I am obsessed with fairy fruit.
So often, it’s little more than a detail in the story, an object whose context in myth and folklore relies on the heroism of those determined to get it. It’s the presence that lingers just outside the margins of a fairytale, and functions simultaneously as both the cautionary warning to the reader and the threshold of magic to the hero/heroine.
To steal fairy fruit puts even the gods at risk, as so many readers saw in the Nordic tale of Loki stealing the apples of immortality from Iduna and consequently letting old age creep over Asgard. To fetch fairy fruit is a feat of heroism, as seen in the myth of Heracles as he retrieves a gleaming apple from the Garden of the Hesperides at the edge of the world. To consume that Otherworld fruit is to yield to its magic, no matter the cost. When I first started devouring Greek myths, the pomegranate that tempted Persephone captivated me. What kind of fruit was it that could lure a bride to the god of death’s bed? Was it jewel bright? Were the seeds glossy as blood on a knife? And the taste…what did a fruit that cost six months of winter taste like?
The more I read, the more I became obsessed with the function of that strange fruit. Consider, for example, the strange cakes of the fae — pristine white, iced over with fae fruit. In every single one of those folktales, the lesson is the same: do not touch the food of the Otherworld. All it takes is one bite, and the fairy revels steal over you, until you stumble back to the mortal world only to find that years have flown by while that cake melted on your tongue.
There is something both blasphemous and sacred that comes to mind when I think about fairy fruit. The consumption of that which is sacred is a ritual that has always awed me. Growing up, I had a very eclectic upbringing. My father is a practicing Hindu, and my mother is a practicing Catholic, and so my siblings and I were exposed to both religions. One of my favorite things about accompanying my mom to church was watching the ceremony of the Eucharist. When I was little, I used to try and open her mouth, desperate to know what happened to that perfect, white circle of bread. I was convinced it must have tasted like a slice of moonlight.
I refused to believe her when she told me it was little more than a wafer.
Though baptized, I never went through Confirmation, and those pieces of bread seemed like fairy fruit to me. Holy, unattainable, an edible secret. I think knowing it was there and not being able to have it just reinforced my obsession with fairy fruit. I loved the idea that it was in plain sight, like a glamoured apple at the supermarket…and maybe, one day, if I proved that I was worthy of seeing it…I might finally get that taste.
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Paris, 1889: The world is on the cusp of industry and power, and the Exposition Universelle has breathed new life into the streets and dredged up ancient secrets. In this city, no one keeps tabs on secrets better than treasure-hunter and wealthy hotelier, Séverin Montagnet-Alarie. But when the all-powerful society, the Order of Babel, seeks him out for help, Séverin is offered a treasure that he never imagined: his true inheritance. To find the ancient artifact the Order seeks, Séverin will need help from a band of experts:
An engineer with a debt to pay. A historian who can’t yet go home. A dancer with a sinister past. And a brother in all but blood, who might care too much. Together, they’ll have to use their wits and knowledge to hunt the artifact through the dark and glittering heart of Paris. What they find might change the world, but only if they can stay alive.