The Folk Keeper by Franny Billingsley

Retro Friday is a weekly meme hosted at Angieville and focuses on reviewing books from the past. This can be an old favorite, an under-the-radar book you think deserves more attention, something woefully out of print, etc. 
For what seems like months now, Leila over at Bookshelves of Doom has been talking up one particular author: Franny Billingsley. Especially to praise her books The Folk Keeper (which was published almost a decade ago) and her newest novel, Chime. Needless to say, my curiosity was sparked and since I haven't been able to get ahold of Chime yet (but trust me, I will), I was able to track down an older copy of The Folk Keeper in the meantime.

Corinna is a survivor. Not only was she able to transform herself into a boy named Corin to escape the drudgery of life as a female orphan but taught herself to become a Folk Keeper in the process. As a Folk Keeper, Corinna is responsible for watching over the elusive and sometimes dangerous Folk that live underground. Relatively happy with the control she now has over her life, Corinna suddenly finds herself at a loss after she is whisked off to Marblehaugh Park, a wealthy family's seaside manor, where whispers of her own dark past await. Always Corinna has been able to appease the Folk, but in this wild new manor house by the ocean, she is staggered to discover how ineffectual her powers have become. That is, until Corinna discovers new, startling abilities of her own which begin to manifest themselves in response to new dangers.

The Folk Keeper is one of those uniquely atmospheric books that I am clueless as to how to classify; so I will simply say this book squarely resides in a class all its own. Written as a series of journal entries, Corinna details her dealings with the temperamental Folk - her successes and failures - and later, her dealings with the Lord Merton's family. At the outset of her Record, Corinna is sharp, vengeful, and truth be told, almost a little scary in her intensity. But her self-awareness is utterly compelling and the imagery of her new life living close to the sea... utterly stunning. This is perhaps where the author, Franny Billingsley shines - in the crafting of such a tangible, natural (albeit fictional) world where the sea crashes, storms rage, and the land swells with secrets. As the secrets surrounding Corinna's connection to Marblehaugh Park begin to unravel, I found myself wishing there was another 100 pages of Corinna's story to discover.

I've read that fans of Neil Gaiman would probably find themselves a home in Franny Billingsley's books and after finishing The Folk Keeper, I agree. Just enough darkness and excellent world-building based on folk tales to keep you flipping the pages. And occasionally even looking over your shoulder.

Because Everyone Likes a Second Opinion:
The Book Smugglers review
Green Bean Teen Queen review
Things Mean A Lot review
Wondrous Reads review

book source: purchased


Janicu said...

I remember liking this one, but it's been 4 years and the details are fuzzy. I do remember the atmosphere you talk about - a bit dark, but not going towards horror. And I liked the way the story ended.

April (BooksandWine) said...

I'm in the middle of Chime, and it's weird, but weird in a good way.

I love books told via journal entries, so I think I'd like The Folk Keeper. Plus the reference to Gaiman, and your review has me hook line and sinker.

Chachic said...

I'm curious about Franny Billingsley's other books after I finished Chime and I've heard good things about The Folk Keeper. I'm glad you decided to review it, it seems like a good read. I hope you read Chime soon because I'd love to know what you'll think of it.

Michelle said...

Janicu - The ending was very nice. Dark yet wrapped up quite nicely. Did you read Chime yet?

April - Yes. This one is totally different, but Gaiman fans would most definitely enjoy it. Can't wait to hear your thoughts on Chime!

Chachic - CHIME is on it's way to me as we speak, so hopefully I like this one too!

Anonymous said...

This is an old book! I remember reading is while in elementary school! Quite enjoyed it =)