In the quiet and uneventful town of North Pasadena, California, Filomena Jefferson-Cho finds adventure with her favorite book series, Never After, where magic and fairy tale characters exist. On her way to purchase the thirteenth and final book of the Never After series, Filomena discovers strange things have been happening.
First, the author of the series has mysteriously disappeared. Second, Filomena is being followed by a strange boy dressed as Jack Stalker, the main hero of the Never After books. Deciding the boy is just a Never After fan and not a potential murderer or kidnapper, Filomena turns to greet him but is interrupted by the sudden crash of a thunderbolt and the shrieking sound of an ogress. As she flees from danger, Filomena realizes the boy following her is in fact the real Jack Stalker and, Never After, a world full of famous fairy tale characters, is real.
Filomena inadvertently follows Jack and his best friend, Alistair Bartholomew Barnaby, to Never After where she finds the kingdom in a state of distress after the thirteenth fairy, Carabosse, stole Princess Eliana. As a result of Carabosse’s disappearance, the evil ogre queen, Olga has taken over the land.
In her first visit to Never After, Filomena fights ogres and meets the fairy, Zera, who sees a strange resemblance between Filomena and her sister, Carabosse. Zera reveals that Filomena possesses the fairy mark which shines brightly as a crescent moon on Filomena’s forehead. Confused, Filomena rejects her fairy mark and leaves Never After. Although she always wondered about her biological parents, Filomena is reluctant to accept that she is from Never After. However, upon her return to North Pasadena, Filomena finds her Never After books have changed and Filomena returns to Never After to help her friends, even if it means leaving behind the safety of North Pasadena and acknowledging her true identity.
This novel is an exciting book for young, middle-grade readers because it combines fairy tales and reality and mixes familiar characters with new stories. The book follows Filomena’s story, but short prologues are scattered in between chapters to provide context to the history of Never After.
Traveling to and from the magical and mortal world, Filomena and other recognizable fairy tale characters fight trolls, outsmart dragons, ride motorcycles with wolves, and perform spells in their quest to stop the ogres and save Never After. The Thirteenth Fairy is a fast-paced story full of adventure and inspiring characters. Throughout the book, Filomena learns the importance of friendship, family, and believing in yourself. Before her adventures in Never After, Filomena was unsure of herself and where she belonged. Although she is loved by her adoptive parents, she is an outcast at school, and she is losing faith in herself. However, with help from her new friends, Filomena discovers her inner courage and strength. Filomena learns that you can achieve anything as long you believe in yourself and trust the friends and family who have your back.
- Filomena’s mom is a contemporary romance writer, and Filomena is informed by school bullies that “page 157 of Mum’s latest book is exceptionally saucy.”
- Filomena says hello to a boy she assumes is a fellow Never After fan, but instead, “the boy suddenly pushes her to the ground” to shield her from the Ogre’s Wrath.
- Filomena and a strange boy are being attacked by thunderbolts. “More thunderbolts strike the ground around them, but they duck and weave, luckily avoiding being hit.”
- A group of school bullies grabs Filomena’s backpack and “another grabs at her hair as she tries to regain her footing, knocking her off-balance yet again and yanking her backward.” Filomena “flinches, reaching for her hair.” She is upset, but not badly hurt.
- Jack tells his friends that his “whole family was killed. I’m the only one left. I saw my brother burning in front of me when the ogres attacked our village.”
- Filomena remembers ogres “like to roast their victims before eating them.”
- Filomena, Zera, Jack, and Alistair engage in a battle against the ogres. The four friends watch as “ogres roar as they set cottages on fire, and when the inhabitants run out, they stomp on them.” Eventually, Zera “stabs the ogre general right in the heart.” Most of the ogres retreat, but Alistair “is in the grips of an ogre’s giant fist.” After Alistair has been saved, he claims he hurts “everywhere and after,” but he is alive.
- In a vision, Princess Eliana is attacked by Olga the ogre queen. There is “blood on the wall. Blood on the floor. Then at last—an ogre fully satisfied.”
- Filomena and her friends encounter the school bullies who reveal themselves to be trolls. The friends try to outrun the trolls until they are forced to fight. Jack uses his magic vines to trap the trolls, “but the trolls unleash their own weapons — garden shears! —and begin to hack at the vines. Jack falls to his knees, his vines dripping blood.” Then, “a few of the trolls focus their attention on the new combatants, and one of them slashes at Gretel [a Never After friend]’s sweater.” Jack continues to fight the trolls with his vines until they are “choked unconscious.” None of the friends are seriously injured, but a few of the trolls escape and kidnap Alistair.
- Filomena encounters a hungry ogre in the woods. The ogre “moves first, reaching to stab the fork into Filomena’s stomach.” However, with Filomena’s dragonhide armor, “the fork can’t penetrate her.” While the ogre is confused, Filomena “stabs the ogre with the Dragon’s Tooth, hard and fast in the thigh” and the wolves of the forest chase the ogre away.
- After the ogre queen is defeated “they discovered that King Vladimir had been killed, his corpse rotting in the middle of the ballroom, where he had tried to kill Olga and save his daughter.”
Drugs and Alcohol
- At a feast with the Vineland villagers, Zera “raises her goblet of wine and taps the table with her open palms three times, signaling for silence.”
- When Olga poisoned Queen Rosanna, “the poison spread slowly at first. Rosanna’s flesh flushed, reddening and heating until all her veins burst.” Olga killed Queen Rosanna.
- Filomena refers to the mean girls at her school as the “troll army.”
- Posy, a bully, tells Filomena, “For a smart kid you’re pretty stupid.”
- Posy tells Filomena to “stay away from us, ”
- After Jack completes the Test of Wills, Alistair declares it was “badass.”
- Never After is a land of magical creatures from fairies and “towering dragons, their armored scales glittering gold and green, to warty goblins and rambunctious dwarves.”
- Carabosse is “the thirteenth and most powerful fairy in all of Never After.”
- A thunderbolt strikes near Filomena, and she wonders, “did I imagine it, or were we just hit with an Ogre’s Wrath?!”
- Filomena performs a fairy spell to make the lightning stop. She chants, “Ogre, ogre, cloaked in clover, I cease your wrath, three times over!”
- Filomena discovers the Heart Tree, which is “the portal that connects all lands of Never After to each other.”
- Frustrated with her peers, Filomena shouts out a spell to make time stop and to her surprise, “everyone is frozen.”
- Jack has powers that allow him to grow vines and speak to trees.
- Jack and Alistair explain that, being from timeless fairytales, they are technically immortal. He says, “We never grow old, but we can perish.”
- Jack contains a Seeing Eye telescope that helps him locate magical items.
- Desperate for an escape, Filomena “grabs the Pied Pipe from [Jack’s] hands and lifts it to her lips. Without thinking, she plays the first tune that comes to mind: the theme from the movies based on the Never After books, of course. Sure enough, it unlocks the Heart Tree.”
- Jack reminds Alistair that “Filomena can’t see Zera’s cottage [because] it has the glamour around it.”
- Filomena performs a spell that makes ogre bones turn to mush; “Ogre be feeble! Ogre be thick! Ogre be sluggish! Ogre be sick! Ogre droop under this limbless kiss, until every bit of you is mush and twist!” Then, the ogre’s “flesh goes formless…what was once nimble becomes numb, the skin sagging into a gloppy substance.” The ogre is presumably dead.
- Zera recites a spell whispering, “the thirteenth fairy is missing, my sister is she. The thirteenth fairy is hiding, won’t you show her to me?” Then, Filomena sees “on her forehead, underneath the skin, is a luminescent mark: a tiny crescent moon surrounded by thirteen tiny stars.”
- Filomena notices her favorite book series has magically changed the second time she reads it. “The first book is the story of Jack the Giant Stalker. But somehow, as she rereads it, it’s not.”
- Magic and magical objects are used all throughout the book. For example, “Filomena stares in disbelief at the Arabian rug floating in the sky.”
by Elena Brown