The Secret Lives of Elves and Faeries by John Matthews, is a book that is supposedly based on the real life journals of Rev. Robert Kirk – a man whom’ in the late 1600’s was allowed to enter and record his adventures in the realm of Faerie. Now, while there have been a handful of previous publications of this journal, and it is widely known as “The Secret Commonwealth,” this version by itself is far different than others; to go even further, it is claimed by Matthews to be based on the actual, unedited manuscript that apparently no one else has. I of course, cannot substantiate THAT claim, and as someone who hasn’t read the previous publications, cannot note or acknowledge the differences. With that said, I’ll be reviewing this novel as a stand-alone, and nothing more.
So with that out of the way, I’ll say that I was fairly impressed with this little book – and while it was just a 100 or so pages long, it was quite informative and told an interesting story. From different faerie races, to how the world below reacts..to what these faeries (or Sidhe) do, to what they eat, to how they dress..and even to the weapons they make and the conflicts they have, these journals here covered a large array of topics that kept me quite interested. After finishing the final chapter, I found myself even more curious about faerie folk in general – and also came away knowing a bit more about them (at least in the way that they were portrayed here).
Along with the decent amount of information given on faerie folk, I was also quite pleased with the visual aspect of this book. Not only were there several illustrations, some full-paged, others smaller, but the pages themselves were done in a way which made the whole thing appear weathered and old – giving it more of a magical and enchanting feel. That in itself, added to the experience, and truly made this a stand out.
Overall, I felt “The Secret Lives of Elves and Faeries” was well done, both visually and informatively. From the unique illustrations, to the story told within, I was quite pleased. While this book isn’t necessarily something that should be taken seriously — given the extreme claims made by Matthews – essentially stating that the manuscript everyone knows isn’t the real deal – it is a book that when read for pure enjoyment, can be quite fulfilling. And while much of this “journal” was perhaps created by Matthews himself – he IS an educated historian and folklorist – so for that, he gets some credit when it comes to the information presented, whether the journal itself is a work of fiction or not. All in all, this was a very nice and pleasant read; one that anyone could enjoy, especially if you’re interested in Faeries.