I suppose I didn't know what I was expecting. I didn't really expect a rehash of 4th edition, after all, and I do give it credit for trying, buuut...
Well, let's get started.
First of all, What Faeries Are. I like that it doesn't try to say where faeries come from, merely giving weird ideas and suggestions (never even thought of them being the halfway between demons and angels, amusing thought, though I would never, ever use it.)
However, what makes a faerie... was this really the direction we wanted to go with?
For those who haven't read Faeries yet, a Faerie is basically this: A spirit who pretends to be legendary beings of various sorts for the purpose of collecting vitality, which is the quality of life, found in food, emotion, blood, struggle, so on.
Where do I even begin with this? Shall I start with how this is basically cribbing directly from Exalted, which did the exact same thing?
I think, instead, I'll issue my complaint in the direction that this doesn't seem to have a great deal to do with myth to begin with.
Now, let's be clear... in myth and stories from the time, magic and faerie are not distinguished. Faeries are magical, magical stuff is related to faerie stories, because there is no difference. In Ars Magica, however, we have created this distinction, and I have agreed with that distinction as a setting decision and have no problem with it.
I think I see where the need for this decision comes from... Faeries, frankly, are difficult to separate from 'magical' beings in Ars Magica, so they needed to be made unique somehow. This is the way the writers chose, and it's terrible. There's a few reasons for this...
First of all, and most damning of all, it instantly saps all the interest out of running faerie stories or playing faeries. Where once there was a sense of awe and mystery in pursuing faerie goals, now it just feels like a crock of dung, a task put together by some interdimensional leech. When the faerie queen sends you to look for her heart, it's no longer because she really, really needed it, it's because she's actually wants to make you suffer a little more than normal so she can have a tastier-than-normal snack.
I can't emphasize enough how much this bothers me, I went from being very interested in faeries to absolutely loathing them in the space of a single read through. All of a sudden, faeries aren't characters any more. Faerie stories now have no relevance to me as a player except to avoid (and gain whatever benefits I can), because I no longer have any personal interest in faeries (mind you, my characters don't know this, but why would I, as a player, want to suffer through that any more than I have to? It's like gritting your teeth in a smile at family members you don't like.) As a ST, I look at the new Faerie stories, and find no real value in them.
Second, I don't agree with the faerie realms being mutually inaccessible. Don't much like the third realm, either.
...no, no real reasoning, it's purely personal, and I think it actually fits in to the setting well. This one is easy to fix for me, if I wanted to, too.
Third, Faeries seem too weak, vis a vis the other realms. Again, really more of a preference, I don't mind this one to a large degree.
Fourth, the faerie sympathies thing is interesting, but making the magic magnitudes so dependent on them... it strikes me as an unnecessary hassle. Not really a big problem.
That first thing is the killing blow for me, the great giant rotting elephant carcass in the laboratory. Why was this chosen? Were there no other, better notions? Would it really have been so bad to have blurred the line between Faerie and Magic?
Perhaps most importantly, what can I do about it? If I wanted to obviate this fluff, what alternative would I go with?