REVIEW and GIVEAWAY
The Fairytale Chicago of Francesca Finnegan
by Steve Wiley
The Fairytale Chicago of Francesca Finnegan by Steve Wiley is currently on tour with Enchanted Book Promotions. The tour stops here today for my review, an excerpt, and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.
"Did you know most anything that matters in this city was built by magic before it was built by men? Of course you didn’t. This city is different from other cities. The true history of it is unpublished. Lucky for you, I know it all by heart." ~ Francesca Finnegan
In Chicago, a secret L train runs through the mythical East Side ofthe city. On that train, you’ll find a house-cat conductor, an alcoholic elf, a queen of the last city farm, the most curious wind, and an exceptional girl by the name of Francesca Finnegan.
When we first encounter Richard K. Lyons, he is a man who has long forgotten the one night, when he was still a boy called Rich, when Francesca invited him aboard the secret L for an adventure though the East Side. The night was a mad epic, complete with gravity-defying first kisses, mermaid overdoses, and princess rescues. Unfortunately for Rich, the night ended like one of those elusive dreams forgotten the moment you wake. Now, Rich is all grown up and out of childish adventures, an adult whose life is on the verge of ruin. It will take the rediscovery of his exploits with Francesca, and a reacquaintance with the boy he once was, to save him.
Note: Half of the proceeds from this book are donated to Chicago Public Schools.
There is magic in the city.
When Rich Lyons was a little boy, he learned of the magic from an old, cockeyed, Captain Hook–looking magician. The old man sat alone at a table for two outside a neighborhood bar every summer day, all day, always with a glass of twinkling whiskey. He said the twinkle had once been in his eye, but had blown out one windy day and splashed right into the whiskey. Rich liked how the twinkle twinkled in the whiskey. He liked it so much, he asked the old man if he could have it. The man told Rich he didn’t need it, because he already had a twinkle of his own, and besides, that particular twinkling whiskey tasted like shit, worse than Malört, if that’s possible.
“You be careful,” the old man warned, “because in the city of wind, a twinkle may blow out. The wind here, it twirls and sings like a music-box ballerina. It plays tricks and tells stories like an old-man magician. Like me, like this …”
And so, the old man performed tricks for Rich and regaled him with city folklore and fantasy. He said the Great Chicago Fire was arson, started by a fire-breathing dragon from the Fulton River District who was fed up with the cold winters. He said the Chicago River started flowing backward when a giant sea serpent sneezed so powerfully, it changed the direction of the current. He said the sky was purple (not black) above the city because a wicked witch had stolen all the black for her cats and bats and witch hats.
Rich’s favorite story was one about the L trains, and how each had come to be named for a color. The old man said the colors arrived when the first skyscrapers did. Before then, all the trains were the same dull brown. On the day the first skyscraper went up, a rainbow, unused to encountering buildings so high in the sky, accidentally crashed into it. When the rainbow crashed, each of its individual colors went splattering in all directions. Some landed on the L trains and stained them. The only train to miss a color was the Brown Line, because, the old man said, it was offline for repairs.
The old man also said there was one line, a secret line, that got a splash of lavender.
One day, Rich asked the old man if he could use his magic to tell fortunes. The old man said, well, hell, of course he could, it was a matter of simple city magic. Rich asked if he might hear his own fortune. He wanted to know what he would be when he grew up.
The old man told Rich there wasn’t much he wouldn’t be when he grew up. He would be a father, a husband, an uncle, a brother, a friend. He would be a ghost in the graveyard. He would be a vice president of something. He would be a pisser in the pancake batter. He would be a reveler-adventurer. He would be a hider and seeker. He would be a rocket man. A businessman.
And, he would be a rich man.
 Disgusting alcoholic spirit, occupied by the evil spirit of a bootlegger, who was bootlegged himself. Available only in Chicago.
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]
Praise for the Book
"This is a book for intelligent adult readers who love a playful escape into teenage fantasies of fleeting first kisses, exceptional Ferris wheels, extraordinary cocktails, and a castle that has the sky's stars for a ceiling." ~ Publishers Weekly
"Filled with clever rhymes and plays on words, the prose itself is pure fun. Witty, humorous, and at times profound, the tone is true to its fairytale style. And like all good fairytales, it teaches a lesson - one that older readers are sure to benefit from." ~ Indie Reader
"There are just enough obscenities uttered to ensure this book is never shelved in the children’s or even young adult section. The story, though, is anything but vulgar, a sweet and uplifting tale as heartwarming as the ones it’s poking fun at." ~ Kirkus Reviews
"Twists on Chicago history and fantastical insights into uniquely Chicago phenomenon, such as the reason Malort tastes so bad, make for an entrancingly magical journey that's half Midwestern Miyazaki, half Mad Men, and all Windy City." ~ Windy City Reviews
"The Fairytale Chicago of Francesca Finnegan is an imaginative, modern-day adventure-fantasy for readers of all ages. Offering a view askew of the mundane and the magical, The Fairytale Chicago of Francesca Finnegan is a lighthearted joy to read, highly recommended!" ~ Midwest Book Review
By Lynda Dickson
Richard Lyons may be rich, but he's not happy. He's going through life like a zombie. But then, one Friday night, he meets a girl who tells fairy tales in the street. An accidental bump to the head later, and so begin the adventures of Rich Lyons through Francesca Finnegan's fairytale Chicago.
I was captivated from the opening line - "There is magic in the city." - which sets the tone for this magical story that reads like a modern, original fairy tale. It's a charming, whimsical, alternate history of Chicago, complete with funny footnotes, nonsense verse, and cute illustrations (by Chris Cihon). Fragments of things Richard saw before he becomes unconscious, manifest themselves in his adventures. In this respect, the book is reminiscent of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.
Take a trip with Rich on the mythical Lavender Line through Chicago's non-existent East Side. You'll meet real-life historical figures, as well as fairytale creatures such as the house-cat train conductor, Queen Billy Boyle, Templeton the elf, Thumbelina, Lucy the mermaid, the Grand Duke of Rhine Falls, Mr. Fox, and - of course - the blue-haired Francesca Finnegan. You'll be regaled with tales (look out, it's contagious!) of old Chicago landmarks: the last city farm, Dunning Mental Hospital, Riverview Amusement park, the Green Mill cocktail lounge, Aragon castle, and the abandoned Chicago cable car tunnels.
You'll learn how the Windy City got its name, the cause of the Great Chicago Fire, the origin of the infamous Chicago liqueur Malört, the true events of the Saint Valentine's Day massacre, the legend of footballer George Gipp, the origin of the city's flag, why the Chicago River flows backwards, the story of John Kinzie and the Polish Potawatomi, the origin of Chicago's name, the story of the Dearborn Massacre, the phenomenon of the Chicago River turning green, the cause of the lightening of the Chicago night sky, the origin of Chicago's mermaid statue, and how the Aragon Ballroom came to have its star-studded ceiling.
Along the way, Richard regains some of the magic of his youth - and so will you. A wonderful, satisfying fairy tale for adults.
"Asking how to get anyvere on zis map is like asking vere to fall down a rabbit hole, or how to valk srough a looking glass." ~ The Grand Duke of Rhine Falls
Some of My Favorite Lines
"As a man, spirits were drunk and not dreamed. He snorted pixie dust, and while it made him high, he could never truly fly."
"It was the moment between afternoon and evening when the moon and sun swapped ownership of the sky."
"The Brown Line is one of those color-coded trains that make up the greater Chicago L system, coursing through the city’s anatomy like old-man blood vessels, clumsily pumping life in and out of the loop at the city’s heart."
"Jerking off with a cold is like reading a book upside down. You can start, but never finish, and there is no satisfaction in the endeavor.”
"The rain covered Rich’s face and seeped in his mouth and dripped down his throat. It tasted sweet as soda, and when Rich swallowed it, he was positive he’d live forever. It was the second-to-last time rain would make him feel like that."
About the Author
Steve Wiley is a father, husband, uncle, brother, friend, and purveyor of fairy stories. He grew up in and around Chicagoland, where he still lives with his wife and two kids. He has been published in an array of strange and serious places, from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C., to Crannóg magazine in Galway, Ireland. This is his first book. He has an undergraduate degree in something he has forgotten from Illinois State University and a graduate degree in something equally forgotten from DePaul University. Follow him on Goodreads and Instagram.
About the Illustrator
Chris Cihon is an artist who studied at Columbia College Chicago. He is a Chicago native and has lived here all his life. Chris’s paintings have been showcased in many local galleries and beyond. When he feels like it, he travels elsewhere to find inspiration. Follow him on Instagram.
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