I started reading The Faerie Ring by Kiki Hamilton, while I was hunkered down during an epic storm. It was the perfect book for the occasion, because it completely transported me from the howling winds and darkening rain clouds of modern day New York, to 19th century London, where a secret truce kept fairies and humans from outright war.
Stumbling in to the heart of this fray is Tiki, an orphaned girl who scrapes a living as a pickpocket on the streets with other children. Tiki’s parents died unexpectedly when she was 15 and she was sent to live with her predatory uncle. No longer willing to withstand his advances, and fearing a life with no independence, she became a street urchin.
Desperate to provide for the younger orphans who live with her in Charing Cross Station, Tiki sneaks in to the palace and steals a startling, ruby ring. Little does she know that this small jewel holds an ancient truce between the Fey and Queen Victoria’s family. When it is lost, evil fairies break through to the human world and wreak havoc and destruction, as they try to track down the ring. Shadowing Tiki, is the handsome, rough-around-the-edges, and darkly alluring Rieker, a thief who seems to be more than what meets the eye. Tiki must decide whether or not she can believe him and overlook his mysterious past; is he trying to protect the ring or steal it? Are her conflicting emotions towards him clouding her judgement? Or are they a sign that Rieker can be trusted?
The world that Hamilton creates in The Faerie Ring is wholly immersive. I could taste the smoke and smell the filthy streets of 1870s London, and while the details set the mood, they didn’t compete with the well paced plot, and highly individual characters. I was engrossed in Tiki’s world, and when the Fey began appearing and haunting her steps, I felt her fear.
I liked Tiki. She wasn’t born in the streets, but she chose that life over succumbing to abuse in her own home, not a decision made lightly in those times, and certainly not romanticized in this ‘fantasy’ tale. She is a sort of mother figure for the other orphans, but she still holds on to the sharpness and the will to survive that led her to steal the faerie ring, and think twice about ransoming it before just giving it back. Her quick thinking in difficult situations is admirable, but has consequences. This shadowing of character hints at the unraveling secrets in her own past, and as the story develops, Tiki must come to grips with this darkness and what it means for her future.