Goodreads: The Fairy-Tale Matchmaker
Series: Fairy-Tale Matchmaker #1
Published: October 7, 2014
Cory Feathering has tried her best to be a Tooth Fairy, the way her mother wants. But after another terrible night with a low tooth yield and a near encounter with a dog, Cory decides to quit! Unsure what her true calling is, she begins a series of odd jobs around town. But the Tooth Fairy Guild does not allow resignations and soon Cory finds herself the victim of a series of escalating crimes.
E. D. Baker writes a light-hearted fantasy that manages to feel low-stakes even as its protagonist Cory Feathering faces a series of crimes from vandalism to kidnapping after she attempts to leave her job at the Tooth Fairy Guild. She lives in a world populated by fairy tale characters, so as she searches for her new calling, she travels from Miss Muffet’s spider-filled home to the houses of the Three Little Pigs, and even finds herself babysitting Humpty Dumpty and the children of the Old Woman Who Lived a Shoe. The delight of recognizing old faces in domestic situations makes the book fun and humorous, despite the main narrative of thuggery. Still, it seems strange that this book was written as a middle-grade.
The political implications of this book should be complicated. The guilds are clearly corrupt and frequently band together to harass, kidnap, and otherwise injure their former members. This seems both to be well-known and to be a surprise, for whatever obscure reasons. Meanwhile, the police force is also clearly corrupt and allows the guilds to do whatever they want; when Cory becomes the victim of a heinous crime the police force can no longer ignore, they refuse to investigate it on the grounds that they have no power over the guilds–but this is glossed over at the end of the book with an unbelievable “Oh dear! If only we had known we would have stopped it!” attitude. The judge in the city also allows the guilds to do whatever they want–but Cory also “fixes” this at the end by telling him that the guilds are no more than gangs. As if he must not have known! A lot is going here, but it becomes over-simplified because it’s in a middle-grade book, and apparently we need an easy solution to make everyone feel better about their judicial system at the end. (There’s also a literal deus ex machina that I won’t delve into, so as not to spoil anyone.)
The concept itself of job hunting also seems unusual for a middle-grade novel. Yes, Barbie, for example, is a toy with a career who is meant to inspire children to dream big, but somehow the concept of a career…girl? does not quite work here. Cory must be around eighteen or nineteen if we assume she has recently graduated from high school and has been interning and then training as a tooth fairy. She has a swinging band that plays in what seem to be exclusive clubs and she works to set up her friends and other career women with eligible men; one of the first things we learn about every new character is their job, from model to successful entrepreneur, so clearly these characters are meant to be adults. But most of them don’t act it!
Cory, for example, talks and acts like a teenager–a young one. When replying to a help-wanted ad, she writes simply “Who are you?” to one agency. When reporting crimes she writes unhelpful notes like “A tooth has been thrown through our window! Come quick!” or even simply “More vandalism.” She has the independence of an adult, but the attitude of a child. Perhaps this is not so unusual in an eighteen-year-old, one who is still living with her mother but saving up to move out, one who has not yet settled on a career. But the childish tone juxtaposed with the world of famous writers and successful businessmen sits oddly in the book.
Aside from these quibbles, however, the book is an enjoyable middle-grade. It’s light and predictable, but that’s what one expects from E. D. Baker’s stories. It’s a nice book–the kind you read at night when you’re tired and don’t want anything too taxing, but do want something fun and amusing.