By: Sammy Bredar
The land is perfect: endless partying, harmonious subjects, and the inability to lie. This appears to be a utopian land for the fey, or the magical creatures who live in the world of Faerie. This seemingly perfect world is riddled with betrayal, which lends itself to dystopian themes, such as isolated society, a sense of despair, and institutions to ensure order. Holly Black’s series Folk of the Air currently consists of two novels which further expose the crumbling utopia of Faerie. The series begins with The Cruel Prince, which introduces readers to sisters Vivienne, Taryn and Jude. Vivi has the same human mother as twins Taryn and Jude, but her father Madoc is a fearsome general of the High Court of Faerie, the ruling group of the society. The novel opens with the murder of Taryn and Jude’s mortal parents. Madoc discovered that his wife betrayed him by running away from Faerie and marrying a mortal man. He exacts his revenge by killing both his former wife and her new husband. The three sisters Vivi, Taryn, and Jude are then swept up into the life of the fey. Vivi wants nothing to do with the world of Faerie, but twin sisters Taryn and Jude are fascinated by the magic and intrigue of the land. Which lends itself to the tension between Fairie existing as a utopia for the fey, but a dystopia for mortals like Jude.
Protagonist Jude longs to be a knight of the High Court, but she soon discovers that the land of the fey is not as beautiful as it initially seemed. She lives her life as a quasi prisoner to Madoc, a man who pretends to be her father after killing the three girls’ mother. Taryn and Jude know that it was Madoc who killed their parents. Despite her inner hatred for Madoc, Jude admires his dedication to the High Court and longs to be a knight within it. Jude’s journey to knighthood is riddled with hardships, and, eventually, her recruitment to become a knight for Balekin, an in-line ruler of the High Court of Faerie. Jude must make difficult decisions in her journies in Faerie, such as commitment to her family, her knighthood, and her lover, Locke.
The Folk of the Air series is a prime example of a dystopian landscape with present themes such as control and order, altruism and egoism, and hope and despair. The land of Faerie seems to be free and abundant with endless partying and ecstasy. Upon further inspection, however, it is clear that all who live in Faerie are under tight control of the High Court. Constant schemes of manipulation and betrayal infect this society. Jude serves as a spy for Balekin, scheming and plotting to manipulate those who threaten Balekin’s rise to power. In terms of altruism and egoism, Jude consistently must decide between her own benefit and desires, or the good of those she loves. More often than not, Jude makes choices for her own benefit, such as her decision to become a spy for Balekin, or her love affair with her sister’s betrothed, Locke.
Jude faces constant hardships and despair, characterizing her as a dystopian literary figure. She faces internal conflict with her family in regard to her sister and her “father” Madoc. Jude has a great love for her sister, but she must lie to her to conceal her love affair. The inner conflict that pervades Jude’s thoughts is one of desparation and heartache. Jude finds a constant need to both impress Madoc with her skills in knighthood, but she also broods a deep hatred for him, as he took away the life she could have had within the human world.
Though the land of Faerie is a utopia for the fey, it is a dystopia for the humans who come to live there. Humans are not meant to live among the fey, but special circumstances such as the marriage of Madoc and his former human wife, permit humans to live in the world of Faerie. The temptation of indulgence and the ability to lie make it difficult to be a human living among the fey; the fey who can stop indulging, the fey who cannot lie. Humans who live among the fey are often manipulated to lie and do favors for those in power. Jude, as well as other humans living in the world of the fey, must decide how they want to view the world they must live in: is it their dream utopia, or their worst nightmare?