Sourcebooks Fire, $9.99 trade paper, ISBN-10 1402292538, June 2014
THE GIRL WHO NEVER WAS is the story of Selkie Stewart, who thinks she’s a totally normal teenager growing up in Boston. Sure, her father is in an insane asylum, her mother left her on his doorstep—literally—when she was a baby, and she’s being raised by two ancient aunts who spend their time hunting gnomes in their Beacon Hill townhouse. But other than that her life is totally normal! She’s got an adventurous best friend who’s always got her back and an unrequited crush on an older boy named Ben. Just like any other teenager, right? When Selkie goes in search of the mother she’s never known, she gets more than she bargained for. It turns out that her mother is faerie royalty, which would make Selkie a faerie princess—except for the part where her father is an ogre, which makes her only half of anything. Even more confusing, there’s a prophecy that Selkie is going to destroy the tyrannical Seelie Court, which is why her mother actually wants to kill her. Selkie has been kept hidden all her life by her adoring aunts, with the help of a Salem wizard named Will. And Ben. Because the boy she thinks she’s in love with turns out to be a faerie whose enchantment has kept her alive, but also kept her in the dark about her own life.
I’ll move straight past the “yet another paranormal romance, prophecy, secret parentage, discovering powers, etc” prelims and cut to the chase: The Girl Who Never Was is a fun, imaginative story with a little humor, plenty of action, and a thoughtful if relatively standard reworking of the Faerie Court mythology. Selkie’s a decent heroine, brave, loyal, and pretty normal for someone who’s really half-fae, half-ogre (and not actually a selkie despite the name). Her aunts bring a few laughs to the story. The strongest character here, though, is definitely Ben, the talented faerie who’s protecting Selkie for more reasons than secret prophecies. Dorset’s characterization and world-building steps up a notch every time Ben shows up, including during an extended chase scene that’s strongly reminiscent of Doctor Who circa David Tennant. Overall, this first volume is solid and enjoyable enough to kick off the series, although the cliffhanger ending feels slightly forced. The sweet romance mitigates most of the book’s flaws.
Recommend to: paranormal romance/faerie fans
To buy or not to buy: Not a first purchase, but desirable where similar items are popular