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The Uncertain Places: 01/18/19

The Uncertain Places

The Uncertain Places by Lisa Goldstein is an urban fantasy set in the 1970s in Berkeley and Napa. Imagine if you will that the Grimm's fairytales were true, though heavily altered, and the most dangerous one has been kept out of the public eye. Except that there's one family who is living under the curse described in the fairytale. Now our protagonist is caught up in the middle of it.

The gist of the curse is that a child of the family is put into a seven year sleep so that their spirit can fight on behalf of the fae side that has recruited them. The child is usually female but not always — not always a child and not always female. The cursed family in payment receives an unusual amount of good luck but they can't talk about the curse to anyone.

Will Taylor who ends up in the middle of all of this, being in love with one of the cursed, and later, the father of another, decides enough is enough. Uncertain Places is how a curse is discovered and understood in modern times and how it is undone.

It's not the first "fairytales are real" book I've read but it's the one I've enjoyed the most. For me it was the setting that sold the book. Berkeley and Napa both have their oddballs and both were popular places with the hippie culture of the late 1960s, early 1970s. Some of that hippie culture lingers on. What better place could the fae, the otherworldly, the immortal have to blend in?

In terms of the road narrative spectrum, this one sits with Beneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire. It is another family to utopia by way of a cornfield. Here the cornfield is the woods and garden outside the family's house in Napa. The utopia is the fae lands where the sleeping maiden fights. The travelers, though, are her family and her boyfriend, all of whom are ready for this curse to end. Essentially by denying her seven year stint with orphan magic, they are dragging her and their family back to the real world where magic can't reach.

Four stars

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