I like fairies—not a difficult admission for a fantasy writer—and I don’t mean the safe Victorian ones with gossamer wings that spread sparkles when they walk. I mean the ones that steal little children and make Faustian bargains. They were ancient and magnificent and knew worlds beyond our own. Is it any wonder they acted like gods?
What attracted me to the idea of fairies weren’t the fairies themselves. It was the idea that they were hidden, usually in plain sight, and only the initiated would be able to find them. It was a test of worthiness and the outcome was never guaranteed to be a good one. Catching a leprechaun earned you a pot of gold, but if you weren’t careful it also came with a curse. No one ever said adventure was a good idea.
But as I got older, I was pulled away from the fairy world. I could say I outgrew it, but that sounds sad, like someone who no longer catches wishes on the wind or searches for four-leaf clover. No, I moved away from fairyland because no one there looked like me. My roots are Latina and I knew very early that all those fairies—pixies, gnomes, sprites—were not mine. They were Northern European with pale skin, long, straight hair and bright, light eyes. Just as I knew I would never be compared to Snow White, I knew fairies were just as far from reach.
That didn’t stop me from wanting to write myself and people like me into the stories. I wanted a mythology, folklore that looked like the fairyland I’d grown up loving. And then I discovered something wonderful. Fairies are for the rest of us. The trick is to expand the idea of what constitutes a fairy
One of the early inhabitants of Puerto Rico was the Taino. They had a rich culture and heritage and during my studies I discovered something that looked familiar—beings that only walked the mortal realm after sundown. They were shapeshifters, pranksters, and could be benevolent (when moved to be) or malevolent (when crossed by mere mortals). During the day they lived in a realm called Coaybay, which was considered “the other side of the island”, as though people could get there. The ruler of their realm was called Marquetaurie Guayaba and he had a dog Opiyelguabirán who guards the entrance to Coaybay. In the stories the realm was only for the dead when their goieza, or souls, left their bodies. Then the goieza were judged and the good ones became hupia, while the bad ones became Maboya. Both could be identified by the lack of a navel and were attracted to guava.
The more I read, the more I saw similarities to other fairy stories I’d read. Their changeable nature. The ability to do kind and cruel things. Having a kingdom, tantalizingly close to the world of man, complete with a ruler. Only emerging at night and having a distinguishing feature. These were spirits of the dead, but they never moved on and after centuries they forgot where they came from and became spirits of the forest, the rain forest. It sounded like fairies to me. And I wondered, what if I had been asking the wrong question? Maybe every culture has a fairy and I didn’t know because it’s not out there to find. But it is. I just had to look for it. Kind of like fairies—close at hand, but only for those who know what to look for. They don’t make it easy, but if you’re one of the chosen, you may get a glimpse of a fairy that looks like you.
About a Smuggler’s Path by I.L. Cruz (coming soon!)
In Canto, magic is a commodity, outlawed by the elites after a devastating war and brokered by smugglers on the hidden market. But some know it’s more—a birthright.
Inez Garza moves through both worlds. She’s a member of an old, aristocratic family and she works for the hidden market as a magical arms dealer. Inez must keep her smuggling of magical contraband a secret for her sake and her family’s safety. Her worlds stay separate to hide her real purpose—funding The Heir Apparent, an underground group determined to return magic to the people at any cost.
But the discovery of a relic from before the war threatens her delicate balance.
Inez’s inherent magic, which lives in all the Canti, has been awakened by an ancient cowry shell. Now the Duchess’s daughter and smuggler must add another title to her already precarious position—mage, a capital crime. This could bring her to the attention factions at home— both the rebels she secretly supports, and those at the highest levels of government, doggedly holding to the status quo to avoid another magical war—and abroad.
And Inez must decide who she can trust and what her powers mean for her future and the future of Canto.