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Friday, March 8, 2024

Book Review: A Fairy Path

 Today I wanted to do a book review on a book that recently came out that I particularly liked: A Fairy Path by Daniela Simina. I really liked the author's previous book Where Fairies Meet which is a comparison of Irish and Romanian folk belief around fairies so I was excited to see this one come out as well.

One of the best things about Simina's work is that it fills a gap in the English language market for books discussing Romanian magic and folk beliefs. People who are curious about these subjects don't have many options for resources, and what is out there is very difficult to weigh the quality of. Simina is a solid source - she has presented a paper for the Folklore Society - who is speaking from within the culture and her writing is accessible and easy to understand.

A Fairy Path is autobiographical, telling the story of the author's life in communist Romania, her own other-than-usual experiences and connection to the Unseen, and her path into folk practice. Unlike many biographies and autobiographies this book isn't a dry read though; the story is told so smoothly that it often feels like a novel rather than non-fiction and the folklore and folk practice blends in seamlessly. It is an enjoyable read for its own sake but one that will also teach you a range of material in a far more engaging way than most lectures. 

The book starts with an author's note that I recommend people read before going on; I know not everyone likes to read author notes but I think this one really helps set the tone for the book. From there it moves into the main body of the text, 18 chapters which lay out the author's story. There is an epilogue, followed by two appendices. The first appendix is a guide to the folk magic that comes up in the book and offers great insight into Romanian practices. The second appendix is a list of resources for further study - I found this especially invaluable because it can be so hard to sort out good from bad sources on the subject, or even to find any at all much of the time. 

Overall I think this book is a great resource for Romanian folk belief and magic, and a fun read outside of that. It also offers a unique look into the culture of Romania at the time of the author's childhood, and the way that folk beliefs linger even in hostile environments. I'd recommend it to anyone who is curious about the subject or who just enjoys a good autobiography. 

A Fairy Path is a unique look into the intersectionality of Romanian fairy belief, life outside the norm, and finding a place in a changing world, deftly interweaving the author's experiences and thoughts as she came of age in communist Romania and reconciled her experiences with fairies against the unbelief of those around her. This is not your typical autobiography but rather works to guide the reader, along with the author's younger self, through the process of integrating personal experience, folk belief, and magic into a cohesive whole in a world that is too often hostile to those who are different. A fascinating and valuable read.

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