Toad Words is a collection fairy tales retold in such a way that they are instantly recognizable, but motivations are reexamined, antagonists and prot Toad Words is a collection fairy tales retold in such a way that they are instantly recognizable, but motivations are reexamined, antagonists and protagonists switch places, and shifting things just slightly puts everything in a completely new light.
It has been brought to my attention – A poem about how there is more than one way to examine fairy tales.
Toad Words – An excellent retelling of Diamonds and Toads, in which the ‘toad’ sister puts her ‘curse’ to excellent ecological use. Also, loved seeing how different spoken words would create different animals.
The Wolf & The Woodsman It flips the story on its head, puts modern day stalking in a fairy tale context, and perfectly shows without getting preachy how victims get conditioned to blame themselves.
Bluebeard’s Wife – A very A different version of the tale that dances on the edge of giving too much sympathy to the devil. But I loved how sensible the last wife was in this version.
Loathly It shows how impossible it is to simply move on after a curse has been removed when you can remember all the horror the curse caused.
The Sea Witch Sets The Record Straight – In which we learn that the sea witch had some very sensible, environmental reasons to keep the mermaid from talking.
Never – Peter Pan really is a horror story when you start to question the details…
Bait – No pun intended, but it’s a chilling suggestion about what was the Snow Queen’s true goal all along.
Night – A rather hilarious comparison between the Cosmos and your average theater troupe.
Boar and apples – This retelling of Snow White started out very strong but somehow became the story I thought worked the least in this collection. For me, what didn’t work was the switch in the type of fantasy story that occurs about halfway through.
I’m not sure what the proper terms are (please let me know if you do), but the first half of the story is the Tanith Lee style that has lots of lyrical descriptions of the settings and actions and is sparse on dialogue, creating a dreamy, speculative, almost metaphorical feeling of the fantasy setting. The second half of the retelling was heavier on dialogue with a more solid, down to earth setting; a more realistic approach to world-building a la Tamara Pierce.
The two styles smashed together made for a more awkward story, but I still loved the creative recasting of the dwarves and Snow’s ability to spot a lie at 50 paces, like fresh fruit in winter.
Overall, a great collection of new ways to look at age old fairy tales. ...more
Rhea, a fifteen year old miller’s daughter, finds herself engaged to a minor lord, and feels apprehensive about the arrangement for reasons she can’t Rhea, a fifteen year old miller’s daughter, finds herself engaged to a minor lord, and feels apprehensive about the arrangement for reasons she can’t quite put her finger on.
She’s instructed to venture down a mysterious road at night to meet him at his mysterious home. Because he is a lord and she is a peasant, she does, despite the weirdness of it all, but there was no way for her to anticipate just how weird things were going to get.
From there the book quickly plunges into horror territory as Rhea finds herself in a house filled with the kind of macabre set dressing worthy of a Wes Craven film.
There are a group of characters in the story referred to as “golems” but I think “zombie” would have been the more accurate term. I know that seems nitpicky, but a golem starts with an inanimate substance like clay, dirt, sand or dough (or, in one horrific story, ash) while a zombie starts off with a living person – or animal. Golem and zombie stores both examine “what is human?” but from very different angles. Weirdly, most zombie movie / tv shows / books have a tough time using the word zombie, as if it is this weird taboo to actually say the word. Everyone loves to come up with their own substitute word like the infected, nightwalker, walking dead, unmentionables, darkseeker, etc. So, just want to clear that up – these are zombies, not golems.
Anyway, here Kingfisher begins with the Bluebeard tale, riffs off of Rumpelstiltskin and distills from the myth of Psyche. We have multiple wives (at various levels of dead, not dead, alive, never alive), impossible tasks, and a fate worse than death awaiting the main character.
Kingfisher shakes it all together and extends it forward to create her own world of magic, a lot of it evil. And worse than that – random. The characters struggle with the idea, with some having better success than others, that sometimes bad things happen to good people –and what’s worse, they happen for no reason at all. The universe is random and chaotic and the main character gets it that sometimes you just have to bend to the wind.
Rhea is a wonderfully adaptable heroine – she knows when she can push back and when she can’t, and I loved that she bothers to ask a lot of questions about what the heck is going on. She goes toe to toe with her insane fiancé and gives as good as she gets. I would have liked to see her do more at the very end, but the very normality that is empathized about her ends up limiting her in the end as far as being able to contribute to the final take down.
The world building could have used some more development. As is, it feels just a shade too generic – typical fairy tale thatched cottages and the like –without that extra level of detail that would make it her own creation. Kingfisher does better when she starts with an established setting, like in Jackalope Wives, then when she tries to create something whole cloth as she attempts here. She comes close to establishing her own stamp on things when she mentions her own saints like Our Lady of Stones, but doesn’t develop that enough.
The end wraps things up a little too quickly and neatly, as if Kingfisher had to rush to meet a deadline from a particularly nasty editor. There was no sense of what the future would bring, and after everything Rhea has been though can she dare hope for anything positive? At the very least can we get at least a hint at something like the French Revolution on its way? No? Darn. Those aristocrats really needed to be taken down a few pegs.
Overall, the world building needed work and the plot lacked a solid finish, despite the action sequence right before, but it is a good horror-version take on some fairy tale elements.
A teenage girl with extraordinary archery abilities volunteers for a lethal task in order to prevent the death of chosen teenagers and to fight a dict A teenage girl with extraordinary archery abilities volunteers for a lethal task in order to prevent the death of chosen teenagers and to fight a dictatorship while struggling in a love triangle of an arranged relationship with the boy everyone’s eyes are on who believes it might be real and the boy in the shadows who taught her archery and wants to kiss her and then rush off to war.
In this Arabian Nights / Hunger Games mash up, the idea of Shahrzad volunteering to be the caliph’s wife in order to get close enough to kill him was an enticing one, especially given her motivation that one of his previous wives was her best friend, but once the teenage hormones take over the story, it’s all about soulful glances and beating hearts.
Even worse, the part of Shahrzad spinning her stories out each night is dropped quickly, to no good effect, making the love between them even harder to believe. The interactions between the two of them seem to be mostly the boy-king shouting: “I HAVE TERRIBLE SECRETS I CANNOT TELL YOU!” and her shouting back: “TELL ME YOUR TERRIBLE SECRETS!”
The backstory as to why all the wives are being killed turns out to be nauseatingly annoying in that it is the author clearly seeking to complete absolve the king of all by a) trying to say none of it was his fault to begin with and b) trotting out the old “greater good” chestnut.
And everything ends on an all-is-lost / ready-for-war note with no absolution at all in order to make you read the next book in the series. ...more
Like, weird with weird sauce baked with weird spice.
I appreciate the amount of female characters and full credit to Vinge You guys, this book is weird.
Like, weird with weird sauce baked with weird spice.
I appreciate the amount of female characters and full credit to Vinge for predicting Cloud technology by 30 years but wow this was a difficult book to slog through.
Vinge creates what should have been a wonderfully detailed universe for her characters to play in, but she can’t be bothered to explain anything, and when she has plot holes she just throws in some tech or custom at the last minute out of nowhere.
She takes the plot of Anderson’s The Snow Queen and expands it by hundreds of pages with angst and genetic engineering and pretty dresses and this, like, giant version of Wikipedia that only special people can access by going into a trance or whatever.
There was the beginnings of a good plot with the queen scheming to stay in power, like, 4EVR, but it all falls apart pretty quick and everyone just wanders around for 300 pages until they meet up again at the end for an ending where everything works out a little too perfectly for the protagonists.
Its weird - everything goes wrong for the two main characters, and yet somehow at the same time everything goes too easily for them.
The book starts at the end of Arabian Nights with the sultan announcing to the Vizier that he has decided not to kill Shaharazad after all, much to he The book starts at the end of Arabian Nights with the sultan announcing to the Vizier that he has decided not to kill Shaharazad after all, much to her father’s relief.
Then, the tales she has just finished telling play out in the city in a magical realism style that left me feeling something had been lost in translation. Was this a commentary on 20th century events? Some deep philosophical pondering on human nature? I couldn’t tell.
Meanwhile, Shaharazad worries her husband’s reprieve will turn out in the end to be temporary. After all, how can you EVER trust someone with so much blood on his hands? Every now and then the book starts to get into Shaharazad’s backstory, or get into what post-tales life is like, but stops to get into yet another tale where yet another character is beheaded.
If the book had been all about Shaharazad it would have been a good addition to the retellings of 1001 Nights – as it is, I didn’t really care about any of the characters and at the end was convinced I had missed something. The text may have been translated, but I think the subtext was left behind in the original edition. ...more
Howard Pyle took some old Russian fairy tales, mixed and baked, and, as usual, turned something old hat into a delightful retelling that has all the s Howard Pyle took some old Russian fairy tales, mixed and baked, and, as usual, turned something old hat into a delightful retelling that has all the style of an old, old story, but still reads as freash and new.
The text is paired with bright, livley illistrations that keep everything at a level of storybook land where you just the hero and heroine will live happily ever after. ...more
A combination of The Wild Swans and The Snow Queen told from an outsider’s perspective. It doesn’t really come together. It’s sad and weird, but mostl A combination of The Wild Swans and The Snow Queen told from an outsider’s perspective. It doesn’t really come together. It’s sad and weird, but mostly weird. ...more
Considering this is the same author who re-wrote Swan Lake to give the classic tragedy a happy ending, it’s no surprise that Hans Christen Anderson’s Considering this is the same author who re-wrote Swan Lake to give the classic tragedy a happy ending, it’s no surprise that Hans Christen Anderson’s heart breaking tale of the Steadfast Tin Soldier ends quite happily after Mercedes Lackey has gotten through with it.
It was an entertaining read – a literal beach read in my case – and I read it straight through rather than skimming or skipping anything, but I can’t recommend it for being anything more than the literary equivalent of a summer popcorn thriller – something you watch just once to while away a hot summer day without having to think.
Oh, sure, Lackey throws in a theme that all humans should have civil liberties, freedom from fear, pursuit of life and happiness and all that important jazz, but when the enemy of those things is such a one dimensional villain, you just can’t take anything she says about equality seriously.
The protagonists, for that matter, aren’t that deep themselves, but I’m willing to blame the fact that no one does anything on the fact the book takes place during a heat wave. And really, when it’s so hot, who wants to do anything so strenuous as plot? ...more
Tomlinson takes the fairy tale of Diamonds and Toads and moves it to 17th century India and adds in the issues of Muslim-Hindu relations.
H Tomlinson takes the fairy tale of Diamonds and Toads and moves it to 17th century India and adds in the issues of Muslim-Hindu relations.
Her book takes place in a land that is very obviously India, filled with characters who are very obvious from India and Pakistan, worshiping the Hindu gods and the Abrahamic god, fight with each other over this issue, and use all the tools, culture, food, clothes, and architecture of that time and place.
Except all the names have been just slightly changed, the serial numbers barely filed off as Tomlinson disingenuously claims in the afterward that her two made up religions in no way resemble any real religions. Riiiiiiiiiight.
I believe she should have just based it in real-life 17th century India and not bothered with all this smokescreen business; she could have made it a fairly tale India-that-never-was-and-always-has-been similar to King Arthur stores and Arabian Night stories, but this was… so unnecessary.
Still, the characters are very engaging and the re-telling is brilliant as she pours in economic, religious, political and environmental issues and makes this fairy tale say a lot.
Basically, besides nothing happening, the biggest problem is the re-telling of 'The Snow Queen' forgets that at its heOh Ms. Lackey, where do I start?
Basically, besides nothing happening, the biggest problem is the re-telling of 'The Snow Queen' forgets that at its heart is the story of a person willing to go to the ends of the earth and go through hell to rescue someone she loves. In this case, the woman just happens to be next door when the guy is in danger, and rescues him almost as an after thought to her day.
Two things worth mentioning:
One: A very minor character is described as having parties where friends challenge each other to read really bad books outloud with a straight face. Having been to parties like that a time or three, and the epsidoe clearly something she threw in based on real life, I salute Ms Lackey as a fellow geek.
Two: She manages to fit in the line "I ain't afraid of no ghost." without it sounding anachronistic. Gods bless Cockney English.
With the people in involved, I expected some really good re-tellings. Instead, we get illustrations of the characters in the original b Disappointing.
With the people in involved, I expected some really good re-tellings. Instead, we get illustrations of the characters in the original ballads, most simply using all of the original language, with no fun/twisted/creative/dark twists or extrapolation, or subtects explored.
What really surprised me was how desperately Dorothy wants to go home. The opening chapter describes how the landscape of fields and grass and house aWhat really surprised me was how desperately Dorothy wants to go home. The opening chapter describes how the landscape of fields and grass and house are all the same sun baked gray color. Then it describes her aunt and uncle:
"When Aunt Em came there to live she was a young, pretty wife. The sun and wind had changed her, too. They had taken the sparkle from her eyes and left them a sober gray; they had taken the red from her cheeks and lips, and they were gray also. She was thin and gaunt, and never smiled now. When Dorothy, who was an orphan, first came to her, Aunt Em had been so startled by the child's laughter that she would scream and press her hand upon her heart whenever Dorothy's merry voice reached her ears; and she still looked at the little girl with wonder that she could find anything to laugh at.
Uncle Henry never laughed. He worked hard from morning till night and did not know what joy was. He was gray also, from his long beard to his rough boots, and he looked stern and solemn, and rarely spoke.”
So, not exactly a happy and warm home environment. Throughout her tour of Oz, with all the amazing people, creatures and landscape she sees and adventures she has, she continually cries about wanting to go home - its as if Harry Potter spent his first year at Hogwarts whining that he wanted to go back to the Dursleys.
Dorothy’s attitude just doesn’t strike the right note, especially when compared to others of this genre. Alice Liddell knows she’ll go home eventually, but enjoys exploring Wonderland in the mean time, Wendy Darling isn’t worried about going home, having some adventures playing house first, Clara of the Nutcracker is on one long sugar high when she visits the Land of Sweets, no concern, knowing she’ll go back home soon, Susan and Lucy Pevensie know there is work to be done in the magic land they stumble into, with no thought of going home until its done, and Max parties it up with the other Wild Things before going home by simply retracing his steps.
Compared to these other children, Dorothy appears hopelessly prosaic. ...more
Unfortunately, there are too many fairy tale retellings out there that have a better hock, better world building, better characterization, and better Unfortunately, there are too many fairy tale retellings out there that have a better hock, better world building, better characterization, and better plot. ‘A’ for effort, but there’s just too much better competition. ...more