Faerie Knitting, Alice & Lisa Hoffman; January LaVoy, narrator (Simon & Schuster Audio/Blackstone Audio 978-150827645-6, $21.99, CD, 1.5 hr., unabridged [also available as a digital download]) September 2018.
Somewhere I have a half-finished article that I always intended to submit to a knitting magazine, concerning the strong parallels between SF geekery and knitting geekery. Both involve a certain intensity of focus on the topic, utilize a specialized vocabulary, hold conventions with a popularly attended dealers’ room, and have the potential to seriously Freak the Mundanes when gathered in large groups. (Knitting even has filking!) Many SF fans and prominent writers are fiber artists, and these two interests have converged into a vital community of geek knitters and crocheters crafting TARDIS shawls and Cthulhu amigurumi. So I contend that it’s perfectly on-topic to include this somewhat gimmicky yet charming combo of a PDF of 14 fanciful knitting patterns by master knitter Lisa Hoffman with a short audio collection of stories written by her cousin, the critically acclaimed novelist Alice Hoffman.
Featuring stern but kindly witches, young women abandoned by their families, and bonds which endure even in the face of sinister enchantment, these are tales of loss redeemed by love, each involving the crafting of the knitted item appearing in the associated pattern. If these qualify as “fairy tales,” then they are quite distanced from the bloody, primal source of Grimm, Perreault, et al. And if there were actual faerie in these stories (which there aren’t), they’d be the benign type who serve as godmothers, shoemakers, and household help, rather than the whimsically cruel or heartless sidhe.
Ranging from beginner to advanced in difficulty, the patterns are lovely, particularly the delicate lace shawls, although the vest looked a bit like the equivalent of a knitted dickey or incomplete sweater. The charm pouches would be nice for keeping your 20-sided dice, but probably not much else; my experience with knitted bags is that they’re not terribly secure containers. The knit stockings are very pretty, but I’m not sure where one would wear them outside of a cold-weather renaissance faire. (Given our audience, that might not be considered a drawback.)
The stories are fairly repetitive, and on their own they honestly wouldn’t be much, which is a somewhat surprising thing to say about something written by the author of Practical Magic. But add the chiming, composed voice of the actress and experienced audiobook narrator January LaVoy (she is the excellent reader who enhanced Libba Bray’s thrilling The Diviners) and the charming patterns, and most should be happy with this package.
Readers of this column know that I generally have a tough time with visual media adapted for audio; this is honestly the most successful one I’ve encountered so far. Should you buy this instead of the original book? You’re losing something from the beautifully photographed patterns if you do, but the loss isn’t quite as profound as it usually is in such cases, given the presence of LaVoy.
This review and more like it in the January 2019 issue of Locus.
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