DiscoverMiddle Grade Fantasy

Tinsey Clover

By Chelsea Flagg

Worth reading 😎

The novel's plucky and rebellious heroine breaks the rules and saves her people and its neighbors from close-minded adult male authorities.

Synopsis

Tinsey Clover is smart. She’s brave. Also, she can’t carry a tune to save her life. Oh yeah, plus she's an elf the size of a chipmunk. When her bizarre magical power grows in and makes her feel like a total outsider in her own village, Tinsey sneaks into the forbidden forest on a journey to find someone more like her. From trolls to dragons, what she discovers along the way challenges everything, and everyone, she thought she knew.

A coming of age story for early middle grade fans of Sarah Mlynowski, Kate DiCamillo, and Chris Colfer.

[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 exhibit 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, 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 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 – unwilling to recognise the restrictions as being for their 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 vulnerable to the evils of this world that rob them of innocence and replace it with a world-weary cynicism all too soon.

Reviewed by

I read a wide variety of books, usually reviewing three a day, from diverse sources, including indie presses and self-publishing, and I enjoy talking about unfamiliar authors and introducing them to my blog audience.

Synopsis

Tinsey Clover is smart. She’s brave. Also, she can’t carry a tune to save her life. Oh yeah, plus she's an elf the size of a chipmunk. When her bizarre magical power grows in and makes her feel like a total outsider in her own village, Tinsey sneaks into the forbidden forest on a journey to find someone more like her. From trolls to dragons, what she discovers along the way challenges everything, and everyone, she thought she knew.

A coming of age story for early middle grade fans of Sarah Mlynowski, Kate DiCamillo, and Chris Colfer.

Today’s the day. The day I’m finally going to sneak out of Snugglepunk to explore the rest of the Bungaborg Forest. Of course, I said the same thing yesterday. And the day before. And the day before that. But, today, I really mean it. 

I brush a strand of shaggy purple hair out of my full moon emerald green eyes and make a thirty-degree turn to the right followed by forty-four paces. A full right-angle turn to the left then another hundred-and-seven steps. I calculate the path with precision, quietly weaving my way in and out of massive brown tree trunks so old, you could climb into their wrinkles and stay hidden for weeks. The trees shoot up most likely all the way to space, spreading their enormous, greedy branches to hog all the sunlight for themselves.

Not to brag or anything, but I’m pretty much an expert sneaker. I mean, when you’ve done something as much as I’ve done this, it’s hard not to be an expert. Another ninety degree right turn. I’m close now. Thirty more yards, which is no small distance when you’re only the size of a chipmunk. Still, my bare feet know the way by heart. They glide quickly over the mossy ground beneath me. 

I tune into my slightly pointy ears for a second. Part of being a great sneaker is using all your senses. I hear the call of the morning Icelandic birds and a soft, melodic humming of the other trealfur elves waking up. It’s not an unusual sound. Trealfur elves always hum. It’s just something you do when you’ve got the best singing voices in the forest.

I never hum. Because, unlike every other trealfur elf in Snugglepunk, my voice does not sound like chimes tingling on a soft breeze. No way. I’m pretty sure a better comparison would be to say my voice sounds like an angry honey badger with a head cold. Who’s also dying. That about sums it up. 

In front of me, a solid vine wall comes into view. The twenty foot wall my grandpa built before I was born that wraps all the way around the perimeter to keep Snugglepunk safe from the rest of the Bungaborg Forest. The border that’s always made me feel trapped. 

Last year, when I was only ten, I found a good size hole in the vines. Approximately twelve inches by five inches I’d say, which would be just big enough for an elf my size to slip through without too much trouble. Guess how many times I’ve thought about doing just that? That’s right. A lot. I run the remaining few feet and stop at the looming wall. 

I press my copper hands against the thick vines and stand on my toes, the tip of my tongue pushing out of the corner of my mouth like it always does when I’m concentrating on something. I close one eye and take a peek. Even though I’ve seen this view at least a hundred times now, it still sends chills right down my spine. It’s the only exposure I’ve ever had to the outside world. 

I know from my lessons that the Bungaborg Forest is set up in a faery ring, which is exactly what it sounds like: a thick of trees that makes the shape of a giant ring. All the different forest people, or Huldufolk, live in separate villages spaced out within the wooded ring. In the center of the ring is a wide-open meadow, or the engi. No one lives there. At least no one with half a brain. It’s far too dangerous and exposed for anyone to survive out there. Or so everyone says. But, dangerous or not, the engi is pretty awesome looking.

I push myself even higher on my tiptoes and try to see as much as I can. The little rays of morning sunlight are firing everything up and turning the engi into a vast, golden space. In the far distance, I can just barely see the other side of the faery ring. I shift my gaze fifteen degrees to the right and gasp. There it is. Plethora, the blomalfur elfin town. At least I’m pretty sure it’s Plethora. The trees are spaced in exact increments and I swear, especially at this time of day, I can even see perfectly-placed sparkles glowing in the trees. 

From what I’ve heard, the blomalfur elves love beauty and math. Why wouldn’t they intentionally space their trees and add something glittery to make their village shine? I’m pretty sure there was a mistake when I was born. I was supposed to be a blomalfur elf, not a trealfur elf. That’s why today’s the day I’m gonna sneak out of here. 

“Hey, dork, your tongue’s sticking out again,” my brother’s voice taunts me from behind. 

It gives me just enough of a startle to lose my concentration. And my balance. I topple forward into the vine wall, bounce off, and land face up on the mossy ground. I scramble to my feet and brush my clothes off. Not that it matters much. Trealfurs aren’t known for their sense of fashion. We use rabbit hair to stitch together dull bits of soft tree bark and dying leaves, and call it an outfit. Boring, right?

Leaves more creativity and time to focus on our music, Mom always says, even though I don’t see why we can’t be efficient and fashionable all at once. 

“You’re a punk,” I scold my brother, a chunk of my purple hair flopping itself right over my eyes. “You can’t just come up and scare me like that.” 

How did he follow me here without me noticing? So much for thinking I’m such a great sneaker.

“Serves you right,” Aspen teases with a shake of his head. 

Even with the movement, his icy blue hair sits annoyingly still on his golden forehead. It wouldn’t dare venture down to his eyes like mine does, because like everything else about Aspen, his hair is perfect. I resist the urge to reach out and tussle it. 

“You’re the one who’s always spying on the blomalfurs,” Aspen says. “I mean, what’s so great about them anyway? They’re elves just like us.” 

“They’re geniuses,” I correct. “I bet they even think in numbers. I want to be just like them when I grow up.” 

“Yeah, well that’s never gonna happen,” Aspen shrugs. “You’re a trealfur, not a blomalfur. Besides, you’re not supposed to be here. Mom and Dad would be livid if they knew you spent all your time peeking out of this little hole so close to the engi.”  

Aspen used to be fun. Like, really fun. We used to skip out on our chores all the time to run around Snugglepunk. We’d pretend we were explorers on dangerous expeditions, or sometimes pirates searching for lost treasure. Not anymore, though. Ever since his thirteenth birthday, Aspen’s been acting more and more like a stodgy old grown-up. In other words, he’s become Boring with a capital B. 

“I should totally tell on you,” he says. 

I shake my head so hard, it makes me dizzy. I do not need my parents, or even worse, my uncle, to know I’m here. Even though he’s a punk, Aspen let’s the topic go. 

“Anyway,” he changes the subject, “we’ve gotta go. Uncle Vondur’s called an emergency council meeting. Another fire just broke out at the other edge of Snugglepunk, the second one this week! Still no idea who keeps starting these things. This is getting pretty serious, Tins. Mom asked me to come and find you.”

About the author

Chelsea Flagg is an award-willing, best-selling author of both adult and children books. She lives in Boulder, Colorado with her husband and three daughters. view profile

Published on December 04, 2018

30000 words

Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy

Reviewed by

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