Type of Fantasy: Magical Realism
Ellerie Downing lives in the quiet town of Amity Falls in the Blackspire Mountain range–five narrow peaks stretching into the sky like a grasping hand, bordered by a nearly impenetrable forest from which the early townsfolk fought off the devils in the woods. To this day, visitors are few and rare. But when a supply party goes missing, some worry that the monsters that once stalked the region have returned.
As fall turns to winter, more strange activities plague the town. They point to a tribe of devilish and mystical creatures who promise to fulfill the residents’ deepest desires, however grand and impossible, for just a small favor. But their true intentions are much more sinister, and Ellerie finds herself in a race against time before all of Amity Falls, her family, and the boy she loves go up in flames.
I love how Craig begins Small Favors, with a beautiful, bucolic scene as Ellerie helps her father check on the bees. The author drops the reader into this peaceful place through lush details, including sight, smell, and touch. But the reader doesn’t stay in this idealistic world for long; soon we’re thrown into the disastrous, bizarre conflict.
And this tension between gorgeous descriptions and raw conflict rips the reader through the story like a leaf in a current. My thirst to find out what the monsters were and what they wanted with this quaint prairie-like town kept me flipping pages. However, the plot and mystery weren’t as gripping as House of Salt and Sorrows, nor as atmospheric or eerie.
The twists also weren’t that surprising, which was a little disappointing. I mean, when you have a mysterious (handsome) stranger show up who’s not even willing to offer Ellerie his name, you know something more is going on. Also, the random handsome stranger trope isn’t my favorite, and Craig did this in House of Salt and Sorrow, so I wasn’t too impressed by this character or surprised when he turned out to be who he was.
There were sisters in this book too, which was delightful. I would have liked to see even more of the family element and a redemption arc for one of the characters, but alas, it was not to be…
But the action is fast-paced, the writing vivid, tense, and slightly creepy, and the symbols and themes rich and rewarding. Also, it’s a stand-alone, which is always a plus in my book! Anyone who loved House of Salt and Sorrows or who’s fascinated by monsters and bees would enjoy Small Favors.
Have you read anything by Erin A. Craig? What did you think?