One of those books that you're really annoyed with yourself at for waiting so long to read it! Went and bought a copy before I'd finished the copy I bOne of those books that you're really annoyed with yourself at for waiting so long to read it! Went and bought a copy before I'd finished the copy I borrowed from the library, it's a keeper!...more
Anyone who knows me knows how much I love fairy tales and retellings which is why I leapt at the chance to read & review Mistress of the Wind, a rAnyone who knows me knows how much I love fairy tales and retellings which is why I leapt at the chance to read & review Mistress of the Wind, a retelling of the Norse fairy tale East of the Sun,West of the Moon. The original story is only about twenty pages long but gives plenty of scope for an expanded tale which is exactly what Diener has done, along with the added twist of making Astrid, the female main character, a more formidable girl/woman in her own right. Mistress of the Wind stays true to the original tale but more detail and background are given to make it a much longer read.
Bjorn is searching for the woman he believes will break the enchantment he has been placed under by the troll that married his father. He has one year to find her, in the guise of a giant white bear, and if he fails his future lies with the troll's daughter as her husband while she rules over his father's kingdom. Bjorn finds Astrid and as per the rules of the enchantment she accompanies him to his ice palace where she must stay for a year without laying eyes on him, either in his bear or human form. Of course, no-one can ever resist temptation and the inevitable happens, Bjorn is lost to her. However Astrid is not just your average girl from a fairy tale. In this version although she makes a lot of silly decisions she has power over the winds so with the help of Bjorn's allies & friends she sets out to find him. We then follow her journey to east of the sun and west of the moon, along the way she undergoes various trials and finally discovers who she is & how Bjorn seemed to know her. Although I loved the characters of Astrid and Bjorn, I think my favorites were the winds - especially North, who more than atones for his wrongdoings, and Jorgen the forest creature, a close friend of Bjorn's.
As Mistress of the Wind follows its predecessor so closely it's difficult to say much without giving things away but this was a thoroughly enjoyable retelling of East of the Sun, West of the Moon which is definitely worth reading either before or after this one if you're not already familiar with the story. Ms Diener's writing is delightful and so descriptive, especially in the latter half of the book when Astrid is traveling with the winds and I could have quite easily carried on reading for some time thanks to the wonderful world the characters inhabited brought to life by the author's writing style and obvious love of the original fairy tale. My only quibble, and the reason why I gave Mistress of the Winds four rather than five clocks, is that the story is described as an adult retelling but apart from one distinct mention of body parts, 'fade to black' scenes and numerous mentions of the word lover I can't quite understand why it's not classed as YA. Don't let this put you off though, it is one of my favorite retellings in the Beauty & the Beast/Cupid & Psyche vein and I will be buying a copy to add to my fairy tale collection and looking out for The Golden Apple, Michelle Diener's retelling of another Norse fairy tale, The Princess on the Glass Hill coming later this year. ...more
Let me start off by saying I'm probably slightly biased about this book as I've read Carolyn's other fairy tale re-tellings and absolutely adored themLet me start off by saying I'm probably slightly biased about this book as I've read Carolyn's other fairy tale re-tellings and absolutely adored them! This one turned out to be just as good if not better and I loved it! This is the second adult retelling of Rapunzel I've read this year, the first being Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth, and quite honestly I don't know which one I prefer!
Fairest Of Them All is not only a retelling of Rapunzel, it's also the story of Snow White and exactly how she came to have a wicked step-mother with a talking mirror. When we first meet Rapunzel she is completely innocent and living with Mathena Gothel, her adoptive mother and local healer (or witch if you want to be blunt), who rescued Rapunzel from her uncaring parents and brought her to live deep in the heart of the forest. Rapunzel sleeps in an abandoned tower and has ever-growing, long, long, blonde hair, trailing behind her like a living entity, beautiful but strong enough to climb with. True to form, a handsome prince appears and Rapunzel is in love - this prince has a secret though, he can never be Rapunzel's as he is betrothed to another woman to save his kingdom from war. Rapunzel accepts this and resigns herself to a life in the forest with Mathena, learning all her secrets and enchantments.
As we all know though, things can change, particularly when a certain character is quietly manipulating both events and other characters from behind the scenes, impossible to tell whether it's for good or evil, for their own benefit or to help someone. Rapunzel is desperate to be with Josef, by now king, but Mathena says have patience and that what she wants is in her destiny but only when the time is right and that she must let the king come to her. Sure enough, Rapunzel finds herself married to Josef and step-mother to a girl with hair as black as ebony, skin as white as snow and lips as red as blood, with that mirror as a wedding present and reminder of home. It's with this move from the forest to the palace that things start to pick up a little. We're introduced to Gilles, the falconer or the huntsman as we traditionally know him and various other characters who all have a part to play in the proceedings. From here on in, the tales of Rapunzel and Snow White start to veer away from the ones we know and love. Events are unfolding and heading towards what we think we know is going to happen but without going into detail there is one doozy of a 'twist in the tale'. I still think about that twist and the ending of the story now, it's definitely one that sticks with you and as far I know is pretty unique. I've not read any fairy tale retelling similar to this, adult or not, although having read Carolyn's other books I shouldn't be at all surprised by the turns that her stories take.
Rapunzel, Mathena and Snow White are all strong female characters, complete with flaws. Rapunzel is never intentionally 'evil' to start with unless pushed, although she does use her will and enchantments to get her own way. This is especially demonstrated by the way she used to call Josef to her, knowing he was betrothed, before Mathena 'hid' her presence in the forest to set her plan in motion. Although I loved Rapunzel I'm not sure whether my favorite character was actually Mathena or Snow White. It was fascinating to see the story of Snow White from a different perspective, growing up loving Rapunzel and becoming the proverbial stroppy teenager, pushing her beloved step-mother away and taking her place as 'fairest of them all'. This is effectively what pushes Rapunzel over that line, causing what most people would probably call a psychotic break! Mathena was intriguing, hidden from everyone including Rapunzel with her super power of knowing what people are feeling by touching them with her hair. At times Mathena appears completely ambiguous and there are occasions where you actually feel sorry for her, even knowing that yes, she is actually evil.
Ultimately, this is a dark and twisted mash-up of Rapunzel and Snow White, it's most definitely not Disney. With wonderful characters and beautiful writing that flowed from page to page, The Fairest of Them All is without doubt one of the best fairy tale retelling I've read in a long time. I find it interesting that my two favorite retellings this year are both very different versions of Rapunzel! I shall now patiently wait for Carolyn's next book which is possibly something to do with Dante's Beatrice set in thirteenth century Florence which sounds fascinating (even though it's not a fairy tale) and hopefully isn't too far away in the future. Also, if you haven't already please do read Godmother: The Secret Cinderella Story and Mermaid: A Twist on the Classic Tale, if you love fairy tales retold in a less than conventional manner and with a more 'mature' voice you'll love them both!...more
The new version is slightly longer too so I'm assuming it's been reworked. I preordered the new edition without even being aware that I had the original out from the library. It doesn't really seem to be mentioned anywhere so if you've read Beauty/Mirror Mirror be aware that they are (almost) the same book....more