I love opening lines and have been sucked into reading many a book simply because of a line like the one below.
“Dinnie, an overweight enemy of humanity, was the worst violinist in New York, but was practicing gamely when two cute little fairies stumbled through his fourth-floor window and vomited on the carpet.”
And, I must admit, in The Good Fairies of New York, Martin Millar delivers line after line of witty and memorable quips from fairies and humans alike.
What he doesn’t deliver is an engaging story. On page 183 of 242 pages I finally thought, Enough! I don’t care anymore.
It wasn’t the writing…which, certainly contains bits of brilliance. Writing, which in many ways is better than a good percentage of the books I’ve read and reviewed on this website. It wasn’t the characters…a few of whom I may even remember years from now. It was the story. To me it felt as though he’d written four or five different stories, sliced them into small segments, and then pasted them together like a colorful, but confusing mosaic.
The Good Fairies of New York is not a long book, yet feels full of enough characters to fill a J.R. Tolkien trilogy. Millar spends one or two paragraphs on one plot line then skips to another and another. One chapter might contain three different plot lines, taking place in three different locations, in only two and a half pages. It was confusing and distracting. I wanted him to spend more time on the relationship between the two humans, Dinnie and Kerry. As it was, by page 183, I knew nothing much more was going to happen. Moreover, while I cared about the humans, I really didn’t care about the fairies.
Let me finish by saying, in all sincerity, I’m sure plenty of people will enjoy The Good Fairies of New York exactly the way it is. (Neil Gaiman, who wrote the introduction and who is one of my all time favorite authors, loved it.) Martin Millar’s style and language is almost enough to recommend the book. For me, however, I need more than cute. I need more than clever. I need a good story.
Would I read something else by Martin Millar? Certainly. Probably. However, next time, it will take more than a catchy opening line to hook me.