Serena’s Review: “The Fairy Bargains of Prospect Hill”

This post may contain affiliate links for books we recommend.  Read the full disclosure here.

Book: “The Fairy Bargains of Prospect Hill” by Rowenna Miller

Publishing Info: Redhook, March 2023

Where Did I Get this Book: from the publisher!

Where Can You Get this Book: Amazon | IndieBound | WorldCat

Book Description: There is no magic on Prospect Hill—or anywhere else, for that matter. But just on the other side of the veil is the world of the Fae. Generations ago, the first farmers on Prospect Hill learned to bargain small trades to make their lives a little easier—a bit of glass to find something lost, a cup of milk for better layers in the chicken coop.

Much of that old wisdom was lost as the riverboats gave way to the rail lines and the farmers took work at mills and factories. Alaine Fairborn’s family, however, was always superstitious, and she still hums the rhymes to find a lost shoe and to ensure dry weather on her sister’s wedding day.

When Delphine confides her new husband is not the man she thought he was, Alaine will stop at nothing to help her sister escape him. Small bargains buy them time, but a major one is needed. Yet, the price for true freedom may be more than they’re willing to pay.

Review: While I still haven’t gotten around to reading the second two books in the trilogy, I really enjoyed Rowenna Miller’s fantasy novel “Torn” when I read it several years ago. This is definitely one of those situations where my failure to complete the trilogy is completely due to my own lack of self-control in managing my TBR list and nothing to say about the series itself. That being the case, I was excited to see that the author was releasing a stand-alone fantasy novel this spring. Phew! Can’t drop the ball on a stand-alone!

While the world continues its steady march forward into modernity and industry, the family who owns the orchard on Prospect Hill still understand and honor the old, magical ways. A woven hay wreath for prosperity. A twist of nickel and ribbon for a good harvest. And while these time-tested bargains are reliable and sure, it is understood that the Fae are never to be trusted. But when two sisters find themselves confronting the limitations of a world that sees only limited roles for women, they must chance a new bargain to create a way forward for themselves and their family.

It’s no surprise that this book was a hit with me. There are so many things I like, right there in the description! A story with a historical setting that tackles the culture and challenges of that period of time. A plot that focuses on the softer, wilder side of magic. And two characters who are sisters and must navigate the beauties and pitfalls of that relationship. And Miller came through on all three points!

I really enjoyed the way this book navigated the historical time period during which it is set. Throughout the book, we see Alaine and Delphine come up against the limitations placed on them by a society that doesn’t yet recognize women’s value. But change is also in the air, with many references to the suffragettes who are hard at work fighting for women’s rights. Alaine and Delphine represent the everyday women in this period of time. Neither would label themselves as a suffragettes; indeed, Delphine’s politically-minded husband wants her to have nothing to do with the “radical” movement. However, they are still fully realized characters and women and thus quickly come up against the limitations placed on them. Delphine is interested in art and learning, forming a friendship with another female scholar. And for her part, while Alaine operates a farm and is active in local agriculture decisions, we see her again and again come up against those who would wish to see her fail. I especially liked a conversation and theme that came up towards the end of the book about how if something is a challenge for one person, there’s a good chance it’s a challenge for others. And that’s why it’s important to work towards changes that will benefit society as a whole, rather than just oneself.

I also really liked Alaine and Delphine as characters in their own right. They both felt like complete, fully-fleshed out women, complete with their own unique strengths and their own personal failings. But I particularly appreciated the way they were portrayed as sisters. The story alternates between the two of them, so we very quickly learn to see how each sister is misinterpreting and misunderstanding the other. Here are two women who are as close as you can be, but their relationship is constantly strained by their inability to clearly see the other one for who she truly is without viewing it through their own lens. It was such an honest and relatable portrayal, and I think the most successful depiction of adult sisterhood that I’ve seen in some time.

This is definitely a slower, quieter story. It takes a while for all of the pieces to come into place, so readers must be prepared to spend a good portion of the beginning of the book setting up our characters and their relationships with each other and the world around them. But then about two thirds through the book, the story takes a massive shift in what it’s doing. I wouldn’t say that it ever becomes action-packed, but it definitely went in a direction that I wasn’t expecting, but that I enjoyed the heck out of. Looking back on the read as a whole, this left me feeling as if the pacing of the book felt a bit choppy. But as I enjoyed both halves of the book so much, I’d hardly hold this against it.

Rating 8: Fairy circles and whimsical magic weave in and out of a thoughtful, quiet fantasy story that tackles important themes of sisterhood and feminism.

Reader’s Advisory:

“The Fairy Bargains of Prospect Hill” isn’t on any Goodreads lists yet, but it should be on Everything Fae.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: