I've just finished my first book for the 24 Hour Readathon--Hannah's Garden, by Midori Snyder (2002, Penguin, YA, 247 pp).
Cassie and her young mother, Ann, have lived a nomadic life, hopping from city to city. Now that Cassie is in high school, and Ann has enrolled in college, things have settled, and Cassie is free to concentrate on her violin playing, and her growing relationship with Joe, a very cute boy and mandolin player, who's introduced her to the world of folk music.
But when word comes that her grandfather, a famous landscape painter, is seriously ill, Cassie, Ann, and Ann's new boyfriend head up to the isolated farm where he lives--a place Ann never wanted to see again, after her quarrel with her father a few years before, when she enrolled at college. For Cassie, the farm is a bittersweet place, holding memories of the grandfather she loved, before he changed, and no longer seemed to recognize her at all....
When they arrive, they are appalled by the devastation that has befallen the farm. The house is horribly vandalized, the garden overgrown...Gradually Cassie begins to learn that the farm, and her grandfather, are part of a world beyond everyday reality, a world in which two clans of faerie folk are at war. On one side are the Green clan--the winter hare, the guardian badger, strange creatures part animal, part plant. Against them are the Red Clan, who want to claim power for themselves, unleashing death and havoc on the human realm.
And Cassie is their first target.
Snyder chose to introduce the supernatural elements of the story gradually, giving both Cassie and the accompanying reader time to become drawn in slowly and magically. It's not as darkly paranormal as many books featuring fairy/human interactions, although there are dark elements that are reminiscent of that genre (including a scary would-be demon lover), and because of this it's more suitable for younger YA readers than, say, Melissa Marr or Holly Black. But this is not to say that it's not an exciting story-- the tension builds nicely to a final confrontation (in which Cassie's music plays a key role).
What I liked best, thought, were the beautifully thick descriptions of both people (magical and otherwise) and place (the titular garden, for instance, that Cassie's great-grandmother Hannah had made).
There's also a thick description of a folk music session that Cassie attends, which I found extremely interesting, in as much as I married an Irish piper and was introduced through him to the whole session sub-culture (I started playing the fiddle myself, when we were young, but don't much anymore--my playing made my babies cry. Sigh). I read this part out loud to my husband, and boy, do he and Midori Snyder have different ideas about what constitutes a nice session.