Bad Luck Girl. American Fairy Trilogy Book 3 by Sarah Zettel. Random House, 2014.
At the end of the last book, Golden Girl, Callie defeated the Seelie King and freed her parents from his clutches. Everything should be just fine now, right? Well, not so much. For starters, Callie is still haunted by having been tricked into killing Ivy Bright, the Seelie King’s daughter. Then, it turns out that the Seelie King is not quite so defeated as all that, and has used her actions as an excuse to launch a war against the Unseelie Court. And while Callie loves her parents, it’s hard to have people telling her what to do when she’s been on her own for so long, hard to have her parents so absorbed in each other when she was used to having her mother to herself. Plus, her feelings for Jack have been growing more complicated, but with the random magical people she meets calling her Bad Luck Girl and all the people who’ve wound up dead from helping her, she’s really not sure she should be staying anywhere close to him. For the first time, too, she meets other people somewhat like herself – the Halfers, half fairy, half human, or half magic and half something else entirely. Her father shocks her with the strength of his prejudice against them, but Callie can’t just watch them be used as fuel for the war, forced to fight for whichever side gets to them first.
It’s all a lot to handle for a girl who’s just about to celebrate her fifteenth birthday. Callie manages with a combination of rising to the need and running off blindly into danger thinking dark thoughts about how her parents don’t trust her to do anything on her own, which actually felt about right. All four of them – Callie, her parents, and Jack – have fled as far as Chicago, where they take refuge in the slums with Jack’s none-to-friendly brothers. The chapters are all named for jazz tunes of the era, but whether it was because I don’t know jazz as well as the gospel tunes used in Golden Girl or because there’s not as much music in the story, the music didn’t feel as much an integral part of the story in this book as it did in the last one. The scene where Callie and her father work magic by playing piano together was really cool, though, and there’s a playlist at the back, so I could listen to the music if I were feeling motivated to track the songs down.
Especially since I read this partly for its diverse contents, I should note that I really like the way race is handled in this series, striking just the right balance between too much obvious attention being called to it without good reason and characters who aren’t affected by their background at all. In this book, traveling through highly segregated states, Callie’s parents (her black father and white mother) are in real danger of being separated or just thrown off the train. Jack, who’s mostly tried to avoid people knowing that he’s Jewish, has to face his heritage head-on as he comes back to the home he ran away from. Callie’s struggle in this book revolves more around what it means to be half human and half fairy than trying to pass as white, but all of these mixtures are a very important part of who she is. All in all, this was a satisfying end to one of my favorite recent series.
I will note once again, for the record, that Sarah Zettel was friends with my love in college, and indeed brought him into the group where I later met him (after she’d left). She still lives in town and we run into her at cafes every couple of years. While I’m very grateful to Sarah for indirectly introducing me to my love, I would not still be reading and buying her books if I didn’t really enjoy them on their own merits.