Tinsey Clover, by Chelsea Flagg
[Note: This book was provided by Reedsy Discovery for review purposes. All thoughts and opinions are my own.]
If I approached this book like its ideal reader, a middle grade female interested in fantasy reading that gratified by own youthful prejudices of adults in authority and with rules and restrictions in general, I would probably enjoy this book a lot more. I would likely approach the book with a lot less context about the tropes of juvenile and young adult literature that this author and many, many others of her kind regularly use as a way of indoctrinating youth into certain perspectives of the adult world that gratify their own ignorance and rebelliousness against the boundaries that parents seek to enforce for the well-being of their offspring. In such hands as this author, such generally wise counsel and precautions are viewed as being the rules and restrictions of hateful and biased adults who seek to control others through institutions who need to be rebelled against, as happens in the course of this short and rather stereotypical fantasy novel that suffers from being put into a world that is claustrophobic in its smallness and narrowness and relentless in the way that most characters, except for male adult authority figures, are given the benefit of the doubt.
How tropey is this novel? Well, we begin with a council meeting by a group of small fey creatures the size of chipmunks about a series of fires that has been started in their town, which is isolated deliberately from various other magical species viewed as inferior. Our titular heroine feels like she doesn’t belong (like nearly ever other young person who has ever lived) and has just reached the age of eleven when her people exhibits their own particular magical gift–hers happens to involve cleaning supplies. Her desire to escape the confines of her oppressively small town lead her to meet a friendly troll who wants to be a cook and eventually find, along with her brother, a friendly dragon who has recently reached adulthood who is scapegoated for having accidentally caused fires with her sneezes, and who turns out to have been (spoiler warning) a onetime friend of the protagonist’s mother. Cue “it’s a small world after all” for the inevitable happy ending that leads to the establishment of a more open society that rejects the isolation of the close-minded past. Does not that not strike you as a particularly tropey plot?
In evaluating a story like this one, it is important to praise its virtues. The writing is clearly something that would likely relate to many spirited young women who feel themselves confined by the restrictions of parents and other authority figures and unwilling to recognize them as being for her own good, and who would see in the author’s competent writing an appealing way to frame their own disagreements with authority figures who try to keep them safe by keeping their social world somewhat confined. That said, the author has the naive view of the native goodness of others that does not bear scrutiny with the state of our world, and she chooses like the vast majority of books in this genre that I have read to pander to the rebelliousness of youth and to paint adults (particularly adult male authority figures) in a particularly bad light. It would have been more preferable, if more difficult, to have created a world where it was possible for youth to come to an understanding of why rules and boundaries were ultimately for the protection and betterment of young people, rather than to encourage the chronological snobbery that makes it hard for young people to understand what it is that their elders are about, and far too likely to make themselves far too vulnerable to the evils of this world that rob them of innocence and replace it with a world-weary cynicism all too soon.