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Except the Queen

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From award winning authors Jane Yolen and Midori Snyder comes a tale of two worlds-and one destiny...
Sisters Serena and Meteora were once proud members of the high court of the Fairy Queen- until they played a prank that angered her highness. Separated and banished to the mortal realm of Earth, they must find a way to survive in a strange world in which they have no power. But there is more to their new home than they first suspect. A sympathetic Meteora bonds with a troubled young girl with an ornate tattoo on her neck. Meteora recognizes it as a magic symbol that will surely bring danger down on them all. Serena, meanwhile, takes in a tortured homeless boy whose mind is plagued by dark visions. The signs point to a rising power that threatens to tear asunder both fairy and human worlds. And the sisters realize that perhaps the queen cast them from their homes not out of anger or spite- but because they were the only ones who could do what must be done.

371 pages, Hardcover

First published February 2, 2010

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About the author

Jane Yolen

889 books2,965 followers
Jane Yolen is a novelist, poet, fantasist, journalist, songwriter, storyteller, folklorist, and children’s book author who has written more than three hundred books. Her accolades include the Caldecott Medal, two Nebula Awards, the World Fantasy Award, three Mythopoeic Awards, the Kerlan Award, two Christopher Awards, and six honorary doctorate degrees from colleges and universities in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Born and raised in New York City, the mother of three and the grandmother of six, Yolen lives in Massachusetts and St. Andrews, Scotland.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 190 reviews
Profile Image for Shannon.
3,096 reviews2,382 followers
August 13, 2011
A wonderfully unique and dark tale, the likes of which I rarely come across.

This book tells the story of two fairy sisters; Meteora and Serana. Meteora sees something she isn't supposed to and also lets the secret slip to fellow fae with looser lips than her own. As punishment, she and her sister are banished from the realm of faery to live with mortals. They've also been stripped of their youth and beauty and forced to live alone and far away from each other. They have to rely on the kindness of others and their own wits to survive in the strange human world.

This book was such a pleasant surprise. It's so much darker than I thought it would be and the tone really works for the story. It was also fascinating to see how the sisters would adapt to their strange surroundings. I liked how this showed the fae trying to survive in the human world and how everything was strange and new to them.

There are also many humorous misunderstandings and assumptions that the sisters make. As an example; Serana and Meteora spend a great deal of time sending letters to each other by way of pigeons and other birds. They tie the letters to the birds' legs and speak to them so the animals will know where to go. At one point Serana sees the symbol for the post office on a mail box and she thinks an eagle would take letters much faster. So she asks a lady how she can send an eagle letter and how to find the place of mails. Once Serana gets to the post office, it gets even funnier:

So I did the turnings she suggested, and found the place of mails with the big eagle sigil on the wall. I did not see any of my sister's men in blue, but there was a lady behind some bars-caged like a farmer's cows-who told me to put the letter into an envelope and seal it. The lady behind the bars promised me it would reach Meteora in two days.

"Two days? Complaint edged into my voice. "But I thought this is eagle mail. The dove can do it in that time and for nothing more than some honey water and bread."

This kind of thing happens to both sisters throughout the novel and their almost childish innocence and wonder with regards to the world is both refreshing and endearing.

That's not to say everything is all fun and games for them. There's a malevolent force at work that the sisters have to figure out how to stop. They have to use their knowledge and cunning and learn how to survive anew, having their magic and strength stripped from them. The most important lesson that they have to learn though is how to rely on their own selves now that they're forced to live apart.

I really loved this book. I love stories about the fae, especially when a great deal of research has been done. I actually purchased The Fairy Bible: The Definitive Guide to the World of Fairies so I could have a visual reference for all of the fae that are present within this novel. This was certainly a well-researched and well-crafted novel and I hope the two authors work together again in the future!
Profile Image for Jalilah.
378 reviews92 followers
October 3, 2016
Fae sisters Serana and Meteora are banished from Faerie for inadvertently revealing information about the Faerie Queen. In addition to being sent to different cities, New York and Milwaukee, the sisters lose their magical powers and their eternal youth. Each sister finds herself in the body of an overweight "older" woman, clueless about the human world.
This point of view reversal, seeing our world from the persepective of the Fae, as well as their commentaries made this novel unique from other "fairies hidden in our world" type books I've read. It also made for some humorous moments! For example after finding each other and sending letters though messenger pigeons, Meteora finds out that letters can be mailed though the post. In her next message she explains to her sister how to send a letter:
"There are big blue boxes on the street with eagles on them, put your letter to me there and a man dressed in blue with and eagle sigil on his breast will take it from the box and bring it to me"
Serana does as suggested and...
"So I did the turnings she suggested, and found the place of mails with the big eagle sigil on the wall. I did not see any of my sister's men in blue, but there was a lady behind some bars-caged like a farmer's cows-who told me to put the letter into an envelope and seal it" After being told the letter will take two days to arrive Serana replies:
"Two days? "But I thought this is eagle mail. The dove can do it in that time and for nothing more than some honey water and bread."
There are many similar incidents like this as Serana and Metora discover the human world. Serana meets street musicians in the park and is offered brownies. At first she's repelled think they are made out of smashed elves, but then when it's explained they are made of sugar chocolate, eggs, flour and a " magical" ingredient ends up eating several with an effect she was not expecting!
However this is not a funny book. There are quite a few dark parts in it.
The two sisters soon realize there are Fae hidden among humans and many of them are not benevolent. There seems to be trouble brewing. When each sister finds themselves taking care of a mysterious human that has been broken or injured by the Fae, they start to wonder if they are not part of a bigger plan........
I liked that the two main characters were "older" women. The two sisters realized very soon that they, all older woman were invisible. It is a pretty direct commentary on how older women are treated in our culture.
Overall this is a delightful and refreshingly different read that I highly recommend!
Profile Image for Kelly.
616 reviews150 followers
Shelved as 'dnf'
March 3, 2010
In Except the Queen, two faerie sisters, Serana and Meteora, accidentally learn a scandalous secret about the faerie queen and let it slip. For their transgression, the two women are separated and banished to mortal Earth to live among humans. They are completely adrift in this new world, and if that weren’t bad enough, their new human bodies are old and overweight.

I think Except the Queen is meant – at least in part – as an exploration of aging. Most of us don’t get magically zapped into older bodies overnight, true. But I think most of us feel sometimes like our aging bodies, with their aches, pains, and gray hairs, aren’t really our “true” bodies. We still feel like the same person we were at 16, 18, 20, so who is this stranger in the mirror with the crow’s feet? And I think we all feel disconnected, sometimes, from the new generation of young people: their slang, their fashions, etc.

Unfortunately, in Except the Queen, this alienation sometimes seems to tip over the line into “Kids These Days”/”Get Off My Lawn.” Kids these days use the F-word and the S-word. Kids these days party too much. Kids these days get tattoos! I’m not sure, at 32, whether I’m supposed to side with the older women against the young hooligans or whether I’m supposed to feel like a hooligan myself.

I’m also disappointed that the Latino character’s Spanish is wrong. I don’t mean slang. I mean using ustedes to refer to a singular person, that kind of thing. It’s strange, because this would have been pretty easy to research and get right.

Most problematically, the plot just doesn’t have a lot of forward momentum, at least for me. The prose is beautifully crafted, but the story is not keeping me turning pages.

This is really a “DNF-for-now” rather than a “DNF-forever.” I’ve greatly admired both Jane Yolen’s and Midori Snyder’s work in the past, and on the strength of that work and of the lovely writing in Except the Queen, I think I’ll probably give it another shot someday. Maybe the second time will be the charm.
Profile Image for Thara.
57 reviews
October 23, 2010
I love Yolen's work, so I was eager to read this collaboration. The blurb on the back of my copy said that it was "...a great deal of fun," so I was unprepared for the tone of the book. It is not a humorous book, although there are humorous situations. Sorrow pervades the first third of the story, as the queen suffers through her betrayal, the sisters are banished from their home, and the younger characters deal with the violence of their own lives. It is an incredible vision of how archetypes might interact with our modern world. In that way, it is similar to DeLint's work, though without the dream-like tone.

The plot does not treat the characters easily at any time. It is a viscous story and the characters survive only by adapting to their changing situations as they grow into awareness of their limitations and strengths. I was surprised to read in some reviews that readers found this book on YA shelves. I guess to me, the idea of frat boys being eaten by Baba Yaga and descriptions of brutal fairy rapes qualifies a book as 'adult.' Call me a prude.

The writing is exquisite. I regularly found myself forcing myself to slow down and reread parts so that I could fully appreciate the implications of a rich passage.

To the people who could not keep the characters straight, I say, "Really?? Do you know that Superman is Clark Kent?" (That was mean of me) The tone of the two sisters is similar but easily identified. The queen's passages were brooding; those of dog boy/Robin changed as his nature changed.
Profile Image for Carmen.
2,065 reviews1,904 followers
March 29, 2016
Two fairies find out that the Queen has had an affair with a mortal. They are banished to live mortal lives in modern times. Or is it a punishment at all? The two sisters are first only charming in their love and loyalty for one another. But by living in the mortal world they learn love, friendship, manners and other delights. At times funny, at times frightening, this is a good read. I don't like the threat of rape, but other than that it is very good. The Queen has had a child with the mortal. Will good or evil find her first? She doesn't even know who she is. Tattoos and meat-eating are seen as bad.
Profile Image for Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship.
1,161 reviews1,257 followers
November 17, 2013
This book is not awful, but it’s a forgettable little urban fairy tale with some significant weaknesses that make it hard for me to recommend.

The two protagonists, Serana and Meteora, are fae sisters exiled to the human world after offending their queen. The premise is a good one, and the book is at its best when dealing with the challenges the sisters face in ordinary life: they lose their eternal youth and are forced to come to terms with suddenly old bodies and drastic changes in the way others view them as a result. Meanwhile, the contemporary world proves an endless source of confusion: "eagle mail” (the U.S. Postal Service) is difficult enough; cell phones blow their minds. Mixed in with all this is a standard good-vs-evil (Seelie vs Unseelie) plotline, which works well enough once it finally gets going toward the end, but the middle section feels overlong and draggy.

The authors clearly had fun writing the book, which is told from the point-of-view of eight characters, some in first person, some in third, one even in second (fortunately this character doesn’t get much page time). I don’t know whether I should be impressed or depressed by the fact that the sisters’ voices and personalities are indistinguishable despite the fact that they were written by two different authors (per Yolen’s website, each took one of the sisters as well as a handful of secondary characters). Unfortunately, the character development is less than impressive--both appear to be frivolous and hedonistic as faeries, but once transformed into older women without magic, they almost immediately become fretful and kindhearted, taking a benevolent interest in the lives of the humans they so recently disregarded. And while the relationship between the two is meant to be the cornerstone of the book, it fell flat for me; the sisters spend almost the entire story physically separated and there’s no real conflict between them. I don’t mean I didn’t want them to have a positive relationship, but fiction requires some sort of tension to stay interesting.

Meanwhile, there’s the writing. Most of the time it’s adequate, but there are some truly cringeworthy sentences: “Standing outside the tattoo parlor, Sparrow hesitated before she went in” or “Marti blushed, and tried to wave away the compliments with a perfect berry-colored-nailed hand.” That’s not to mention the astonishing bit of authorial laziness that has the Latino grocer speaking Babelfish. A professional should know better than to include a language she doesn’t speak without having someone who does check over it first.

Overall, this book was a disappointment, neither as entertaining as I’d hoped nor as well-written as I’d expected. Making the mysterious older women the protagonists is an interesting departure from the typical fantasy tale, but this book went on too long without bringing the depth of characterization that would have made that story stand out. Sort of cute, probably fine for younger readers, but not one I’ll be recommending.
Profile Image for Margaret.
1,172 reviews60 followers
April 10, 2017
Two Fae sisters, Meteora and Serana, happen upon the Fairy Queen with a mortal man and their child tucked away safe in the grass. They flee the queen's wrath, but when one makes a gossipy mistake, the queen finds them and curses them to live apart in the mortal realm as two old women.

One sister is exiled to Baba Yaga's house in Milwaukee, and the other to New York City. Both meet other fae, whose stories turn out to be entwined in the whole mess of their exile.

I enjoyed the two elderly sisters' perspectives as they tried to make sense of the mortal world, and their new, elderly bodies. These were my favorite parts, even though plot-wise not much happens. When the plot does start building, I found I didn't much care for the two the plot revolved around. They weren't nearly as interesting. I still enjoyed the novel as a whole, just found the sisters more charming than anything else about it.

For those who love fae and fairy.
Profile Image for eleonora -.
187 reviews49 followers
October 29, 2011
Vi ricordate la mitologia, quella mitologia che amavate da bambini? Quella fatta di streghe, fate, troll, folletti? Ecco. Se come me avete passato gli ultimi anni a sentirla stravolta di qua e di là da tutti i possibili young adult, questo libro è un ritorno alle origini.
Ci sono fate, c'è la Baba Yaga, ci sono i ragazzi lupo, ci sono i personaggi cattivi cattivissimi e quelli buoni. Ci sono persino delle mani, proprio come quella della famiglia Addams!
Jane Yolen è stata definita la Andersen americana, eppure in questo libro c'è molto di più. E' una fiaba moderna, che ci presenta il nostro mondo visto dagli occhi di due fate: loro, pure e abituate alla vita nel loro mondo, che devono avere a che fare con il nostro sporco, incivile e complicato pianeta, un pianeta dove le persone anziane sono invisibili, dove ci sono degli approfittatori e servono delle cose strane, chiamate soldi, per poter mangiare.
Ben scritto, scorrevole, interessante e, cosa che non guasta dire, scritto a quattro mani.
Se il titolo vi aveva fatto supporre di essere davanti all'ennesimo young adult e la copertina lo aveva persino confermato, beh, non datevi credito: titolo e copertina c'entrano ben poco col contenuto.
Profile Image for Jess.
1,502 reviews101 followers
March 22, 2010
Yes, I gave up. It wasn't terrible, but there really wasn't anything good about it either. I mean, it was just blah. There was nothing compelling me to continue reading, the characters were strange, the POV of the book continuously changed to random characters, and I could find no real purpose to the story. From what I gathered in the pages I read, two girls from faery piss off the Queen. She then banishes them to be old and ugly. Perhaps I put it down before the point was made, but I was about 100 maybe more in and still there was no plot line in sight. What a waste.
Profile Image for Katy.
1,935 reviews159 followers
October 24, 2015
Perfect book, no, not really -- but perfect reading for me at this time. A lovely story mixed with folklore that works wonderfully. An urban fantasy with all of the charm of the original tales.
Profile Image for Julia.
2,034 reviews58 followers
October 3, 2016
Is the opposite of a YA urban fantasy novel, an AK novel? If it is, then this novel is that. (AK is slightly rude Yiddish for ‘alte kacher,’ or old fart.) I wish other fantasists would write more novels for this subcategory of books. (Fledgling by Octavia E. Butler is also one that fits this category.)

Meteora and Serana are members of the high court of the Fairy Queen who are exiled to the human world, where they suddenly look and feel like old women, and they separated, as they have never been. Meteora lives in Milwaukee and Serana lives in New York City, so they also have to manage on their own for the first time.

“…I leaned down to see my reflection in the calm surface of the lake. My face was wider, with cheeks and chin padded and softly wrinkled. My eyelids drooped sleepily, the lids darker and more deep- set. My hair once the color of acorns and burnished leaves was graying at the temples and crown.” (35) (This is a continuation of the quote below, where Meteora is looking at herself for the first time, after arriving in the Other World.)

Read for a discussion on the Goodreads board Into the Woods. I also reread this to get over a bad book hangover from Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now and a good one from the Arrivals. I ‘bought’ this 3/21/10 from SFBC for 0.

Review from April 25, 2011:
Sisters Meteora and Serana are exiled from the Court of the Fairy Queen, without their magic and aged. They are also sent to Milwaukee and New York City, and there they must learn to cope without what they feel at first, with what made them special. Each of the sisters finds a person needing her help, a young girl who cries every night, and a young man, a fiddler, who is lost. This is an unusual and delightful urban fantasy novel, for though it takes place in the present, Meteora and Serana’s perceptions and misunderstandings are not of the here and now, but of the Greenwood, from whence they came. It is also atypical, that the heroines in this YA novel (or is it?) are not beautiful and young looking, but are no less heroic --and attractive.

“I glanced down and gasped, seeing for the first time what had become of me. Gone was may slender torso, the small hard breasts, the flat belly. Now I was stolid and thick-waisted, my breasts pendulous. My thighs had spread like yeasted bread, and creased over my knobbed knees. I lifted my hands, cried out at the web of blue veins, and the little gold rings embedded in the swollen flesh of my fingers.”
Profile Image for Leah.
803 reviews42 followers
September 29, 2016
Two fairies discover the Fairy Queen's biggest secret but vow to keep their mouths shut in order to avoid the Queen's wrath. Unfortunately, one of them leaks the secret and both are banished from the high court, thrown into the mortal world, one in New York and one in Wisconsin, without their magic, youth or beauty. They soon realize that being an old lady in the human world isn't easy, but they make the most of their situations. That's when they start seeing other fey hiding among the humans; fey without the best intentions.

Except the Queen wasn't a page-turner, yet I wasn't bored, but I also wasn't engrossed. It was fun to read from each sister's perspective, a banished fairy living in the human world, namely as they navigated mundane tasks like buying groceries or mailing a letter or eating "special" brownies. I loved when Serana was walking down the streets of NYC, singing, and the reaction from the passersby like she was a nutcase because she was singing. Yet how many of them cross busy streets yapping into the cellphone glued to their ear completely unaware of their surroundings?! The humor was used effectively to balance the darker elements as well as bring attention to realities that maybe humans shouldn't just accept as "normal."

The heart of the story, for me, was the examination of women and aging, that a woman can age and still be beautiful, that "old" doesn't automatically mean useless. So yeah, my favorite thing about this book was that the two sisters, the heroines, were old, weren't skinny, weren't even beautiful (by societal standards), didn't have fairy magic (for the most part), and they still saved the day.

3 stars

Disclaimer: sex (R-rated but not graphic when compared to typical urban fantasy nowadays), profanity (lots of f-bombs), drug use, a few bloody scenes (but again not overly graphic), mentions an attempted rape of a teenage girl. I'd recommend this to mature readers, say, 14+
Profile Image for Eva Mitnick.
771 reviews27 followers
July 13, 2010
Except the Queen by Jane Yolen and Midori Snyder is marketed as an adult fantasy, but this would be a perfect choice for teens, especially fans of Melissa Marr, Cassandra Clare, and Holly Black. Two fairy sisters, blithe and beautiful, are cast out into the mortal world after they witness - and blab about - their Queen's dalliance with a mortal man.

Separated in a strange and sometimes hostile world, no longer glamoured to look young and gorgeous (and so appearing to be old women - or at least middle-aged), and unable to do more than the most basic, humble magic, Serana and Meteora must figure out how to survive and to find one another again. But the plot, already fascinating as the sisters meet human and non-human denizens of New York City and Milwaukee, thickens when they find out that they have a crucial role in an upcoming epic battle between Seelie and Unseelie.

Teens will love this, as there is not only plenty of fairy lore but love and romance, plenty of menace, and a healthy dose of humor. There are two young and exotic characters, male and female, to balance out the oldsters. And the descriptions of plant magic made me think I should start carrying the contents of my spice drawer around in my pockets - just to play it safe.

Profile Image for Gus.
107 reviews13 followers
May 23, 2010
Finally, a book that I liked! I just gobbled it up :) It was pretty dark for the fae books that have been around lately, but there was some humorous parts as well. It was really interesting seeing how the faerie sisters interacted with humans and how different their world was from the mortal world. Baba Yaga (remember her?!) was my absolute favorite character from the book. I kept reading to my husband things she said and did! The reason I give 4 instead of 5 stars was because it was sometimes confusing to remember what happened to who. Each chapter is written differently, sometimes in first person for the sisters or in third from other people's perspectives. It took me until almost half of the book before I could remember which first person chapter was which sister, as they basically have two names each (their fae name and human name). I wouldn't let that deter you from reading though, I normally read while crocheting so I might not be paying the best attention!
Profile Image for ambyr.
908 reviews79 followers
October 15, 2016
Sometimes, I read a cowritten book and am amazed at how seamlessly the two authors wove their words together. And sometimes, as here, the seams are all too clear.

There are parts I liked--the beginning, when the sisters are struggling to adapt to the human world, hit a lot of my favorite fish-out-of-water tropes. Baba Yaga is pretty great. There is tea, and gardening, and cats, and found family, and generally all the sorts of things I look for in a comfort read. But the whole story is just so *messy*, with repetition and dropped subplots and incoherent character development and characters who turn up out of nowhere to save the day, that it's hard to recommend it. It was, I gather, originally a novella; I wish it had stayed that way.
Profile Image for Nafiza.
Author 6 books1,237 followers
June 7, 2010
This was really different from all others in the genre. Instead of telling the story from the perspective of the "main" players in the narrative, it tells the story from the perspectives of two fae who are now "fat, old women" who may as well be invisible to society. At first I was all, "ehhh?" but there's a certain charm about the sisters and the prose is persuasive. Soon you find yourself rooting for their happiness as well as the main players. It's sort of a tilted reality but it works surprisingly well. This just goes to show that we don't all have to be size zero and in the blush of youth to be heroines.
Profile Image for Madeleine.
737 reviews19 followers
March 17, 2010
"Branching outside of my usual reading tastes," meet FAIL. This book is CREEPY. If you like creepy, and you like fantasy, perhaps you will like it. Myself, I am mostly just creeped out, and I am going to have nightmares about Baba Yaga and "Seelie Things" now. And little goblins.
14 reviews2 followers
February 25, 2010
I didn't finish reading this book. I got through the first few chapters and the plot just didn't interest me.
91 reviews
May 29, 2010
Believe it or not, I gave up on this book. I really like Yolen, normally, but I just couldn't get involved in, or enjoy, this book. Maybe I'll give another try some other time.
Profile Image for Erika.
258 reviews23 followers
April 20, 2011
Originally reviewed here: http://jawasreadtoo.wordpress.com/201...

Meteora and Serana enjoy the eternal summer lands of the Greenwood and the magical blessing of glamour that masks them in perpetual youth and beauty. Whatever they desire rests at the whim of their fancy—food, drink, sex, these sisters only need to desire and their wishes are granted. It would seem the only rule they must never break is the one they breach quite unintentionally: spread rumor (whether true or false) against the Queen’s carnal indiscretions. The punishment comes harsh and cold as the two find themselves banished from the Greenwood and thrown unceremoniously into the mortal realm of the merely human. As the sisters suffer under the bitter reality of their sudden and aged mortal bodies, they can’t help but wonder why a harmless bit of spying has become such an egregious offense.

This is the first book I’ve read by either Jane Yolen or Midori Snyder. Since I’m not familiar with their writing styles, it’s difficult for me to even guess at who wrote which parts of this book, but the prose read smoothly, much to my delight. The story opens to several short chapters from multiple points of view vaguely depicting the event Meteora and Serana witness. With a few disconcerting tense changes, there were brief moments when I wasn’t even sure what was happening, though. Admittedly, I was as confused as the sisters were when they are ultimately banished from the realm, but think other readers may pick up what I did not. Despite this, I liked having the narrative elicit that response from me. If intentional (and by now I think it was, at least in part), it was a clever way to have the reader identify with the pair and therefore, be a bit more invested in wanting to discover why they were punished so harshly.

I say this because readers will hopefully already be engaged in the overall discussion of aging brought to the narrative as the sisters deal with a difficult and awkward adjustment period. It wasn’t enough for them to be forced from their home, they also lose the reassuring familiarity of their appearance—something they’ve come to rely on, something that’s become integral to their identities, something that speaks for how today’s society constrains and ostracizes women past a certain age. Except the Queen is essentially a consideration of aging for women in contemporary society. It’s an unexpected theme, especially since the sudden and literal reversal or fortune is unrealistic. However, as a metaphor it works brilliantly. People don’t just suddenly wake up, aged. They do, however, frequently wonder at how their bodies begin to show signs of decline when their minds are sharper than ever. It’s one of life’s cruelties that we don’t often notice that we are aging until one day, our bodies remind us we can’t do certain things as well as we’d like to anymore.

I’m still fairly young so I have little to no experience with this, but I can certainly approach this topic from witnessing the double standard that exists for women as opposed to men who age, specifically and most poignantly as it pertains to films (when is a woman over 50 seen with as much sex appeal on screen as a man of a similar age and not turned into a desexualized or batty old woman?). Yolen and Snyder tend to reduce the situation in this novel a bit by stripping the comparison to youths that do drugs, listen to loud music, curse, are thieves, liars, and are disrespectful. While I don’t think the polarizing effect is completely fair, it does drive home the point written quite eloquently throughout the novel that elderly women are often overlooked. It’s that type of environment Meteora and Serana try to adjust to. I found this quote particularly touching:

They looked through me—old age being better than a Cloak of Invisibility—and did not see me at all.

Except the Queen, hardcover edition p. 198

It makes the unsung heroine of the novel more awe-inspiring. Baba Yaga (a witch similar to the one in the tale of Hansel and Gretel) has seen fame from Bill Willingham’s Fables graphic novels and proves she’s a force to be reckoned with once again in this particular incarnation. She’s neither good or bad, but a neutral—and here, you’ll have to pardon my language—badass. Her pet of choice is a sweet pit bull named Lily, and her profession? Renter and Landlady to a slew of constantly changing college students in Wisconsin. What she doesn’t do is resign herself to any limitations of age. Instead, she takes advantage of her environment, wits, and magic. True, Meteora and Serana don’t have magic anymore, but in Baba Yaga there is something to be admired. As Meteora finds out, she’s also someone to be emulated, if only to discover one’s inner strength (I don’t think Yolen or Snyder are advocating the less appetizing qualities of Baba Yaga like luring small children deep into the woods to eat them. There is, however, something to be said of resourcefulness. Baba Yaga is nothing if not resourceful.)

Baba Yaga has a strong narrative presence, despite only making appearances at the beginning and end of the novel. I mention her here with such relish because she’s really quite awesome and I wish there was more of her (for those interested, might I suggest Baba Yaga Laid An Egg by Dubravka Ugresic for an in-depth look at the Baba Yaga myth?). W While Serana and Meteora’s immediate story—being banished to the mortal world and their struggle to return—wasn’t entirely appealing, it was made much stronger because of the broader dialogue their age dynamic created. I wasn’t too interested in Sparrow or Robin’s storylines, which are a major, less subtle, part of the book. The slow pacing with their stories were, however, tempered by the frequently tender prose and the curiously delightful situations the sisters find themselves in as they navigated their new bodies and surroundings. Baba Yaga stressing the importance and power of curse words, Serana learning the concept of and very quickly becoming addicted to cellphones, and Meteora referring to the US postal system as “eagle mail” are only some of the entertaining adjustments to read about.

The story benefits from each of these additional elements. It’s a book of dichotomies (age vs. youth; the Greenwood vs. mortal realm; good vs. evil), of choices, and the glue that holds it all together: Baba Yaga. She is a more subtle element for the duration of the narrative, but I don’t mean to overshadow the protagonists. They are wonderful women who must undergo a strange and harrowing journey disconnected by age. I think it’s this journey that is the most interesting rather than their involvement with Robin and Sparrow. It’s definitely a much more powerful and profound one, especially since the real payoff comes at the very end of the novel when Meteora and Serana realize how much they’ve grown.
Profile Image for Lisa.
407 reviews16 followers
August 10, 2020
I sooo needed a light, easy and relatively funny read today. Too many grim and dark books are not good for the soul.😭

Meterora and Serena, young, beautiful but frivolous fey sisters revealed a secret. A secret so deadly that the Queen of the Fae banished them from Greenland, the fae's home to live as humans: magicless, decrepit, fat, aged and alone. They meet a half-feral boy and a troubled girl who may play an unexpected role in the future of the Seelie Courts.

What I Thought
Jointly written by authors Jane Yolen and Midori Snyder, this was an interesting but not entirely novel take on the well explored fairy folklore genre. Nothing really new introduced here besides a birth secret that while pivotal to the plot, wasn't too much of a surprise given the intro chapters.

I liked how age and beauty were explored in the book. Both sisters without their former beauty and youth, feel powerless and invisible as elderly women and must entirely rely on the kindness of strangers to survive. Funny enough, both find focus, love and companionship without the common tools of femininity: looks and youth and still thrive. Wonderful character arcs, with age comes maturity, or in their cases brains and actual hearts.

I was confused about a few things though.
Profile Image for Nereia.
130 reviews19 followers
March 12, 2013
C'è un motivo se il titolo originale non è Il diario delle fate

Il motivo per cui il titolo originale di quest'opera non è Il diario delle fate è abbastanza chiaro già dalle prime pagine. Non solo non c'è un diario di mezzo, e vabbè ma non vogliamo essere così pignoli, ma non c'entra proprio nulla! Il titolo dell'edizione italiana, colpa anche e soprattutto della copertina, suggerisce un romanzo completamente diverso. Serana e Meteora non sono le classiche fate dell'immaginario comune, quelle belle, buone e un po' romantiche come La fata turchina. No, Serana e Meteora sono sexy, provocanti, libertine. Quindi questa tipa in copertina chi è? Una fata presa in prestito da un'altra storia, è evidente.
Ad ogni modo, trovo che nemmeno il titolo originale "Except the queen" sia poi così azzeccato, ma questa è solo la mia opinione.
Serana e Meteora sono due fate sorelle che, un bel giorno, aggiungono ai loro divertimenti anche quello di spiare la temutissima Regina del Boscoverde mentre è in alcune faccende affaccendata. La Regina, però, non è mica temutissima per niente, e infatti ad un certo punto si accorge di essere spiata e, per "punizione", decide di esiliare le due sorelle e spedirle tra gli esseri umani, privandole non solo della loro magia ma anche della loro giovinezza. Così, le due anziane signorine si ritrovano nel bel mezzo di un mondo che conoscono solo perché, ogni tanto, si divertivano ad osservare dal loro bosco incantato.
Divertente, all'inizio, vedere come Serana e Meteora si sforzino di comprendere e imitare i comportamenti degli umani, le loro usanze. Poi, però, proseguendo nella lettura del romanzo, cominciano i primi problemi costituiti dalla varietà dei punti di vista e dai repentini cambiamenti di prospettive.
Il lettore si ritrova a doversi barcamenare tra: la prima persona singolare della narrazione di Serana e Meteora, la seconda persona singolare della narrazione della Regina (poi, un giorno, mi spiegherete perché la seconda persona singolare), la terza persona singolare dei capitoli su Sparrow e di quelli su Robin, la prima persona singolare della narrazione di Falco. Non so, volevamo mettere anche il punto di vista delle autrici? Mancava solo quello! Se, per un motivo o per un altro, ero costretta a interrompere la narrazione del capitolo e riprenderla il giorno dopo ci mettevo un po' per capire chi stava dicendo cosa.
Troppa confusione, troppa. Ingiustificata, soprattutto. La trama è così semplice e lineare che, sul serio, non erano necessari 6 punti di vista differenti. Nessun colpo di scena, nessuna suspance, nessuna curiosità per capire come mai Serana e Meteora siano state spedite tra gli esseri umani. Tra le altre cose, non credo di avere un'intelligenza di parecchio sopra la media nazionale e internazionale, per cui, se io più o meno a un quarto del libro avevo già capito il motivo vero dell'esilio può arrivarci davvero chiunque.
Un romanzetto semplice che si può anche benissimo non leggere senza perdersi nulla di importante nel panorama dell'urban fantasy. Devo, però, spezzare una lancia a favore de Il diario delle fate: non è uno young adult banale e stupido dove c'è una stupida donzella bionda dotata di super poteri che che si innamora di uno stupido mortale. La storia d'amore c'è, ma fa solo da sfondo alle vicende delle due sorelle. Per fortuna.
Interessante e ben riuscita, strano ma vero, la crescita interiore delle due protagoniste principali che, da ragazzine immature e superficiali, si trasformano in sagge e premurose "nonne".
Un romanzo che, se fosse stato costruito un po' meglio, avrebbe meritato una valutazione leggermente più alta.

Recensione tratta dal mio blog: Recensione Il diario delle fate
Profile Image for Kate Coombs.
76 reviews7 followers
February 7, 2010
Okay, let me just point out that I'm TOTALLY behind here in Goodreads. My excuse is that I spend my book-talk time writing my own children's book review blog, Book Aunt. But I'm still reading, so I'll try to pop in here every so often, especially to talk about grown-up books, like this one...

I was only a few chapters into Except the Queen when I got the feeling I'd read it before. Turns out it's a reprint, I think from 2005. This is a little frustrating, since I thought I was getting something brand-new. But oh well, it's still a good book!

Yolen and Snyder tell us the story of two "young," spoiled fairy sisters tossed out of the world they know by the angry queen, about whom they've been gossiping. It seems the queen has been dallying with a human behind all of those snobby fairy backs.

Separated and terrified, Serana and Meteora must learn to make their way in the realm of humans, one with the help of a social worker and the other with the help of the gruesome and powerful witch, Baba Yaga. The descriptions of how they survive, learning about things like friendship, money and the post office, are some of the best in the book. (One big shock is that the fairies' lithe bodies are now fat and flabby--horrors!)

Soon Serana and Meteora cross paths with two troubled young people, a boy named Robin (among other things) and a girl called Sparrow. We also learn that dark forces are searching, perhaps for our two heroines, or maybe for Sparrow, who's been attacked in the form of evil tattoos. Yep, Except the Queen is urban fantasy, and it's very well done, as well it should be, considering the co-authors. The story has enough appearances by Robin and Sparrow to please young readers, but I have to say, the best theme of the entire book is that old ladies can really kick butt!

Note for my wholesome friends: There's some scary monster-battling violence in here, also a little sex.
Profile Image for Chocoholic.
133 reviews5 followers
February 10, 2011
This is very different from what I've been reading in YA literature in terms of the complexity of the writing styles. The authors piece together or weave their story and nothing is a given. You have to continue reading and file each chapter away in your little store of knowledge until enough of the fabric is woven together that you can put the story together. It sounds confusing, but it is quite brilliant. The chapters are written in different voices with some reading like poetry. I found myself caring for these characters the way I would someone I knew in my life. I finished it three weeks ago, yet I still think about Sparrow and where she is right now. The drawback to recommending this book is the language. From the time Baba Yaga is introduced until the end, the F word is used frequently by the darker characters as well as slang terms for the male and female sexual organs. I could be really mistaken, but I believe this is YA lit? I am disappointed that so much of what we expose our youth to has to have this type of language in it. Movies, literature, music...it's just not necessary. I see that the authors created an edge to their characters through using the words/slang, however, I would have been just as creeped out by the bad guy because of what he was doing! I didn't need to hear his words. I won't be recommending this book to most of my LDS friends, nor to my daughters if that helps anyone in their book choices. It is a shame that language will inhibit my recommendation because the rest of the material was outstanding. I may be a prude, but I'm keepin' it real.
Profile Image for Magdelanye.
1,672 reviews208 followers
June 29, 2013
In the great scheme of things,each of us have to discover precisely just who we are and what is our purpose in life,and make our ultimate decisions about who we want to be. Only when we come to know and believe in ourselves can we claim the power of our own truth.

Two naughty faeries have been cast out of the realm of fey,banished from the Greemwood to the modern,mortal world. Except the Queen has more complicated motives. Not only are the frivolous sisters separated in their exile,their glamours are not available to them.Suddenly,not only are they displaced from their world,they are now old and fat and incapable of the spells they relied on routinely.

This is a tale of worlds in transition; of lost and discovered identity;of grit and determination; and an exploration of the nature of magic. It is co-authored by two very clear and competent writers. I wonder how they worked together and if they were each responsable for certain characters or plot development.Was it my own imagination that detected slightly different styles and interests? Occassionally things didn't quite jibe,some things too pat and some things quite out of context.
Languid,meandering passages are interspersed with tense and compact episodes,which appealed to me,but there was an abundance of missing information amidst the chaos of detail,and too many explanations after the fact. The dialogue is great,and if the pace and the writing were a bit uneven,if I sometimes got confused by the abrubt shifts in continuity,frquently having to go back to figure out what the heck was going on and exactly who was who or what and how,make no doubt about it,this a delightful romp.
Profile Image for Kmont.
32 reviews5 followers
March 3, 2010
I'll be reviewing this one in full via my blog ASAP.

For now...

The beginning was very engaging, the middle was GREAT. THe end, however, felt tedious. The author's excelled in developing the two fey sisters. The other characters were flat in comparison, but I found that as long as one of the sister's was present to absorb and report back to the reader, I loved the story. The plot isn't too daringly original, but the prose is wonderful. The pace is slow, it meanders much as I imagine the fey sisters feel their life does now, banished as they were from their fey world. The end was adequate, yet tedious as well. By the time we really get into the action of the book, at the end, it's pretty easy for readers to see what would play out. From there, there were no surprises. I felt Sparrow was a tad bit TSTL. She feels cornered, and while this tends to make anyone a bit TSTL, there were also copious trails of bread crumbs to lead her to the help of the sisters. The character of the fey Queen felt disenchanted, but maybe this was done apurpose, to show that being queen can sometimes feel and be as lowly as the life of one of her subjects. And much harder at the same time. Still, she was stiff to me, even as she and...well, I'll say no more. Wouldn't want to spoil.

Overall, I'd recommend the book. As a tale of faerie, it stands quite well and felt nicely fleshed out. The writing is superb, even if all the characters aren't on equally well developed footing. In the end I felt as if I'd enjoyed it and I'd read more such work from this team.
Profile Image for Caitlin.
701 reviews71 followers
June 8, 2010
So many things to like about this book!

How great to read a book that recognizes Faerie as a dangerous place with plenty of folks in it who'd like to eat you (or at least bleed you dry). When did people forget this? Even Tinkerbell was a fierce warrior!

This story of two sisters banished from the fey and their journey of discovery in our world is appropriately magical and fun. Think of all the things that are normal for us that would defy description for most other people - mailmen and mailboxes, grocery stores, cell phones, money - the list goes on and one. Throw in Baba Yaga (and I do adore Baba Yaga), a Jack, a murder of crow children, and assorted crones and you get a wonderful stew that delivers up until the very end.

Much about this book reminded me of my favorite Charles de Lint book, Someplace to be Flying and pieces of it reminded me of American Gods, but it is authentically and entirely its own creature and I thoroughly enjoyed it!
Profile Image for Mary Catelli.
Author 52 books172 followers
June 16, 2013
Once, two fairies came upon the queen of fairy cavorting with a mortal. They laughed and ran off, but some time later, one of them let it slip. The enraged queen sends them packing into mortal lands, transformed into old women, and they have to try to live in the modern world. They get some help, but they also find the fairy is loose in the world, and these are the -- ehem -- Good Folk out of folklore.

It's an interesting point-of-view set-up, with each chapter in its own POV, which is probably wise because they are very different. Very strong voices. Some first-person, some third-person, some even second-person, and very well done.

And the story winds on through doves, hawks, crows, Baba Yaga, sisters, strange aunts, and other familial relationships, crude college students, buying fruit, selling herbs, and plenty of other stuff before it all resolves together, revealing what was happening behind the scenes and pushing along many events.
Profile Image for Rebecca.
Author 13 books20 followers
July 25, 2010
A huge disappointment. I'm a big Jane Yolen fan but "Except the Queen" must have been something she tossed off while suffering high fevers.

The opening chapters are confusing with multiple narrators including the Faerie Queen who speaks in second person which is always off putting. Serena and Meteora are fey sisters but might as well be one person, so interchangable are they from each other. They're also unlikable, which is pretty much the case for every other character in the book.

Even the world building was weak. Seelie and UnSeelie tribes; would it kill the authors to explain this?

I picked this book up in the YA section in my library. Imagine my surprised when I hit the profanity laden passages. Someone needs to find whoever edited this mess and slap him/her.
Profile Image for Mindy.
444 reviews10 followers
January 9, 2011
I didn't finish this one. I stopped reading after the use of foul language. It's just unnecessary and I lose respect for a book and author for needless vulgarity. Though, I can't think of a valid reason for vulgarity either.

This is stamped as a YA novel and as such I was disappointed with the completely cavalier portrayal of sex. I can only judge it on the beginning, maybe in the end they all learned a valuable lesson in morals, but I doubt it. Either way it was a put off for someone like me who doesn't romanticize infidelity and promiscuity.

It also had the most complicated back story that was like wading through tar to get through. Not clear. Not well written. Sorry, not a fan.
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