Kepi’s name means “tempest,” and it suits, in this tale that purports to reveal the origins of fairies.
In 2530 B.C.E. Egypt, as the young daughter of a miller, her impetuousness lands her and her pet baboon captive on a boat sailing north on the Nile. As the journey progresses, plans to escape her kidnapper evolve into a quest to speak to the Pharaoh in the capital city, Ineb Hedj, to complain about his unfairness to his people. Kepi’s spiritedness only seems to grow as she gets farther from her family, and the narrative progression may strike readers as unusual as her character only intensifies, rather than showing signs of change. The final, brief climax fulfills the arc—or rather, arrow—as Kepi and the companions she’s gathered are transformed by the goddess Hathor into the world’s first fairies. Napoli’s text is full of detail of setting and culture that should enthrall young fans of historical fiction, though its resolution may leave them confounded. Conversely, readers who come to the story expecting fairy fantasy will be disappointed.
Nevertheless, the story offers rich fare for those precocious younger readers who can’t get enough; with luck they will accommodate any confusion and may move onto some of Napoli’s more polished works, a little later on. (Historical fantasy. 8-11)