Cassandra Tipp was a famous romance novelist who made tons of money off her Harlequin-esque publications. But before that, she was a girl in a house, with two siblings, and two parents... and a faerie friend named the Pepper-Man. As Cassandra grows older, Pepper-Man and the surrounding faeries insert themselves into her life, in unpleasant and increasingly disturbing ways. ACOTAR, this is not. These are the faeries of ancient myth: the ones who will steal your soul and eat your heart, and grant you a wish that feels more like a curse.
The story is narrated in second person, by Cassandra, to her two heirs: her niece and nephew, Penelope and Janus. In order to inherit, they have to read her story and find the secret code that she's buried in the pages. Then and only then can they claim the money. But Cassandra's story is horrific, and the only thing scarier than faeries is the idea that maybe they don't exist at all. I haven't read many stories in the second person-- just Caroline Kepnes's YOU and Laura Fraser's ITALIAN AFFAIR. It's a narrative style that can come off as twee, but I actually really liked it here. I also liked the unreliable narrator: another device that can be twee in the wrong hands, but was done masterfully here.
I'm not really sure how to rate this. It wasn't quite as disturbing as I'd braced myself for it to be and much of the violence is couched in ornate fairytale style language that mitigates the overall effect. I'm not usually a fan of stories that are open-ended but I think it kind of works here, even if it did leave me thinking, UM, ANSWERS, PLEASE. But as frustrating as it could be at times, I found myself morbidly fascinated by this story and reading between the lines, looking for answers, just like Janus and Penelope. I read it in just a few hours and couldn't stop thinking about it until I'd finished, so I feel like if a story grips you like that and holds you in its thrall, then it kind of just HAS to be a five.
4.5 out of 5 stars