’t even read LOTR, the language had me asleep before I got to chapter two in The Hobbit. So why on earth would I want to read a novel about fairies which the title not so subtly alludes to? One reason really: the author. Meghan Maslow is a friend, albeit a rairly recent one, but a good friend nonetheless, and I always read what my friends write, no matter how bad or “out there” their writing seems to be. Meghan sort of attached herself to me and a friend at the San Diego version of GRL, the annual reader-writer convention of people who love gay romance literature, and where I, for some odd reason, have found a home, even though I don’t belong there, since, yeah, I don’t write romance. Meghan is witty, she’s smart, and she’s one hell of a writer, or so I discovered after having read her first foray into what some people refer to as “m/m” (you know how much I despise that word).

The cover of "By Fairy Means Or Foul" by Meghan Maslow

The cover of By Fairy Means Or Foul by Meghan Maslow

Ergo me reading By Fairy Means or Foul, a novel with more innuendo than anything I’ve read for a long time. Let me get this out of the way right now, before Meghan, who I’m sure will be reading this, gets her dreads in a twist. And just to say this again, just because I’m friends with Meghan, this is an honest to the bone review, as you’ll see shortly. Here it goes: Meghan is an insanely talented writer, and you can tell by all the subtleties that she’s also well educated and knows her genre, probably a gazillion times better than I do (since, yeah, my first, remember?)

Here’s the blurb, to save me summarizing it:

“The last thing half-dragon, half-fairy private investigator Twig Starfig wants to do is retrieve a stolen enchanted horn from a treacherous fae, but there’s no denying the dazzlingly gorgeous unicorn who asks Twig to do just that. Literally, no denying, because compelling the reluctant detective is all part of a unicorn’s seductive magic.

To add to his woes, Twig is saddled with the unicorn’s cheeky indentured servant, Quinn Broomsparkle. Dragons are supposed to want to eat humans, but Twig’s half-dragon side only wants to gobble up Quinn in a more . . . personal way. Making matters worse, it’s obvious the smokin’ hot but untrustworthy sidekick is hiding something. Something big. And not what’s in his trousers. In the PI business, that means trouble with a capital Q.

Throw in gads of zombies, a creepy ghost pirate ship, a malfunctioning magic carpet, and Twig’s overbearing fairy father’s demands to live up to the illustrious Starfig name. Naturally, an old but abiding enemy chooses this time to resurface, too. Those inconveniences Twig can handle. The realization he’s falling for a human who isn’t free to return his affections and whose life may hang on the success of his latest case?

Not so much.”

I’d hate to give things away, right? Reading a book about fairies and dragons and men in slavery just never really made it to my remotest level of interest, but oddly, I found this an amusing read. I chuckled a lot, shook my head in disbelief even more often, whether it was about the powers of dragons or witches or unicorns, and how they “really” are in terms fo strength of character (or lack thereof) is quite amusing. And the story flows freely and is well paced. No boring spots here. I absolutely enjoyed the plays on the genre “rules” that I think Meghan bends, and warps, but without turning hard-core fans off (I hope). Sadly, I can’t be sure, since I don’t read the genre, but yeah, I get the impression that she gets away with her plays… Don’t believe me? Read the reviews online…

Meghan Maslow's pirate escorted Her Majesty to the party in San Diego. I guess that costume explains a thing or two about the expanse, right?

Meghan Maslow’s pirate escorted Her Majesty to the party in San Diego. I guess that costume explains a thing or two about the expanse, right?

Now, to the parts that didn’t please me quite that much, and they’re part of the genre “gay fantasy” or – shudders – “m/m fantasy”, the way the human always has to be succumbing to the beast (whether a werewolf, a werecat or a dragon). Meghan has an interesting twist on that (no spoilers), but I’m deeply troubled by the whole notion of “active – passive”, “top – bottom” and their portrayal in gay romance, and how it’s really just a prolongation of “saving the damsel in distress”. I’ll grant you, I skipped the sex scenes because it’s even worse to read it than seeing it on screen, so I can’t say if the dragon ever bottomed, but it would somehow defy the genre expectations, wouldn’t it? This is a series, and – Meghan, if you read this – there’s hope… I certainly know Meghan’s heart and mind are in the right place in what we call “IRL”.

What I did like was the “of course” attitude of the fantasy society to gay love or relationships/mating. It was refreshing to read that, but it also reminds us just how “fantasy” fantasy really is, or is it vice versa? I can never get that right. The other aspect I didn’t enjoy was some of the predictability associated with the romance genre, like the misunderstandings in all the right places, the sex scenes, again, and again, and again, like the pistons in an engine, but even here, Meghan manages to surprise us one more time with a [no spoiler].

Conclusions? This is a brilliantly written novel (phew, that makes seeing Meghan again in two days so much simpler), playing the genre like a virtuoso (I think), with really well fleshed-out characters, a fun and action-packed story and the promise of more of the same as the series continues. If you love your boys hot, your stories “out there” in the paranormal fantasy realm, then you absolutely MUST read this book. By Fairy Means or Foul is available on Amazon right now. I give it four stars there, the fifth star withheld not because it isn’t a brilliant book but because I just don’t enjoy this sort of stuff. It’s amazing that Meghan wrote a story I read to the end without suffering too badly.

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