BOOK REVIEW: The Cloak of Feathers by Nigel Quinlan

Blurb on the back cover:

“Every hundred years, in the magical town of Knockmealldown, fairies known as the Good Folk join the villagers for a Great Festival. It’s a raucous, beautiful, enchanted celebration.

    Well, it’s supposed to be.

    Except every time the luckless Brian Nolan helps to organise the Great Festival it’s a disappointment.  Worse, this time the Folk Princess has been stolen. Can Brian thwart the Princess’s evil captor in time to avoid the wrath of the Folk King and Queen, and finally deliver a Festival to remember?”

Short review

A magical modern-day fairy tale full of adventure, love and loads of funny bits. Irish fairy characters come to life, with the king and queen of the fairies, leprechauns, brilliant banshees, lumbering hurling playing giants, and so many more besides. And to top it off there is a brilliant villain, the Cluaracan. He is broken hearted and angry but hides behind a smile and a cheery disposition.

The Cloak of Feathers is an amazing adventure in which an ordinary boy, Brian, with the help of his friends must save a princess, their village and all its people by beating the Cluaracan in an ancient trial of four heroic feats and riddles. A really great book, which deserves to be a bestseller and sell a hundred-squillion-googlplex worth of copies.

Longer review:

This book grabbed me from the first page and held on to the very last, like a fairy spell that made me not want it to end. The story is told by its main character Brian, a boy living in the fictional Irish village of Knockmealldown, who every year gets roped into helping the adults organise the annual festival. The only thing is the festival is always rubbish. However, there is a local myth that the fairies, or the Good Folk (they don’t like being called fairies, it’s very rude) come and visit every one-hundred years. So each festival they make this gross bread, supposedly made to the fari… sorry Good Folk’s favourite recipe, which they’ll enjoy when they visit. As it happens, it’s been a hundred years since the last time the Good Folk came, and on the first day of the festival the Fairy King, Queen and all the other magical folk turn up on the local green, much to the surprise of the villagers.

Things are complicated when Brian gets tangled in the rubbish microphone wires and nearly tumbles into their Royal Highness’s. They are already in a bad mood. Since their last visit the village has gone downhill. The once beautiful lake by the village, with its island, had become poisoned by a disgusting pig farm, which then burnt down, and the herd of pigs ran amok. To add insult to fairy-injury – as the fairies… sorry Good Folk are guardians of the land – the humans went and built a horrible housing estate on it, which no one lives in, except in one house, which is Brian’s house.

The King and Queen are just about ready to turn everyone into birds. This is where we meet too really important characters. Fester: a half-bird, half… well, it’s hard to tell what the other half is. It’s like she’s been caught changing from one thing to another. She is lovely, if a little dotty, and helps Brian. The only thing is, none of the Good Folk appear to be able to see her. Then there is the Cluaracan. He is some sort of cheerful adviser to the King and Queen, but although his words always seem to sound cheerful they have a different meaning altogether.

The king and queen are sad because their only daughter disappeared, and they are only putting up with all this desecration by the Nockmealldowners because she would have loved it. All Brian has to do is keep them happy by making sure the whole festival goes well. That would be hard enough for the most boring festival in the world, but then Brian finds out the deceitful Cluaracan has cast a spell on Fester, and to free her from it he must perform four heroic feats while the Cluaracan tries to sabotage the festival and trick Brian and his friends. If they fail they’ll all be eating worms forever.

I’ll not say any more, apart from it turns out to be a magical, dangerous and really funny adventure that you won’t want to put down. If you don’t know much about Irish fairy stories, that doesn’t matter, you’ll learn a lot about them. I could really see this being made into a Disney-Dreamworks movie. It would be brilliant. Someone send the book over to Disney right away.

Other books this is like: Terry Pratchett’s The Wintersmith; Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book; Holly Black and Tony DeTerlizzi’s The Spiderwick Chronicles. 

The Cloak of Feathers is published by Orion and is available here.

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Reviewed by Daniel Soule

Nigel Quinlan

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Nigel Quinlan is an Irish writer born in Limerick in 1970. He has worked in libraries and bookshops all over Ireland before washing up in the midlands village of Cloughjordan with his wife and his two children. He writes stories for local festivals and acts with the local drama group. His first novel, THE MALONEYS’ MAGICAL WEATHERBOX is a middle grade fantasy based on a short story he wrote as a teenager while minding his parents’ petrol pumps.

Find Nigel’s website here

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