This book is a collaboration between author Joanne M. Harris, known best for her mainstream books (most famously, Chocolat, which was made into a movie), and fantasy/comics illustrator Charles Vess (Neil Gaiman’s Sandman and Stardust). It is a series of short “original fairy tales,” none longer than a few pages, which together tell a deceptively simple tale of the Kings and Queens of the Folk, and their often-mystifying interactions with humans.
The illustrations are lovely and entirely fit the story, which is told with the distant, dispassionate prose often used for myths and children’s folk tales. The artwork, rendered in both in black-and-white and watercolor, likewise seems childlike, with spare lines and expressionless faces. But there is complexity behind both story and art, a deep exploration of morality, imagination, and the many ways in which humans deceive themselves.
This is not a book for children, even read aloud. It is not a book to be read quickly for excitement or thrills. It is meant to be read and re-read, examined and pondered. It is quite likely that each tale will say something a bit different with each reading, and that the book will change its lessons over time. It is a book to be treasured, a beautiful volume that will sit happily on a shelf to be returned to time and again, for years.