If you’ve been following my reviews of indie YA author Anthea Sharp’s Feyland and Feyguard books, you might remember this aside from my review of Royal:
Marny continues to be everything. I really hope she gets her own Feyguard book complete with a worthy love interest, because she’s one of my favorite things about this series. Although one of the best things about her is that she’s happy and confident without a boyfriend, I want to see someone love Marny as much as she loves herself.
Well, dreams do come true! Now that the holiday madness has died down, I am happy to bring you a review of the third Feyguard book, Marny. (Disclosure: Anthea sent me a free advance review copy, which I was not able to follow up on nearly as soon as I’d hoped.)
Headed to the big city for a summer internship, Marny Fanalua is glad to leave her hometown and its creepy connection with the Realm of Faerie behind. Drastic heroics in Feyland are what her friends do—she’s just trying to figure out where she fits in the real world.
Livestream gaming star and entrepreneur Nyx Spenser isn’t sure why he’s able to create incredibly realistic simulations straight out of the game of Feyland, but he plans to share his crazy new talent by opening an all-ages hangout called Club Mysteria.
As the boundaries between the human world and the dangerous Realm of Faerie weaken, Marny and Nyx must forge an alliance to repair the damage he’s done—before it’s too late.
Amazon book description
For all her awesomeness, Marny Fanalua has stayed on the outskirts of her friends’ Feyland adventures in past books. The virtual reality gaming system they use to enter the Realm of the Fey gives her claustrophobia attacks, which the books treat seriously and respectfully. I like how Marny’s solo book lets us know from the start that, while her friends have been keeping real faeries from invading a video game, she’s been busy with her own thing. She’s developed a universal mod that gives gamers near-infinite control over their avatars’ appearances, a project driven by her own experiences as a plus-sized girl of color. Her mod’s viral success has won her a summer internship at a major tech corporation. Specifically, the primary rival of the company that owns Feyland.
What got me hooked on the Feyland universe in the first place is how female gamers are taken completely for granted. This very much continues in Marny. Marny is one of three high school seniors to receive this prestigious internship. The other two are a white guy, Wil, and an East Asian girl, Anjah. The fact that Wil is outnumbered by women of color is never treated as noteworthy. Admittedly, an Asian with impressive math scores working in STEM is arguably a cliche. But I like how Anjah’s haute couture style isn’t perceived as unusual for a woman in STEM, or as an indication that she’s not as serious, driven, or competent as gamerbro Wil or tomboyish Marny.
Of course, it’s not a Feyguard book without the protagonist actually entering Feyland. I was curious how the book would handle this, since it wouldn’t be believable for Marny to suddenly get over her aforementioned claustrophobia for the sake of plot convenience. Enter Onyx “Nyx” Spenser. At 18, Nyx is already famous for a retro gaming stream on Not Twitch. (I laughed out loud at the platform’s actual name: Flail.) When he gives Feyland a try, the Realm of the Fey follows him home, creating a small enchanted forest in his bedroom. He decides to share this phenomenon with the masses, and opens a club where teens and adults alike can revel in the Realm. Marny suspects Fey involvement the second she hears about this venture.
As a character and a love interest, Nyx does indeed prove worthy of Marny. He’s smart, bold, and decisive. He’s athletic, something he and Marny have in common outside of gaming. He’s taller than Marny, who is six feet tall herself (my tall girls know what I’m talking about). He’s also thinner. This rare pairing of conventionally attractive guy + unconventionally attractive girl is written in a believable, appealing way. Nyx doesn’t “look beyond” Marny’s outer appearances. He genuinely sees her as outwardly beautiful without fetishizing any of her more unconventional aspects like size or race. Marny is guarded about the prospect of romance at first, but she doesn’t see herself as beneath a charismatic celebrity stud. Her wary snark feels more prudent than gratuitous, and the pacing feels just right as she and Nyx warm up to each other.
The book’s biggest weakness, imo, is that it probably features the least actual gameplay of the series. But what gameplay there is holds up to the rest of the Feyland and Feyguard books. Marny and Nyx are equally competent gamers with different strengths and weaknesses. They both get chances at rescuing each other from in-game peril with real-world consequences. Also, spriggans are the worst and should die in a fire.
If this is the first you’ve heard of the Feyland universe, check out my review of the original trilogy here, and my reviews of the first two Feyguard spin-off books here and here. Either way, Marny is a great read if you like urban fantasy, plucky heroines, and video games. Click here to buy it in paperback or for Kindle.