Updated on 12/2/2007 to add some more points I wanted to make; see below.
This is a wonderful, fantastic and clean book. Magpie, a hundred-year-old faerie teenager(?) (apparently 100 years for a faerie is more like a very mature 14 or 15 for a human, although I'm only guessing based on how she acts and how the crows call her a child) has been hunting and bottling devils when she stumbles upon one that doesn't seem to follow the usual rules and has to (wait for it) save the world. Despite the cliche, I enjoyed this book quite a bit, except that a decidedly unbiblical creation story* plays a significant role in the plot.
I laughed at quite a few places, too. Hopefully the next book comes out soon—humans, especially, (playfully called "mannies" by the faeries) were mostly absent from this story, although there was a paragraph or two of painfully obvious environmentalism.
I also loved the illustrations and wished there were more, except that the faeries look decidedly grim in some of them.
I think I found this from an interview Shannon Hale did with Laini Taylor, and the recommendation was seconded by R. J. Anderson more recently.
* SPOILER for those who really want to know (highlight to read): Djinns created the world by weaving everything into a magical tapestry that shuts out the darkness.
Update: Some additional thoughts:
- Humans are really missing from this world; there are a few token appearances and mentions of monkeys coming down from the trees, but humans don't seem to be really present (i.e., they have no important function, good or bad) in the world of the story. I have a hard time believing fairies can live all over the world (as they do in this book) and not have relationships with at least one human, somewhere, sometime.
- Not all the token cliches are used, which I think is a good thing. While the fairies are tiny (apparently -- although one suspects in some of the scenes that they might change size, because I can't imagine the djinns or the monsters being so tiny, or a tiny fairy being able to easily carry a human-sized bottle), they aren't noticeably allergic to iron (although that might just be because there isn't much iron in the story).
- There are some awkward moments in the story (the heroine asking "Oh, did you hear some story the creatures have about someone who will save the world?" "Um, nope, can't say that I have.", which is actually kind of funny), and other places where you know (from prior experiences of How Stories Work) that the characters are walking into trouble. This is one of the things that drives me crazy reading some books, though it wasn't bad here; I hate to read things where someone says something stupid and just keeps digging a deeper pit for himself and eventually gets into well-deserved trouble because of it. Those are the parts I skip over in some parts because they're painful (or at least painfully embarrassing) to read.
- There are some really dark things, but not very many. The magic mirror actually scares me more than the main (titular) villain does. You'll see.
- I liked the illustrations, although the fairies seemed much grimmer in them than they were portrayed in the prose, especially in the cover art. Did I already mention this?
- This book probably belongs in the home grown fairy tale category; while the mythos is not what you could call biblical, I think it is clever due to its simplicity and effectiveness. She does a good job building a story on top of her background story of creation.