The 13 Treasures is my first foray into fairies of the miniature variety, and on picking it up a few of the old doubts resurfaced. Namely, they're little tiny fairies. How menacing can they possibly be? The short answer, you'll be glad to hear, is very. They're twisted, conniving and they hurt. Oh, and having the second sight can send a person to insanity. Sure, they're probably not capable of punching a person's lights out single-handedly, but they don't need to be - they have magic. Dark, dark magic, and tons of it. For our heroine, twelve-year-old Tanya, this means there's no escape. Fairies are all around. They know she can see them, and they know every move she makes. If it looks like Tanya might let on to anyone else that they exist, they can make sure her mouth stays shut. Perhaps literally. Besides, when nobody else believes in them, a girl with the second sight is very much on her own - and at their mercy.
That's not to say that The 13 Treasures is pure malevolence. There are also lighter moments - the brownie that fills the sugar bowl with salt, the cursed goblins that can only speak (and be spoken to) in rhyme. But throughout, Michelle Harrison maintains the underlying sense of malice and unease. Tanya takes the blame for the salt incident, and we're reminded of just how helpless she is to defend herself. Tanya attempts to converse with the goblins, and while the resulting rhyming scenes are genius, it later serves as a demonstration of how cruel mischievious fairy magic can be.
At the heart of The 13 Treasures is a mystery, and it's a good one. Children have been going missing from the area around Grandma's house for decades, and it soon becomes clear to Tanya that there's fairy involvement. Because we're in the world of dark magic, this makes for a mystery-fantasy fusion that's as twisty as can be. All good stuff. There's also some killer world-building: as it turns out that Tanya is not the only one plagued by fairies, we also get some fascinating background on changelings and the second sight - and plenty of unanswered questions for the sequel, The 13 Curses, out in the UK this month.
The 13 Treasures is a book with serious crossover appeal. It will enthrall capable middle-grade readers or those at the younger end of the YA market, but there's also heaps for older fans of dark YA fantasy. Just don't expect the fairies to be of the kissable variety.