This is one of the Wyrd and Wonder prompts

Pick a fantasy subgenre you love and share some of your favourite books within it. What makes this subgenre so beloved for you?

I love faeries/fairies and elves, no matter if they’re immortal or “just” long-lived. I love both mischievous and heroic faeries, especially when both kinds are in the same story. I even enjoy them as villains. Urban fantasy is usually set in modern times and I enjoy those faerie stories but I especially enjoy historical settings. I guess my fascination started with fairy tales when I was young and now I enjoy exploring different kinds of faeries.

Wendy and Richard Pini: Elfquest

This comic introduced me to down-to-earth elves, very different from Tolkien-type ethereal immortals. Cutter is the leader of a small tribe of elves, the Wolfriders. They live and hunt in a forest, avoiding humans. But when the humans burn down their Grove, they must leave. The comic is available both free online at https://elfquest.com/ and as printed graphic novels.

Marie Brennan: the Onyx Hall series

The first book in this four-book series is Midnight Never Come. This series is set in the Faerie Court the Onyx Hall which is built underneath London. Each book is set about a hundred years after the previous one, so the human cast changes, but most of the faeries stay the same. The first book is set in 1554 during Queen Elizabeth I’s reign.

Elizabeth Bear: the Promethean Age series

Another faeries series in (mostly) urban setting. This series has two duologies. The first is “Blood and Iron” and “Whiskey and Water” intertwining faeries, werewolves, vampires, Arthurian mythos, and fairy tales in the modern world. The other duology, “Ink and Steel” and “Hell and Earth“, is set in the Elizabethian age and both William Shakespeare and Christofer Marlowe/Kit Marley are the main characters along with Morgan LeFay. The single book (One-Eyed Jack) is set in modern Las Vegas and the main character is the personification of Las Vegas. This series has both the Seelie and the Unseelie Courts and many different kinds of faeries.

Genevieve Cogman: The Invisible Library

This eight-book series has a lot of my favorite things: fairies, dragons, parallel universes, and the main character is a Librarian and a spy. Irene Winters and her junior partner Kai face almost impossible odds at every turn. In this series, the faeries are creatures of chaos and storytelling. Each takes on an archetype from stories and must think and behave like the archetypal character.

Seanan McGuire: Toby Daye series

The first book is Rosemary and Rue. This modern urban fantasy series follows October, Toby, Daye’s adventures. She’s a half-blooded fae, a changeling, and a knight in service to Duke Sylvester. In the first book, Toby loses her human husband and daughter, so she’s depressed and stressed. Only the death of one of her few friends brings her back to the world of fae. This series just gets better with each book. While in the beginning, Toby is a loner her circle of friends grows slowly but surely. I love the eccentric characters!

Wendy and Richard Pini have a Kickstarter project to fund ElfQuest the Audio movie!

“This campaign is funding a cinematic ‘audio movie’ experience with an anticipated cast of more than 40 voice actors, original sound design, and a lush orchestral score.

The audio movie covers the first five issues of ElfQuest and is adapted not only from the comics, but directly from long creative sessions with Wendy Pini that add new details, answer old questions, and expand the world of Abode for the audio format.”

I’ve listened only one audio movie made for a comic before. While I wasn’t impressed with that one, I’m sure the Pinis will make this one a wonderful experience.

The bigger pledges have wonderful ElfQuest miniature sets! I so wish I could afford them.

The project is already funded. 12 more days to go.

Collects Elfquest 16-21

Writers: Wendy and Richard Pini
Artist: Wendy Pini
Publishing year: 1989
Publisher: Father Tree Press
The comic has a continuous storyline, so spoilers for the previous collections.

Most of the Wolfriders survive the troll ambush and meet the final new elf tribe, the Go-Backs. They are warriors through and through, led by their fierce chieftess Kahvi. They ride reindeer but they don’t bond with them the same way that Wolfriders bond with their wolves.

The Wolfriders have come to the north, to a land of ice and snow, looking for the dwelling of their ancestors, the High Ones. Now, they can even feel its pull, from deep below ground.But the trolls have found it first and have claimed it for themselves. The Go-Backs and the Wolfriders must united their forces to get the High Ones’ dwelling back. A bloody battle awaits! Also, Two-Edge, the son of Winnowill, continues to play his riddles with both the elves and the trolls. He seems to be insane and nobody knows what he will do next.

One elf who is thought to be dead, returns! He brings more bickering and confusion to the elves.

Almost all of the questions about the original quest are answered in this volume. The next volumes continue with the Wolfriders lives, tough. This is a great and satisfying conclusion to the original series, so there’s no need to continue further. Personally, I love the elves and read happily the other graphic novels and comics, too.

The elf tribes are pretty different from each other. The Wolfriders and the Go-Backs are both warriors so their cultures look superficially the same. However, the Go-Backs revel in fighting and don’t even want a healer because “she’ll make warriors soft”. The Wolfriders respect every life and fight only when there’s no choice. The war in this volume makes that very clear. The Gliders from the previous volume are insulated and insular; they can’t even have children anymore. The Sun folk are the gentle farmers who don’t have warriors.

The grim tone continues in this final volume when the elves have to go to war. All of the Go-Backs, both female and male, go to fight and some of them die. Out of the Wolfriders, only one adult elf stays behind with the children: the gentle treeshaper Redlance who is a male. There are really no gender roles in the elven cultures as such. First, everyone does what is needed to survive and then what they want to do and have talents for.

Collects Elfquest 11-15

Writers: Wendy and Richard Pini
Artist: Wendy Pini
Publishing year: 1988
Publisher: Father Tree Press

The comic has a continuous storyline, so spoilers for the previous collections.

Cutter, the chief of Wolfriders, have been reunited with his family but most of his small tribe has been captured. They’re held inside the Blue Mountain where another tribe of strange, tall elves lives. All their lives the Wolfriders have fought against humans but now to their amazement they notice that the humans near Blue Mountain worship the elves inside. Cutter is determined to free his tribe, of course.

The new elves call themselves Gliders and they have gigantic bond birds. Strongbow shot one of them for food and that’s why they enslaved the tribe. The Wolfriders are given a way to make amends but can they trust the new elves? Because among them is Winnowill, the evil elf that Savah warned Cutter about. She and the other Gliders call themselves the High Ones, the ancestors of all elves but can that be true?

In this story we get to know more about the Wolfriders’ origins and about the mysterious High Ones.

These stories are darker than the previous ones. Characters are tortured and face the consequences of that. There’s more violence than in the previous collection. We also see the dark side of recognition. In the first collection Cutter recognized Leetah and she resisted him because he was a stranger and in her eyes a savage who brought to Leetah and her village permanent change which she didn’t want. But in time, she was able to overcome her objections and fell in love with him. But here we see the power of recognition as the purely biological drive that it is; a method to select a male and a female whose offspring would be the most talented and powerful among elves. That drive doesn’t care if the two are in any way compatible with each other or already in relationship with someone else, and it brings a lot of anguish in this case when one young Wolfrider recognizes a Glider. No romance is possible between them, just a biological need.

The collection also ends in a cliffhanger.

Elfquest is one of my favorite fantasy series and it’s a pleasure to reread it. It’s just as visceral and wonderful as I remembered.

The complete collection also includes art from the original issues and the bridge pages from Marvel reprints which are all done by Wendy Pini.

Collects Elfquest 5-10.

Writers: Wendy and Richard Pini
Artist: Wendy Pini
Publishing year: 1988
Publisher: Father Tree Press

Seven turns of seasons have gone by since the Wolfrider tribe’s holt was burned down. The elves and their wolf companions have found a new home at the Sorrow’s End with another elf tribe, the Sun folk. They are a peaceful people who had only one hunter among them until the Wolfriders came there. The leader of the small Wolfrider tribe, Cutter, has even found a family. But then the peace is shattered: humans have come!

The human group is small, but they still hate the elves. Cutter lets the three half-starved humans leave unharmed but he realizes that the Sorrow’s End isn’t safe anymore. There are more humans in the world that he realized before and it’s likely that the elves must defend themselves against the humans at some point. Cutter also starts to wonder if there are more elven tribes in the world. In the end, he decides to leave and look for any other elves. He tries to leave alone but his best friend Skywise and their wolves Nightrunner and Starjumper come with him.

First, they return to the troll caves which are deserted. They morn over their burned holt but they’re attacked and captured by two trolls who are after Cutter’s sword. They claim that the sword holds the key to finding a treasure. Apparently, another troll tribe attacked and killed the other trolls. Cutter is more convinced than ever that there are more elf tribes in the world. Meanwhile, back in the Sorrow’s End some strange and terrible power has taken over the tribe’s best magic user, Savah. That power threatens Cutter and Skywise, as well. So Cutter’s lifemate Leetah has to decide if she will follow Cutter and try to find him. She has lived her whole life in the peaceful village so the decision is hard, even when the Wolfriders will come with her.

Most of this collection focuses on Cutter and Skywise. While Skywise is often seen as the dreamer of the tribe, this time it’s Cutter who dreams so big that others doubt him. Still, Skywise has absolute faith in him and follows his friend pretty much everywhere he leads. Most of the Wolfriders follow their chief because they love him, not because they think that he’s infallible. Cutter is also one of the youngest of his tribe and he seems to the chief because his father Bearclaw was the chief before him. But the Wolfriders aren’t meek followers; they can and will challenge their chief if they think he’s in the wrong.

Not all humans we see in this story are a bad. The elf duo also has to examine their assumptions about humans; even though they’ve gotten their ideas from long and bitter experience, they have to confront the fact that not all humans are the same. Humans killed Skywise’s mother only hours after he was born, so he has very difficult time accepting that. We also get hints about what other elves might be like and the collection ends with a cliffhanger.

But other elves also get their moments in the sun. Leetah wrestles with her fears. She’s Cutter’s lifemate and the Sun Folk’s healer. She’s lived her whole life in the village and she’s secure and comfortable there. But when she’s confronted with the choice to leave and look for Cutter, it terrifies her which is, of course, understandable. Strongbow is the Wolfrider’s best archer who sends (uses telepathy) instead of speaking. He dislikes the Sun folk as soft and weak, and hates humans. He even challenges Cutter when the chief decides to spare the humans. Cutter and Leetah’s small cubs almost steal the show: Ember is already a tomboy and a Wolfrider through and through while her brother Suntop is a quieter boy whose magical powers are already budding. Ember’s wolfcub is adorable!

The plot doesn’t move in such a quick speed as in the first collection, which is good because we now have the chance to explore the world and the characters better.

What I really like in this story is that the time move forward and the people change with it. This is even clearer in the later stories where children grow up and humans form their communities. The Wolfriders are clearly not Tolkien elves: they’re smaller than humans and live with wolves, bonding with them. The wolves are animals and not supernaturally intelligent or anything else supernatural. The Wolfriders are very aware of the natural cycles of the year as well as life and death. They’re all hunters who eat their meat raw. At the same time, they love, respect, and cherish every member of their tribe. Not everyone is a warrior and thankfully not everyone has to be. The Sun folk as similarly small in stature but very gentle people. They are farmers who live in the same village pretty much their whole lives. Their dwellings are small and simple compared to the Middle-Earth elves. While the Wolfriders have had to live their lives quietly in the forest, the Sun folk haven’t had enemies to hide from. They are loud and party loudly, too.

Excellent collection of stories but the next two are my favorites!

The complete collection also includes art from the original issues and the bridge pages from Marvel reprints which are all done by Wendy Pini.

Collects Elfquest 1-5

Writers: Wendy and Richard Pini
Artist: Wendy Pini
Publishing year: 1993
Publisher: Father Tree Press

Elfquest is one of the first, if not the first, fantasy comic I ever read. Only this first collection was published in Finnish back then and I had to wait for many years until I found the next issues in English. Some years back a lot of the comic was published here in Finland in small, black and white issues. I still have the color printings but the soft covers are starting to fall apart. The Pinis have started to publish the Final Quest and I’m hoping that I’ll have enough money to get the collected editions as they come out. Also, an Elfquest adventure game was published this year. We’ve played it and it prompted a reread.

This first collection introduces us to the world of Two Moons and the small Wolfrider tribe of elves. In just a couple of pages, the Pinis show us how the elves literally fell from the sky to this world but were immediately attacked by the fearful humans. That hostility continues through the whole series. Fire and Flight starts with the humans who have captured one of the Wolfriders. The elves’ young chief Cutter and his friends rescue the prisoner and in retaliation the humans burn the forest where they all live. The tribe flees the flames to the troll’s underground home. But they aren’t welcome there and have to find a new home. The trolls trick them into a passageway which ends to a desert and the elves have no choice but to try to cross it. They’ve lived in a forest their whole lives so a desert is an alien environment to their and their wolves.

The Wolfrider tribe has only 17 members and all of them are individuals. That isn’t yet so clear in the first collection which is focused on the chief Cutter and his best friend Skywise (and later Leetah). In fact, in these first issues the tribe seems at first to have very clear gender lines: men hunt and protect, and women stay in their holt. However, this changes later and rather dramatically, and even in this first collection Woodlock is a male who stays back at Father Tree with the women of the tribe. I love pretty much all of the characters and they change and grow and the series continue. The next collections also bring a lot of new characters to the tale.

This is a great introduction to the story and the characters. It moves quickly and it’s easy for this reader at least to immerse herself into the story. Pini’s art isn’t yet as sophisticated as it will be but it’s already very detailed and unique in style. Each elf is easy to distinguish even in crowd scenes. The style difference is very easy to see in the reprints with pages that Pini has added later. Sadly, I don’t have them (yet).

While on the surface this is a quest fantasy, already the first issues deal with such themes as trust, racism, and loss. Also, the theme of choice versus instinct is clear in the latter half of the issues.

Elfquest is one of the best fantasy series I’ve ever read and it starts strongly.