There is so much to enjoy in Kate Saunders’ latest novel that it’s hard to know where to begin. It is the story of Tom Harding, who discovers in chapter one, and much to his surprise, that his father is a fairy. The news is broken by a tough looking lady in a blue boiler suit, one of three fairy godmothers appointed by Tom’s father.
Tom’s father was wise in his choice of multiple godmothers because Tom needs all the help he can get. His father has been arrested in the fairy realm and accused of murder, unlawful marriage to a mortal, and producing a demisprite (Tom). He denies all charges but the ruling fairy family, the Falconers, as despotic and unscrupulous a bunch as you are likely to meet this side of Libya, are determined to dispose of him and his family by whatever means necessary. With the Hardings gone, they can take control of fairy beauty spot Hopping Hill, and the gold that is underneath it.
At least Tom’s mother is safe, hidden in a jar of sun-dried tomatoes in the care of the genie who runs the Casbah Café and kebab shop on Kentish Town Road.
The book is hugely inventive, often very funny and highly readable. There are depths to the story beneath the fun too: the book shines a light on corrupt government, and the nature of resistance movements; there’s social satire too in the descriptions of Tom’s fairy godmothers, botoxed Dahlia in particular; the development of a friendship between Tom and his fairy cousin Pindar is convincing and touching.
Saunders maintains the suspense throughout, and there are some startling revelations as we find out what’s really been going on in the realm, not to mention a surprise dragon! This is a satisfying and cheering read for children and one they could return to time and again.