As I mentioned last weekend, I've been revisiting a story I originally started working on some years ago, and it led me to do some research on dangerous fairies. That research brought me to a book that had been sitting on my to-read shelf for a year. That was about a year too long. Now that I've read it, I can't believe I ever let it linger for so long. It's quite easily one of the best of books I've read this year, which is saying a lot since I feel as though I've only read really good books this year. Enjoy.
Conceived as a prequel to the film of the same title, this book follows a naturalist by the name of Emerson Blackwood as he begins studying various fairies from around the world during the turn of the last century in hopes of cataloguing the most dangerous and vile of species as a way of warning others to keep their distance.
His journey begins with a visit to a colleague, and the discovery of a strange skeleton found on his property. The skeleton is that of a Toothbreaker, or Tooth Fairy. As a scientist with a good reputation, Emerson risks everything by exposing the remains to his colleagues and is subsequently shunned. Undeterred, he continues to dig deeper into the origins of the mysterious creature.
His investigation takes him all across the world as he chronicles local accounts and lore for devilish creatures. Between narrative journal entries, the book contains illustrated sections that document the fairies of different regions. The descriptions also include the accounts related to Blackwood during his travels. But through it all, his obsession remains the Toothbreaker, a creature whose documented history reaches far and wide. These creatures, who crave children's teeth above all else, have been terrorizing villages since ancient times, stealing children from their beds. In response, the modern Tooth Fairy customs were created as a way to appease these vicious creatures and protect children from their murderous habits.
After a particularly gruesome discovery in Italy, Blackwood becomes a person of interest to the hidden Toothbreaker tribes who don't appreciate his curiosity. Fearing their retribution, Blackwood retreats to Rhode Island with his wife and settles down, giving up his quest to chronicle fairies. However, like anyone with an obsession, he doesn't abandon it completely, and chooses to build his house on the site of a dormant Toothbreaker hole. It doesn't stay dormant for long. Once the creatures learn who is living there, they begin to torment him worse than ever, until finally their is no appeasing them and eventually it drives him to madness.
The story is incredibly gripping, as is the unique way in which it is told. It reminded me of The Spiderwick Chronicles, only much more sinister and dangerous. The story of a character fueled by curiosity that sets a path for his own misery, the book is hard to put down. Not to mention that it's basically a piece of art, filled with amazing illustrations by Troy Nixey, who also directed the film version.
The film picks up a century after the book, when a new family moves into the house only to find the Toothbreakers have not left.