I love fairy tale retellings, and this one is a pretty good one. The only drawback I'd say is that it sticks maybe too close to the original story. I...moreI love fairy tale retellings, and this one is a pretty good one. The only drawback I'd say is that it sticks maybe too close to the original story. I would have loved to have more depth to the characters. But I enjoyed it!(less)
This was one of my favorite books as a teenager, which, looking back, seems quite dark for me to be reading at age 15. I've re-read this countless tim...moreThis was one of my favorite books as a teenager, which, looking back, seems quite dark for me to be reading at age 15. I've re-read this countless times (though not during the Goodreads Era), but to be honest, most of the time, I would start halfway through the book, and just read the parts I liked, about Lissar and Ossin and their cute hoard of giant puppies. It's like getting a sucker at the doctor's office without having to get a shot - getting the reward without the horrible pain that leads up to it. But of course, a story about only happy times, without conflict or growth, isn't a very interesting story. No one ever writes a fairy tale that goes, "Once upon a time, there was a girl, and there was a boy, and they lived happily ever after. The end." So that's not the real truth of this story.
Robin McKinley remains one of my favorite writers, who writes with vivid detail, deep emotion, and stunning creativity. The worlds she creates are remarkable in that, though they are like ours in many ways, still manage to be a little set apart, a little different. These are everyday people, but there also exist in this world things like dragons and other funny beasts, as well as magic and mystery and things that cannot be explained.
Lissar is a smart, inquisitive girl who was raised practically in solitary confinement. Her life was forever changed when her mother died, not because of a particular closeness to her mother, but because of the things that death preceded. A prince from another country sent her as a condolence gift a puppy, Ash, who would become her best friend, constant companion, life-saver, and confidant. And her father became obsessed with her (view spoiler)[in a sexual manner, lost all reason, tried to marry her, and eventually raped and almost killed her (hide spoiler)].
Much of this book is Lissar trying to escape the damage that was done to her by others, and reclaim herself as a person, both in body and mind. That's not a simple thing to do when you've suffered a significant trauma. Though Lissar owes a lot to Ash for making her fight to live, in the end, the only way Lissar can survive is with some supernatural help from the mythical (but totally real in this book) Moonwoman, who gives her both the gift of time and disguise. Not only does Lissar spend 5 years in some sort of magical coma, but the Moonwoman changes Lissar's appearance and gifts her with some of her abilities: a sense of knowing where she should go, the ability to soothe dogs and children, and the ability to find lost people and things. She ends up establishing a new sort of life, working in a kennel, becoming friends with the Prince, falling in love. The problem, though, is that Lissar finds she can't just run away from her issues, and she can't keep burying them, because eventually, they will surface. (view spoiler)[When she did eventually regain her memories, how could she tell Ossin about everything she'd been through? How could she explain what she'd been through on the mountain? How could she admit what her father had done to her? So she ran away again, but finally, after surviving another horrific event, the Moonwoman guides her to come back to town, just in time to reveal everything to Ossin and his family, as well as all the people of the city. She protects Ossin's sister from becoming another of her father's victims. And in many ways, she gets her revenge on her father, though it's not revenge in a vengeful, destructive, negative way. If anything, by finally telling the truth, she just removes from herself the power he held over her, and destroyed the spell he had cast over the rest of the world. His continued obsession with her meant she was the only one who could stop him, break him to the point where he wouldn't be able to hurt anyone again. So Lissar both magically and normally rages at him. She bleeds everywhere and transforms back into her original appearance. She takes away his power. (hide spoiler)]
Of course, not everything is instantly perfect for Lissar, even after her final confrontation with her father. Luckily, Lissar has solid, dependable Ossin by her side to love her unconditionally and support her in every way she needs. One of the reasons I love Lissar and Ossin so much, and treasured their story, is that they seemed like such ordinary people. They didn't have an epic, love-at-first-sight moment, but rather, fell in love with each other the ordinary way, day by day, hour by hour. They saw the good in each other, cared for each other, and slowly started to hope for more. Neither were overconfident in each other's feelings, but both were quite sure of their own. They were wonderful people as individuals, and even greater together. I only wish we could have had more time seeing them happy. A little fan service never hurt any book! ;)
One thing I will never really understand is what exactly was up with Lissar's parents that made them so self-obsessed? And what power did they hold that drew everyone to be in love with them, too? I feel like it had to be magical in nature, as Lissar used magic to break that power, but what caused it in the first place? Was it the magical quest that her mother's father had sent her father on to win her mother's hand? Was that the start of it all? I doubt I'll ever understand the whys of that part, but maybe it's not important that everything make sense.
I still enjoy and will treasure this book, though I'll probably revert back to teen mode, and only re-read the happy parts in the future. :) Can't blame a girl for wanting to be happy! Also, I'm on a quest to read the books on my "favorites" shelf that I haven't read and reviewed since joining Goodreads in 2009, so expect to see more reviews down the line where I take fresh eyes to my old favorites. At least, as much as I can bear to do so. We'll see.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I love fairy tale retellings, and Angela Carter writes beautiful prose. Unfortunately, I just couldn't get into the darkly bloody and sexual nature of...moreI love fairy tale retellings, and Angela Carter writes beautiful prose. Unfortunately, I just couldn't get into the darkly bloody and sexual nature of most of these stories. There were some I liked better than others, such as Puss in Boots and The Tiger's Bride, the later of which was an interesting version of Beauty and the Beast. For the most part, though, I doubt this is a collection I would ever read for a second time.(less)
Light and irreverent and full of swashbuckling entertainment, quite like the movie that was based on it, though that's no surprise considering Golding...moreLight and irreverent and full of swashbuckling entertainment, quite like the movie that was based on it, though that's no surprise considering Golding writes from a screenwriter's perspective and adapted the book to screen himself. I enjoyed it so much, I almost wish I had never seen the movie, so I could experience everything for the first time: thinking Westley was dead, the Man in Black's battles with Inigo, Fezzik, and Vinzini, finding out the MiB's real identity, the marriage dream fake out, thinking Westley was dead again.
One part I enjoyed that wasn't really included in the movie (because of time/story-streamlining limitations, I'm sure) was the backstories of Inigo Montoya and Fezzik. You get very basic ones in the movie; who can forget "My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die."? But other than the basics, we don't know much about these two lovable kidnappers. In the book, however, we learn much more about them: their childhoods, how they ended up where they ate, how they met Vinzini, and their deepest thoughts. They turn from fun, kooky sidekicks into real, complex characters. Yes, you always rooted for Inigo to find and kill the six-fingered man and avenge his father's death, but when you know more of his quest, it seems even more meaningful. Fezzik always seemed like a dopey but happy big guy. In the book, though, it becomes clear that Fezzik is generally far from happy, and in fact had a very troubled childhood - ridiculously strong, teased by his peers, exploited by his parents, and eventually all alone, all Fezzik wants is a friend and some good, comforting rhymes.
I won't mention Westley and Buttercup, because they ate pretty much exactly as they appear in the movie. Westley is perhaps supposed to be a bit bulkier, and Buttercup magically beautiful, but it's hard to picture them any other way.
Probably the most remarkable and controversial part of this book is the way the author presents it, as if it is not his original work, but rather, a classic that he is merely editing to make it more readable to the masses. To be honest, not sure exactly what the point of this was. Maybe to emphasize the nature of a fairy tale versus real life? To be able to provide quirky asides and commentary on today's society? It definitely emphasizes the importance of nostalgia. Our memories aren't objective, definite things. We remember things in a very biased way, and there's nothing wrong with that; it's just how things work. There's magic in nostalgia, and this book was important to the Golding the character not just because of the plot, and the way his enjoyment of the plot changed his life, but because of his memories of the time his father read it to him, and the time they spent together. When he realizes that things aren't the way he always remembered them to be, that his father had been abridging the book himself while reading it, it doesn't make that memory less special, it enhances it. Personally, I enjoyed the little asides and comments from "Golding" - it added another layer of interest to an already interesting story.
I'll leave you with one of my favorite lines, the last one of the book and a fitting end and moral to this story: "Life isn't fair. It's just fairer than death, that's all."(less)
This was one of my favorite books growing up, and it is just as sweet, simple, and beautiful as I remember. Oh, to be a princess. :) This is still a g...moreThis was one of my favorite books growing up, and it is just as sweet, simple, and beautiful as I remember. Oh, to be a princess. :) This is still a go-to comfort read for me. When I was to read something familiar and cozy, I pick this up because I know it turns out exactly as it should, without being overly sweet or cloying. (less)
Mulan is one of my favorite Disney characters, so I found it really fascinating to get a different glimpse of her story. I liked Mulan's strength and...moreMulan is one of my favorite Disney characters, so I found it really fascinating to get a different glimpse of her story. I liked Mulan's strength and courage, her determination to protect her family. Her relationship with Jian developed rather quickly, but that is not surprising in a book like this. They did truly feel connected, and I was happy to see their story end the way it did: happy. I just wish these books were longer, because I am always left wanting to know more of the story, of their continued adventures together. Because of this, I would really rate this one 4.5 stars. Altogether enjoyable, though.(less)
An interesting twist on the story of the Little Mermaid, and a sweet story. I just wish the characters had more depth. But overall, I liked it, and it...moreAn interesting twist on the story of the Little Mermaid, and a sweet story. I just wish the characters had more depth. But overall, I liked it, and it was a quick read.(less)
When I started reading this, I was pleased to discover that not only was this a fairy tale retelling of sorts, but it combined several fairy tales, an...moreWhen I started reading this, I was pleased to discover that not only was this a fairy tale retelling of sorts, but it combined several fairy tales, and quite well. The best sort of retellings are like this - themes and aspects of the story are borrowed, but not just regurgitated. The re-imagined setting was also wonderfully built - a mountainous area of Transylvania, complete with fairy lore and roaming vampires! Jena is a compelling heroine - she is strong and independent, passionate and loyal to her family. I agree with the advice everyone gave her throughout the book, however - what she needed was to look after herself, and not worry about her sisters. I loved Gogu, and am so glad that he also got the ending he deserved. I couldn't bring myself to hate Jena's cousin, Cezar. Mostly, I felt sorry for him. He was clearly jealous of his brother, and guilty about the life/death he wished on him. In the end, though I hated the way he was treating Jena and her sisters, trying to take over their lives, all I could do was pity him. I could just see him as a sad little boy, who wanted to be loved and be the favorite for once. The other characters were interesting as well, though they could have used a little more character development past their initial descriptors. I'm glad this is a series, so we can hear more about Paula and the other girls. In the end, I enjoyed reading this one quite a bit, and had a hard time putting it down, and even feel like re-reading the ending. And what better can I say?(less)
This could have been such a great book. I loved the idea behind it: that the "Evil Queen" from the story of Snow White didn't start out evil. When a c...moreThis could have been such a great book. I loved the idea behind it: that the "Evil Queen" from the story of Snow White didn't start out evil. When a character goes through such a huge change, there is potential for great depth and emotion.
Unfortunately, the shallow writing and subpar plotting ultimately ruined this one for me. I can't give it one star, because I didn't truly hate it. It just didn't have enough emotion to make me feel anything, really. The character of the queen, who should have been fascinating, was watered down and weak-willed, even in her evilness at the end. I wanted her to be strong and epic, decisive and powerful. She was none of those things. I kept waiting to see what the big turning point would be, when the queen would turn from loving and selfless to vengeful and selfish. It didn't build up slowly, like I thought it would. It happened suddenly, on one page. Suddenly, the queen was wicked, without any real explanation.
I really wanted to like this book, especially since my mom gave it to me for Christmas, and I thought it would be a fun book to pass along to my friends who also love Disney villains, but I can't in good conscience recommend them this one. Sad.(less)