Wayfarer by R. J. Anderson. HarperTeen, 2010, 296 pages.
Bottom Line: Wayfarer, a story of modern-day fairies for young adults, is equally about faith, grace, and doubt.
The Oakenfolk are dwindling since the faery Jasmine stole their magic and escaped the massive oak that was their home. No new faeries have appeared and the Oakenfolk are about to lose their ruler. But before she dies, Queen Amaryllis divides her remaining magic between Valerian the healer and Linden, a young, untried faery who is to be sent out into the world. The power Linden receives is Glamour–“the spells of illusion and temporary change”–which allows her to change her size and appear human. Her mission is to find other faeries who still have magic they may be willing to lend. Meanwhile, Timothy Sinclair, a missionary kid whose parents are in Africa, has been suspended from his Christian boarding school and is sent to stay temporarily with his cousin Paul. Timothy misses Uganda; he doesn’t fit in at school, and he’s beginning to question his faith. He’s always liked Paul, and felt a special affinity for the huge oak in Paul’s back yard. But when Paul and his wife Peri appear to see him as an unwelcome distraction, Timothy decides to hide out in London for a few days, not knowing that Linden has hitched a ride in his backpack. After resolving some obvious misunderstandings, Linden and Timothy form an unlikely partnership to save the Oak and its inhabitants. Learning to trust each other is only the first step–the next is to determine which of the potential allies they meet are really enemies.
This is not so much a Christian novel as a novel with Christian characters. How do faeries fit into such a context? They were created to help humans but have grown hostile toward them (because of the Fall? not clear). They worship the Great Gardener, who doesn’t appear to have a Son. When Timothy and Linden approach the secret island that will take them to the Children of Rys (another faery race) the access is by merit, which Timothy must admit he doesn’t have. He is accepted on Linden’s merit: a picture of grace, among creatures who don’t seem to know grace. Timothy is a relatable character; his struggles with faith are honest and though they’re not resolved by the end, he’s learned the right questions. Christian influences help him along the way, like Pastor Owen Jenkins of Gospel Chapel in Wales: “There’s not a belief in the world can save you from doubt.” Faith can’t be objectively verified at every point–or it wouldn’t be faith. But it can be reasonably pursued and honestly embraced.
Overall rating: 4.5 (out of 5)
- Worldview/moral value: 4.5
- Artistic value: 4.5
Categories: Young Adult, Fantasy, Folk tale, Religion, Christianity
fantasy, young adult, YA, England, folk tale, Uganda, Christianity, Wayfarer, R. J. Anderson, Reading level: Young adult 12-15