Reviews /

Into the Faerie Hill

Authored by H.S. Norup
Published by Pushkin Children's Books

Into the Faerie Hill is a magical tale of adventure, discovery and identity. The quest centres around twelve year old Alfred who has spent his life feeling like an outsider for a number of reasons. He has lived in ten different cities, six different countries and three different continents and been taught by a stream of different nannies. He has been bullied in a similar stream of different languages. He has leg length discrepancy and spends a lot of his time figuratively making himself invisible by imagining he is morphing into his surroundings.

The story begins at a point in Alfred’s life when he is returning to the place of his birth for the first time in five years. He is visiting his grandmother’s cottage with his father. For Alfred, the cottage seems sinister and very quickly strange and mysterious events start to happen. A key event is befriending Saga, an eco-warrior peer with a ‘stick figure’ friend named Mr Tumbleweed.

The story follows Saga, Alfred and Mr Tumbleweed on a quest to save Faerie Hill from being destroyed by the drilling of a tunnel through it. A tunnel, Alfred’s dad has been brought here to assist in creating. The adventure sees our young heroes confronting sprites, fairies, a giant bear-like creature, shape shifters and many more creatures from folk lore and magical realms. There are two parallel worlds at work throughout this tale the world of humans and the world of fairies. H. S. Norup creates exciting links between the worlds and blurred cross-overs which add joy to the mystery and magical elements. The story begins with a useful map of the landscape helping the reader accompany Alfred and Saga on their quest.

Alfred’s journey is incredibly moving throughout this story. Alfred lost his mother at a young age and often spends his time thinking about her. The theme of loss is woven sensitively and beautifully with the theme of identity throughout the story. Alfred, who has always gone out of his way to be invisible, finds what makes him unique and, indeed, magical as the quest unfolds. The reason for his affinity with water and his incredible ability to swim becomes apparent as he overcomes a number of challenges. H.S. Norup has created a great alternative to the traditional brave, strong and agile hero of stories past in the much more relatable, flawed and vulnerable Alfred. Young people would feel a great sense of relatability with his character.

Saga is a brave and intuitive heroine with a strong connection to nature and protecting the incredible gifts our planet offers us. The story presents a great discussion about what is right and wrong in terms of human use of our planet’s resources. There is an intricate representation of the theme of ancestry and the intrinsic link with humans and their world.

A great addition to any upper KS2 class or school library. Some very complex and difficult themes are presented in this exciting novel leaving the reader with sensitive resolutions and a feeling of hope.