Book review: “The Purple Emperor” by Herbie Brennan

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The Purple Emperor
by Herbie Brennan

This second installment of The Faerie Wars Chronicles picks up only weeks after the story told in Faerie Wars. Pyrgus Malvae, young heir to the throne of the Faerie Realm, is preparing for his coronation…but he doesn’’t feel ready to be Purple Emperor. He’s not the only one who objects. Lord Hairstreak, leader of the Faeries of the Night, has his own plans. And poor Henry Atherton of the Analogue Realm (that’s our world) arrives too late to be of much help, but right on time to get into some trouble of his own.

The often charming, occasionally nasty characters from Faerie Wars have returned for another adventure full of plots and counterplots, woven together in patterns that may leave your head spinning. Plus there are some new players, including the elusive and freakishly powerful Forest Faeries (a.k.a. Feral Fairies), a race of wormlike symbiotes called Wangaramas, a mad queen, and a friendly endolg (what I like to think of as a walking, talking area rug).

Pyrgus doesn’t care for the throne, but he’s willing to fight to keep Lord Hairstreak and his puppets off it. Facing desperate dangers with him are his sister Holly Blue, his Analog-Realm-born counselor Mr. Fogarty, and a really attractive Forest Fairy who has an embarrassing tendency to save his life. While they try to save the late Emperor (Pyrgus’ father) from a fate worse than death, and while Henry tries to escape from the palace dungeons, Lord Hairstreak is letting evil Fairies of the Night run rampant through the capital city. Meanwhile, his fellow villains Silas Brimstone and Jasper Chalkhill are each doing dastardly deeds of their own – including murder, summoning demons, and plotting assassinations and revolutions. But it will finally be Pyrgus himself who proves to be his worst enemy, leading to a final surprise.

I enjoyed this book, but not quite as much as the original Faerie Wars. Maybe this is what comes of not using valuable space reminding readers of what happened in the previous book (which I had mostly forgotten by the time I read this one). Or maybe it should be a caution against trying to juggle too many plot threads at the same time. I missed the sense of any one thread, or character, or relationship, getting the development it deserved. As I said, I thought Faerie Wars was better – and I hope to enjoy the third book in the series, Ruler of the Realm, even more.