Story Rating: 4.25 stars
Audio Rating: 4.5 stars
Narrator: Greg Boudreux
Length: 10 hours, 45 minutes
Since returning from the Hominus realm, Twig Starfig just wants to settle quietly with his mate, Quinn Broomsparkle, but that is proving difficult. Quinn’s brother, Zak, is still having adjustment problems, not to mention that he continues to be obsessed with red fury, Bill. Despite Bill’s lack of interest, Zak keeps making advances and it is driving Bill crazy. And Bill is dealing with his former boyfriend’s betrayal by drinking himself into a stupor and sleeping with just about anything that moves. As usual, Twig’s father is demanding, manipulating, and all around frustrating. In addition, Twig’s home and office are being renovated, so there is constant noise and dust everywhere (not to mention that Cookie and the other furballs seem to hate the contractors and have to be keep away from them).
In the midst of all this, Twig is approached about a case to find some missing orc stones. For starters, Twig didn’t know that orc stones were even a real thing. In addition, dragons and orcs do not get along, and Twig’s first instinct is to tell Dandelion Cupcake Sparkles McGee (aka Dandy) that he won’t take the case. But like Twig and Quinn and the rest of their clan, Dandy seems to be an outsider among the orcs for being different, and Quinn can’t help but be sympathetic, ultimately convincing Twig to take the case. Twig isn’t thrilled to be working with Dandy, but he can reluctantly admit the orc is growing on him.
Just as it seems they couldn’t possibly face any more problems, Twig’s enemies start showing up dead. While that may make Twig’s life easier in the long run, the deaths appear to be a result of a red fury. And the only red fury in all of the Elder? None other than their clan member, Bill. Twig and Quinn know that there is no way Bill is responsible for the murders, but that doesn’t stop the authorities and the court of public opinion from believing him the culprit. Now, Twig and Quinn must sort out Zak, deal with Auric’s meddling, find the missing orc stones, and figure out who is framing Bill — all without getting themselves killed in the process.
Fairy and Impartial is the latest installment in Meghan Maslow’s fabulous Starfig Investigations series. It is a fantasy series full of humor, adventure, found family, and a great main couple in Quinn and Twig. While each story stands alone, the relationship and some of the larger plot points carry across books, so I think this is more fun if you are familiar with the series.
After book three took us to the Hominus realm and gave us Quinn’s POV, this story brings us back to the Elder and Twig’s narration. Things are all kinds of chaotic, as usual, and poor Twig just wants some quiet, quality time with Quinn, but of course it is not to be. As always, his household is in the middle of upheaval and then two cases are dropped on his door — the missing orc stones and the murders being pinned on Bill. Both cases are twisty and interesting and bring a lot of excitement, with a particularly thrilling climax to both conflicts. I love the way Maslow crafts this series with mystery and magic and high intensity, but also a large dose of humor. Not many fantasy stories manage to get that balance and it is really one of the hallmarks of this series and what makes it so fun. One moment, the guys are fighting for thier lives, and the next they are having tea with giants who love to knit and read romance novels. Somehow Maslow walks that line perfectly to give an exciting and clever mystery within a well-developed fantasy, and then overlay it all with such a layer of fun and humor. It just works so well and is part of what I love about this series.
Another hallmark of these books for me is the found family element, and it is continuing to grow as the series progresses. So far, Quinn and Twig have taken in Quinn’s younger brother, Zak, and befriended red fury, Bill. Both have been brought in as part of Twig’s clan, and this story sees the group grow. There is such a nice sense of bond among the group. Even when they are angry at one another (as Quinn justifiably is at Bill here), there is underlying love. Things are still shaking out, particularly with Zak and Bill, as Zak has an unrequited crush (FWIW, I am so curious how this will develop, as there is another interesting option for Bill’s affection). But there is clearly a strong connection and sense of devotion among them. It is fun to see the clan expand here (almost despite Twig’s best efforts) and I love this diverse and unusual group.
This story also expands a bit on the relationship between Twig and his meddling father, Auric. The man is infuriating and high handed and pretty much just orders everyone about and expects to be obeyed. But here we see just a glimpse into the (very slightly) softer center for Auric, and get a better sense of what may be motivating him. Things are still frosty between father and son, but I like that Maslow has added some nuance to the relationship and am interested in seeing how that continues to grow.
As with the other books in the series, Greg Boudreaux continues to do a wonderful job with the narration here. The main characters have a nice consistency from the earlier books and everyone is easily identifiable. The story also has a variety of recurring side characters, as well as one-offs, and each voice fits well for the character. Boudreaux manages to give side characters interesting voices without them taking over the story and brings them to life without having everyone sound the same. I am really enjoying listening to this series in audio, and can highly recommend it in either version. If you haven’t stepped into the Starfig world yet, definitely give it a try.