Emily sells watercresses on the street in order to provide for herself and her younger brother. She has been doing this for a few years now, ever since her parents mysteriously disappeared. One day, as she is walking through the city to buy the watercresses she will later sell, she witnesses a vicious battle on the streets. And all of the combatants are no taller than her knee. Emily discovers a new world, a world of fantastical creatures of all kinds–fairies and giants, witches and wizards. She is a True Seer, a regular human who can see supernaturals. And what she has seen draws her into a battle between two groups of faeries, the Seelie and the Unseelie and the Invisible Order that seeks out and destroys faeries. Emily’s world is turned upside and things only get worse when her brother William is kidnapped. But who is on Emily’s side and who is evil?
This is definitely one of the better middle grade books I have seen in a while. Emily is a strong, clever protagonist, but she cannot do it alone. I appreciate the fact that she is not suddenly capable of accomplishing every task she needs, as so many characters in other stories are. Instead, she is helped by friend Spring-Heeled Jack and Corrigan, a faerie she found injured after the battle.
I would compare this book most closely with Brandon Mull’s Fablehaven series. There are the clever twists (think of Fablehaven’s betrayal story-lines) and a mythology much deeper than expected (such as the history of the secret preserves and who runs the evil society). Emily is no random orphan embroiled in the faerie world drama, she plays a much larger role in things than she can ever guess. The story is not overly simplistic the truth of good and evil is never that simple.
Though we have yet to get to know William, I have a feeling he will become a more important character in book two and I eagerly await the second book in the series.