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The question was asked recently as to what was the opposite of urban fantasy. Ilona Andrews, the author of The Edge series claims this is it, and she calls it rustic fantasy. I can't argue that that's about the closest anyone has come to finding a name for this kind of fantasy which is neither fish nor fowl nor good red meat. All I can say is that if this is anything to go by, it makes for a darn good read.
The Edge is a strange and sometimes dangerous land sandwiched between the Broken, that mundane place where people work a job and shop at Walmart, and the Weird, a world ruled by blue blooded aristocrats with highly evolved magical abilities. The people of the Edge may be living in a sort of no man's land but many of them are able to move between the two worlds on either side, something very few people from the other two worlds are able to do.
Rose Drayton lives in the Edge and works a minimum wage job in the Broken barely managing to keep her head above the financial waters in order to feed and clothe her two young brothers. Most people living in the Edge have some magical ability though these are generally diluted as only a trickle of magic leaches into their world. Whatever abilities Edgers possess are lost whenever they move into the world of the Broken. Rose is that rare being who can 'flash' white which means she can direct highly concentrated beams of energy, an ability akin to wielding a sharp sword which can cut through a human like a knife through butter and one moreover which is only possible for blue bloods to achieve. It's a skill which she has honed over the years and it looks as though she's going to need it to defend her family soon. Rose has not only attracted the attention of Declan Camarine, a blue blood from the Weird who intends to have Rose and her unusual ability for himself, but there are also many strange and dangerous creatures coming into the Edge feeding off the magical energies and Rose along with Declan is going to need all her ingenuity to protect her family.
I'm a huge fan of Ilona Andrews' urban fantasy series featuring Kate Daniels but because of the fairytale elements in her Edge series, I hadn't bothered with it. When I picked up this first book of the series in a charity shop and began to read, I discovered just what it was I'd been missing and I was hooked. A word of warning to other fans of the Kate Daniels series, though: the Edge series bears no relation to Kate's world at all.
The author has created these three distinct worlds of the Weird, the Broken and the Edge, living alongside each other. The Broken, of course, is just our world with most of those living there in blissful ignorance of the other two dimensions. Very few from the Weird can enter the Broken and even those who can experience intense pain when doing so. The people born and raised in the Edge, however, can moved between all three worlds but the price for this is that their magic is generally a very diluted version of that practiced in the Weird and is completely lost to them when they pass through the border into the Broken.
Rose is a young woman in her early twenties who's in sole charge of her two young brothers Jack and George, aged eight and ten, one of whom is a changeling and the other a necromancer. Their mother is dead and their father long ago abandoned the family to their fate and went off to seek his fortune elsewhere. Their only other living relative is their grandmother although George, the young necromancer, has resurrected grandfather but he's not doing too well. Life is a struggle for Rose but she manages to make ends meet through buying goods from the Broken and selling them to traders visiting from the Weird who are unable to cross into that world themselves.
When Declan, Earl of Camarine enters their lives, everything changes for Rose. She finds herself attracted by the man who has come to claim her for his own and yet she's also repelled by his arrogance. Worse even than the arrival of this arrogant blue blood, however, are the strange and horrific creatures emerging from the surrounding woods and threatening not just Rose and her family but all the inhabitants in their part of the Edge. As a reader, I found the arrival of these creatures changed the story from being simply a sort of fairytale for adults into something altogether darker and more horrific. It became a fight between good and evil and the outcome was in doubt until the very end.
As this was the first in this short series of four books a great deal of it is taken up with describing this very strange world of the Edge and its inhabitants, all of whom seem to have varying degrees of magical ability. The level of storytelling, however, is so high that this background information was absorbed into the story easily and didn't affect the flow of the narrative at all.
Unlike urban fantasy which is rooted in a sort of realism, this book includes far more elements generally found in fairytales and which require the reader to totally suspend their belief. The author may describe this as rustic fantasy but in the interests of complete accuracy, the word 'horror' should also be added into the mix.
Despite my initial reservations, I absolutely loved this story and as soon as I finished it I promptly bought the remaining three books in the series. The world building is innovative and entertaining, the darker elements to the story are gripping and all the characters, though far from realistic are engaging. The story is full of action, high adventure, horror and romance and it made for a totally addictive read.
On the Edge
Used copies are available from 40p or £5.40 in Kindle format.
Other books in the series are:
2. Bayou Moon
3. Fate's Edge
4. Steel's Edge