The Fairytale Chicago of Francesca Finnegan


I love finding odd books on the shelves of used bookstores. I often pick them up based on their strange titles or book covers. The Fairytale Chicago of Francesca Finnegan delivered both. When I think about Chicago, I never consider it to be a place of magic or fairytales. My image of the city is of a cold, windy place filled with crime and danger. The Windy City has never been one of my favorite places to visit. Our adventures take us far away from there. I picked up this urban fantasy to see if Steve Wiley could convince me that magic could be found on the Lavender Line. It was a tough challenge, but he lived up to it beautifully.

Quick synopsis of The Fairytale Chicago of Francesca Finnegan

When Rich was a kid, he knew about the existence of magic in the city of Chicago. He took a night ride with Francesca Finnegan on the secret Lavender Line one fateful night, where he experiences the magic of the Windy City. He wakes up and believes his adventure of the night before is a hazy dream.

Rich grows up to become Richard K. Lyons and is the vice-president of something. His job is unfulfilling, his marriage is a joke, and he has a distant relationship with his son. His life is spiraling downhill on the fast track until he has an encounter with a homeless girl selling ‘farry tales” and falling ice.

The event that happen to Rich in The Fairytale Chicago of Francesca Finnegan

Rich is hit on the head and knocked unconscious. He runs into Francesca Finnegan again and takes a ride on the Lavender Line. They go on an amazing adventure which includes a house-cat conductor, an alcoholic elf, the queen of the last city farm, and a curious wind even for Chicago. Richard K. Lyons starts to feel like the boy he once was, but will that be enough to save him from his grown-up self. I won’t give the ending away. If you want to find out, you will have to read the book yourself.

Highlights I found in The Fairytale Chicago of Francesca Finnegan

The first highlight I found in the book was Rich’s encounter with the homeless girl selling fairytales. This event happens early on in the story and sets the magical tone for the rest of the book. The plot progression happens quickly. Then we see Rich playing Ghost in the Graveyard with Francesca Finnegan and receiving his first kiss.

The stop at Riverview Amusement Park and Rich’s visit to the Aragon also added a romantic and mystical element to the story. The Aragon is a mythical castle where a ball was being held. This dance is Rich’s last stop on the Lavender Line. Soon he will go back to the world of Richard K. Lyons. The big question in front of him is will his night of magic change him, or will he go back to being the unhappy vice-president of something.

Story Development in The Fairytale Chicago of Francesca Finnegan

The reader is expected to suspend their belief in the rational world if they want to take a ride on the Lavender Line. The nature of fairytales is to enter a world where you suspend your belief in reality. It’s like sliding down the rabbit hole with Alice, or in this case, hopping on the Lavender Line with Rich and Francesca. I thought the author did an excellent job of creating an alternative universe.

The plot of this story is centered around the redemption of Richard K. Lyons. He is a miserable sort of human being when he becomes the vice-president of something. The big question is will he be the same man when he returns home to his wife and son, Andy after he reexperiences the magic of his childhood? I don’t want to give the ending away, so I will leave it up to the reader to find the answer to that question. 

Worldbuilding in The Fairytale Chicago of Francesca Finnegan

In my opinion, Steve Wiley did an excellent job of creating a secret fairytale world in Chicago. He takes Rich on a wild ride through a remote part of the city. Rich experienced the real story behind the Chicago fire, Riverview, Templeton, Marlot, the grand duke, and the Green Mile. He found himself on the sidewalk where he’d been hit by the falling ice and took the Brown Line home to his family. The worldbuilding at each stage of Rich’s adventure made a person believe in fairytales again.

Magic System in The Fairytale Chicago of Francesca Finnegan

The magic system used in The Fairytale Chicago of Francesca Finnegan is similar to the system used in Alice in Wonderland. Rich hops on the Lavender Line, and nothing in the city is what it appears to be. Cats can talk, and so can the occasional fox. There are mythical creatures such as elves, but they tend not to be the most upstanding characters. Most of the magic is centered around the person of Francesca Finnegan. Her appearance is the catalyst for Rich’s adventures both as a child and as an adult. The Lavender Line is the vehicle that carries them to the various locations they visit on that magical night.

Evaluation of the characters in The Fairytale Chicago of Francesca Finnegan

I thought the author did an excellent job of developing the characters in this book. The mythical ones and the human ones seemed to have unique and realistic personalities—the character of Richard K. Lyons was as unlikable as the youthful character of Rich was pleasant. Francesca comes off as a knowledgeable prankster. The other characters who move in and out of the story appear unrealistic at times, but the story is a fairytale after all. I found all the characters appealing and interesting, especially the alcoholic elf.

Overall impression of The Fairytale Chicago of Francesca Finnegan

I enjoyed reading this urban fairytale very much. I count it as one of my best bargain bookshelves finds of the year. After reading this book, I almost believe the Lavender Line does exist. If you would like to order a copy of The Fairytale Chicago of Francesca Finnegan, you can find it at Steve Wiley: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle.

Who is Molly Shea?

Molly Shea is an accomplished fictional short story writer from Indiana who writes short stories and novels about a fictional town called Tecumseh.  To read more of her short stories and adventures, click here.

Be sure to follow Molly on Twitter!

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Published by henhouselady

I am the author of Saving the Hen House. I didn't know when I started it would turn into a series. I love to ride motorcycles, the blues, my family, and going on adventures. This old hen rocks.

3 thoughts on “The Fairytale Chicago of Francesca Finnegan

  1. I like the idea of suspending belief in the rational world to let a little magic in to save your soul, to rediscover a sense of wonder about the world. It’s like a creative defense mechanism. Thanks!

  2. Thank you for sharing!!… 🙂

    Until we meet again..
    May the road rise to meet you
    May the wind be always at your back
    May the sun shine warm upon your face
    The rains fall soft upon your fields
    May green be the grass you walk on
    May blue be the skies above you
    May pure be the joys that surround you
    May true be the hearts that love you.
    (Irish Saying)

  3. Wow, it is a odd book but an enchanting book nonetheless. LOL. My interest is piqued by “a house-cat conductor, an alcoholic elf, the queen of the last city farm, and a curious wind”. I can imagine how an alcoholic elf will behave when he is trying to transport Santa from one place to another. LOL.

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