Labyrinth. That made me curious, and to be honest I was prepared to like this book even if that was absolutely true. I love that movie. Having read the book, I really didn't see that strong a resemblance. The kidnapped little brother, and a few other things. I spotted a lot of the other influences more strongly--Alice in Wonderland and A Midsummer Night's Dream both got direct references. I love it when authors give nods to their source material, especially when they're referencing things that I love. Anyway, on to my review:
Plot Summery: SPOILERS! Meghan thinks she's just an ordinary girl who lives on a farm and goes to school, where she's not very popular but gets by with some help from her friend Robbie. Then her little brother is replaced with a changeling, Robbie reveals himself to be Puck (the trickster of legend), and Meghan embarks on a journey into Nevernever (fairyland). She meets all manner of adversity, including goblins and kelpies and other things that want to eat her. She also makes some new friends--Grimalkin the cait sith, and Ash the prince of the Unseelie court. Meghan is relentless in her quest to free her brother and make it home.
Parts of this book delighted me completely, and I did really like it overall. Right from the start I noticed that Kagawa has a talent for creating atmospheric settings that fit the tone of each scene and suck you right into the story. There were so many details--from living tries to iron bugs--that were at once original yet vaguely familiar. The plot is tightly packed and moves at a brisk pace, but doesn't feel rushed.
The main villain, incidentally, is basically technology. As progress happens, Nevernever is dying and a new breed of iron fae are coming into power. I worried briefly that it might turn into a blatant environmental awareness message, a la FernGully , but thankfully it isn't too ham-fisted. Moreover, some of the technology based monsters struck me as pretty frightening--there's a metal dragon at one point.
In my opinion this book was very plot driven, as opposed to character driven. I liked most of the characters, even loved one or two, but in the end I think I'll remember the plot elements a lot more. Meghan is pretty standard issue, as far as heroines go. Her most outstanding traits are strong personal loyalty (to her brother, and to her friends) and a certain measure of bravery. Good things to have, but nothing that makes a character pop out as three dimensional. To be fair, she develops a bit throughout the book, but I still find her kind of unremarkable.
I have to mention the boys and the love triangle I smell brewing. Puck (aka Robbie) is the friend type. He's a goofy guy and a trickster, and he's known Meghan a long time. But it's obvious that he wants to be more than friends (obvious to the reader, less so to Meghan). Ash is the forbidden fruit. He belongs to the Unseelie court, while Meghan is tied to the Seelie court, and he's supposed to be working to kidnap her. They like each other despite this. Which do I like better? At this point, as a romantic lead, I really liked Ash. He's dark and sexy, has strength and protective instincts, and some dark emotions to work through. I may change my mind after future books, but that was how I felt at the end of this one. I kind of hate love triangles, so I'm hoping the author handles all of this carefully.
So all in all, this is a very good book despite having a slightly bland heroine. I recommend it. 4 stars.