Margaret Fisk's Reviews > Elfhome

Elfhome by Wen Spencer
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Jul 08, 15

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Wen Spencer is not a very prolific writer, but it’s worth the wait. Elfhome is the third in the Tinker series centered around a Pittsburgh that has come unhooked from our Earth and spends its time transplanted into the elf world, at least by this point in the series. If you haven’t read the first two books, Tinker and Wolf Who Rules, there’s a complex history, both of the characters and of the worlds that is referenced in Elfhome based somewhat on what occurred in the previous two, so if that would bug you, start at the beginning. You won’t regret it.

With Elfhome, Wen took some chances that worked amazingly for me. Not only did she bring some of the loved but secondary characters to the forefront, but she managed to have three interlaced storylines going at once with only one or two confusing moments as I realigned my brain. This is not a matter of a main story and strong subplots, at least not to my mind, but rather three separate tales, each with a separate protagonist and somewhat isolated events. She managed to keep me engaged with all three, and amazingly enough (because there was a moment of doubt as I realized how close we were to the end), she brought them all to a state of closure that was satisfying and both supported by the text and surprising all at once.

So who gets the limelight in Elfhome? Tinker plays a main role of course with her leaps in logic and mad genius for figuring out how things work, but it’s Oilcan and Tommy who are the surprise leads.

Oilcan, Tinker’s cousin, has always been there in the background, providing the steady rock from which Tinker leaps onto the back of a bucking bronco. He’s a favorite of mine, and I’d guess many of her readers, but he’s never had much more than a supporting role. It was always Tinker.

In Elfhome, this changes. A third of the book (split throughout the length), or maybe a little more, is all about Oilcan, his wants, his desires, and his needs. It’s about who he is and what he needs to do to adjust to his new state…and how his very nature complicates his life. Okay, that’s very obscure, but I don’t want to give anything away. It’s worth reading just to find out the layers that are hidden beneath Oilcan’s stoic nature. Besides, he’s delightful as a leading man, as much so if not more than as Tinker’s rock.

Tommy, the half-oni with a huge–well-deserved and supported–chip on his shoulder, takes up the other piece of this book. We stand shoulder to shoulder with him as he tries to hold together the pieces of his family in a world with very different rules than the one he’d been born into, and where his cat ears mean he is hated and distrusted by the elves no matter what he does. Not even saving Wolf Who Rules (as he did in the previous books) is enough to count him ally, and his best bet, according to the elves, is to swear his family over to one of the elf clans when all he wants is to stand alone, to be no one’s slave.

He’s a wonderfully complex character to start, but this book takes that even further, setting him up to examine what he’s always known and to reveal the ways he’s right…and the ways he needs to grow.

I really wanted to start this review with a snarky comment about how Wen owes me for twisting my knee, but I figured that would send the wrong message. However, it says a lot that I was so close to the end and wanted to see how she pulled everything together so much that I curled up on the floor and read the rest without realizing the position I was in torqued my knee out of joint. It was worth hobbling about on a cane for an hour or so, but at the same time it’s even more frustrating because I wasted the rest of the book in a lightning flash, and now I have to wait until the next one comes out.

Wen’s strength is her characters. It always has been. Not that her stories are weak, but her characters are shining strong. When I hang out in their company, I don’t want to leave it. And she has down the ability to provide a satisfying ending that wraps up the key threads while leaving questions lingering that need to be answered. It’s the double-edged sword of delighting in a great read and sorrowing in a great read done with a wait for the next that tells me I’m caught in a net of her making, and when the next book comes out, I’ll be right there with figurative cash in hand to snap it up.
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