The White Horse Trick, by Kate Thompson (Greenwillow, 2010, YA, 416 pages)
It's the end of the world as we know it--global warming has brought meteorological havoc to Ireland, where the lucky are those who are barely eking out miserable livings. Except, of course, for the self-styled commander, who amassed a mountain of commodities before things turned ugly, along with an army to guard them.
But alongside the disaster that is our world is another world--the land of the ever young, where the sun still shines and music is played and time stands still. This is the world where, in the first two books of the series, a changling girl named Jenny found her true home, and where, after many years have passed, her human brother hopes to make a refuge for everything, and everyone, he can save.
It's a dystopia with fairies--a cruel world lightened with a touch of comic relief, and by some good people doing the best they can. Alongside that there's the tension of not knowing if they will succeed, or if humanity, with all its faults, but with its moments of splendor, can be saved....
And for those who've read the first two books, The New Policeman and The Last of the High Kings, there's the great pleasure of finding out what's happened to old friends, with the concomitant anxiety for their well being, as things are not going well at all... You don't, however, need to have read the first two books to appreciate this one.
I enjoyed it immensely--the genre blending of fantasy and dystopia made for a fresh and fascinating story. I was swept along by Thompson's vivid storytelling, horrified by her vision of a disastrous future (I have no objection at all to strong pro-environment messages!), eager to find out what was going to happen, entertained by her version of T'ír na n'Óg and its inhabitants, and up till page 375, I thought this was a great book.
But sadly, I was let down by the end.* I was ready to weep and rejoice, but the emotional tension fizzled to a stop, and the characters, instead of being ratcheted up in intensity, drifted into placeholders in a strange and, I thought, unnecessary coda. So although I'd still recommend this, it didn't become a book I personally took to my heart.
note on age: although listed as YA, this could comfortably be read by the upper middle grade kid (which is to say, there's no sex).
*note on the ending (spoiler alert):
Although I myself didn't like the ending (not because it offended my religious sensibilities, such as they are, but because it seemed a gratuitous trick), the Booklist reviewer called it a "delightful twist that turns the tale into a riff on the biblical creation story."