The second in our Flashback Friday series is more than just a good book I remember reading when I was a teenager. It is the first real novel (besides ones written by Christopher Pike and R. L. Stine) that I can remember reading. My sister gave it to me when I lamented about how all the books I read were exactly the same.
When I opened the cover of the Hunter’s Moon by O. R. Melling for a re-read, it had a stamp on the first page that said October, 18, 1994. Which makes me think she bought it at one of those school book fairs we used to have. Do they still do those?
This was also the very first book I ever read about Faeries. Not Fairies. Faeries.
The Hunter’s Moon is about two cousins, Gwen and Findabhair (pronounced “Finnaveer”) who had been great friends as children, but haven’t seen each other since they were thirteen. Gwen lives in Toronto, Canada and Findabhair lives in Dublin, Ireland. Three years might not be that long to not see one another but the difference between thirteen and sixteen is a big difference and when Gwen first arrives she’s afraid that Findabhair is going to be to grown-up to fulfill their childhood dreams.
Their childhood dreams being going on a hunt around Ireland to discover the existence of Faeries. And on their first night of backpacking around the countryside, the girls bite off more then they can chew. Gwen wakes in the morning to find Findabhair missing and a strange set of clues left behind for her to follow.
My favourite thing about this book is Gwen’s opposing motivations for tracking down her cousin and the faeries that took her. On one hand, she wants to get her cousin back, safe and sound. On the other hand she resents her cousin for leaving her behind and wants nothing more than to join the faeries as well. After all, this is exactly what the girls have been looking for their whole life.
What follows is a fantastical (and not just because of the magic) journey up and down Ireland. You get to see regular people, magical beings, and you get to see Gwen go from being shy and quiet and practical to being decisive and brave and determined. I couldn’t help but love her. Findabhair I had a much harder time liking, she seemed to get everything that she wanted very easily and that’s never all that interesting. Still, you could tell that the girls share a strong bond and Findabhair does what she can to help Gwen.
Everything gets really exciting at the end when we discover what “The Hunter’s Moon” actually is and why the Faeries had wanted to steal away both girls. This is also when we meet the first book character I ever remember having a crush on. Dara, the Irish King of Inch Island, and college student. With his hair always in his eyes, his almost crooked grin, Irish accent, and how he drew that heart in the sand. He was the stuff my twelve-year-old dreams were made of.
The author was born and grew-up in Ireland and the book rings out with authenticity because of this. There is an understanding of the people and of the strange double-ness a lot of Europe has. They have traditional kings next to elected officials. They have great stone castles next skyscrapers. And for a lot of the book Gwen thinks that a person has to live in one world or the other. You can’t be both a business man and someone who leaves out a little bit of milk for the Good Folk. Melling is a genius at creating people who live in this world but believe in the other.
Now, the book was first published in 1993 and it is obvious. The girls don’t have cell phones or email and it the story opens with Findabhair reading a letter that Gwen sent her. A real, snail-mail letter. And the hitch-hike around a lot, although Gwen does mention that she would never do that at home so that might be different in Ireland. But, despite being a little dated the story still holds its own and the teenagers are still recognizably teenagers.
Also, the price on the back of this book made me long for 90s and not much can make me long for the 90s.
PS: I could not find a picture of the cover my book has anywhere. Grrrrrrrrrr