Last year's Cruel Beauty was one of my favorite reads of 2014. I had rather high expectations for Crimson Bound as a result, and they were well and truly met.
Rachelle was her aunt's apprentice, learning the trade of a woodwife and how to protect her village from the forestborn. Rachelle is obedient but also restless and annoyed with her aunt's lack of determination to fight the Devourer she knows is rising again. Overconfident and thinking she can control the situation, Rachelle strays from the past and begins conversing with a forestborn. This leads to her downfall and her becoming a bloodbound-a murderer with blood on her hands bound to become a forestborn herself. Before that fate can befall her, Rachelle is determined to take as many forestborn down as she can and joins the King's elite guard of bloodbound soldiers. She immerses herself in fighting as many forces of the forest as she can, but she knows time is running out. The world is growing dark. The Devourer is returning. When she is put in charge of one of the king's illegitimate sons and discovers there is a chance to recover a fabled sword that can defeat the Devourer forever, she knows this is the final chance there is to free the world of the Devourer forever and atone as much as she can for the sins of her past.
Rosamund Hodge has a way of just sweeping me into her story and world that is rare. This was definitely a read I experienced every emotion and element of. My children found themselves quite neglected. The world-building here is fantastic. It's not quite as complicated as the world of Cruel Beauty, but it's no less intricate. There's a magical forest overlapping the known world made of myth and shadows and ruled by cruel, heartless beings who hunt humans for sport and delight in tricking and coercing them into their dark world. It brings to mind the best and darkest stories of the Fae. The world of the humans is very like that of France in its royal heyday with vain, selfish royalty hidden away from the harsh realities of the world, bastards fighting for the throne, a bishop warning against coming judgement, and revolt on the horizon. There is intrigue, treason, betrayal, and horror waiting around every twisted corridor of the palace and gardens.
Rachelle is a focused and determined heroine. She is overcome by guilt for the sins of her past, but determined to help as many people as she can before she is forever damned. She desperately wants to be removed from everyone and everything, but she just doesn't have it in her. As much as she wants to be cynical and heartless, she desperately clings to what human companionship she has and any sense of belonging and love she can find. And this is completely her story. It's the story of a girl desperate for redemption even though she believes herself to be far beyond its reach. The far reaching consequences of the deeds she has committed separate her from everything she ever knew and loved, but she is resourceful, clever, and strong-willed. All these traits serve her well as she goes on her quest to rid the world of evil. She is a well rounded heroine as well, making plenty of mistakes from trusting the wrong people to not fully trying to understand the workings of the court around her and how important it is.
Despite being a bloodbound with an unhealthy dose of self-hate, Rachelle is not without people she feels close to. Amelie is a girl whose life Rachelle once saved. The girl made her a friend and is quite an amazing one. I really enjoyed this aspect of the story and how their friendship was so solid despite how little they could truly share with each other because of Rachelle's position. Justine is another female friend, a fellow bloodbound, but one who works for the Bishop. Justine is determined to help an save Rachelle because she sees more in her. Both of these friendships reflect different aspects of Rachelle's personality and play important parts in her journey. In addition to these three girls, the books has several other very powerful women who do not shrink from doing what they need to do even when it is incredibly difficult and requires a hardened strength.
Then there are the two main male characters in the story. Erec is the captain of the King's bloodbound, one of his illegitimate sons, and the person who trains Rachelle in fighting and gives her the will to keep living. Armand is another of the King's bastards, sainted for not becoming a bloodbound when marked, and the person Rachelle is assigned to guard. Rachelle and Erec are friends but she doesn't completely trust him. They have fundamental philosophical differences that don't allow for them to be close despite Rachelle's attraction to him. Rachelle doesn't like or trust Armand at first, but gradually learns to appreciate and understand him. I have a feeling some may not want to read this due to fear of the dreaded love triangle. There is nothing to worry about there. Love triangle is not what this is. There's a fair amount of lust, confusion, treachery, and conflict in a tangled web of lies and double-crossings, but little of it has anything to do with love. There is a romantic love element that develops with one, which is my one major quibble with the book. Unfortunately it rather largely impacted my full enjoyment of the story. I didn't complete buy the romantic love aspect of this. There was too little organic development of it for me to completely believe it, which is unfortunate given that it is rather important to how the plot works out. I do like how that wrapped up though and how much confusion surrounded it for both characters.
What I really loved about this book were the themes of redemption, mercy, and justice Hodge worked into the story. Rachelle's story is mostly about that. It's hope overcoming despair, light overcoming darkness, emptiness being filled. It completely captured me.
I read an e-galley provided by the publisher, Balzer & Bray, via Edelweiss. Crimson Bound is on sale May 5th....more
This is one of those books that is great for both upper MG and younger YA readers and I'm glad that it's out there for me to recommend to readers whoThis is one of those books that is great for both upper MG and younger YA readers and I'm glad that it's out there for me to recommend to readers who are looking for these books. I enjoyed the elements of science and technology and the unique twists on the Cinderella story (particularly the end). The book has a great feminist message and wonderful things to say about friendship. It's sad to say that the writing isn't as good as the concept. There is a lot of exposition and info-dumping and I found myself bored by the middle of the story....more
I love "Beauty and the Beast" in all its variations and have a difficult time passing up retellings of it. When I discovered Beastkeeper by Cat Hellisen, I was elated that it was not only a retelling of my favorite fairy tale, but also gender swapped. A girl beast. Family secrets. Magical forest. Creepy castle. Check all my favorite things off right there, and Hellisen does some interesting things with her story.
First: Two thumbs way up for the cover designer on this one. It is beautiful.
Sarah has spent her entire life moving. Her mother seems to be running away from cold. Her father seems desperate to keep her mother happy. Until one night when her mother stops running with them and runs away from them. There's nothing her father can do to stop it. In the days that follow Sarah notices her father turning in more and more, becoming a little wild around the edges. Then he takes her to live with the grandparents she never knew she had and Sarah discovers secrets and lies twisted through her family's history. They are cursed. Cursed to turn into beasts when they fall in love, unless the person they love loves them back. But the curse, born of jealousy and hateful revenge is more twisted than any fairy tale Sarah has ever read. It doubles back on itself and entraps everyone into a hideous future they can't break free from making her realize stories may not always have a happily ever after.
Sarah is so determined. She is determined to help, to fight, to break the curse, to never fall in love, to remain true to herself, to save every member of her family. She tries so hard. She fails at so much of it. Yet she keeps getting back up and trying again and again. Her determination wavers occasionally but it never dies. It drives her. She is the ultimate heroine as a result. Sarah is active in her own story. Many parts of her life are beyond her control, set into motion long before she was born and propelled by forces out of her control. Despite that, she makes her own choices and works within the parameters of the curse to enforce her own will. I loved that so much. I think that it is important to have books where we see a bit of failure but not for lack of trying, and then also get to see how the characters deal with that failure. How they try to make the best of the situation given them. Sarah's relationship with almost every other character in the book is tragic in some way, but she fights for all of them as much as she fights for herself, and it is a beautiful thing to see. I also really enjoyed what Hellisen did with the character who inflicted the curse in the first place. She is a horrible person, but Hellisen gave her depth too. I think the way the situation between her and Sarah resolved was absolutely perfect. I think the conclusion for every person touched by the curse was done exactly right.
Beastkeeper does what the best retellings do and thoroughly twists the tale and adds new dimensions. What Hellisen did with the original story is intriguing and profound. The fear of loving someone beastly, knowing that you are the only thing keeping them from being a hideous shadow of themselves-that's a terrible burden to carry. What might it possibly do to a person? I was throughly impressed with the how intricate Hellisen made the curse, and how completely and utterly it trapped every single person connected to it in the most terrible of ways. I love that she was unafraid to go to the darker places the story required and that it isn't all sunshine, daisies, and happily ever after in the end. There is tragedy. There is uncertainty. But there's also hope.
I loved everything about Beastkeeper and highly recommend it.
I read an e-galley made available by the publisher, Henry Holt and Co., via NetGalley. Beastkeeper is available for purchase on February 3....more
Tear You Apart is incredibly angsty. This is understandable as the story centers around Snow White (Viv) and her destined for doom love of he3.5 stars
Tear You Apart is incredibly angsty. This is understandable as the story centers around Snow White (Viv) and her destined for doom love of her huntsman (Henley). Cross is really good about highlighting the darker elements of the original fairy tales she is dealing with, and using those elements as a critique of the stories themselves and culture in general. I enjoyed Viv's struggles with who she was and what she wanted. I also felt the portrayal of her depression and fears surrounding her fate were so well done. Just as Cross intertwined two fairy tales in the first Beau Rivage story, Kill Me Softly, Tear You Apart is not just a retelling of Snow White but also The Twelve Dancing Princesses. I liked this one better than the first book. Viv's struggles seemed so real and I love the courage and strength she finds. I will definitely read more of these if they are written.
I read an e-galley made available by the publisher, Egmont, via NetGalley....more
I enjoyed the concept of this story, which is a lot like Ever After High: The Storybook of Legends but with a more solid thought through world buildinI enjoyed the concept of this story, which is a lot like Ever After High: The Storybook of Legends but with a more solid thought through world building behind it. It is a retelling of "Sleeping Beauty" and "Bluebeard" combined, which in itself is genius. Who would think to combine those two??? And I really wanted to love it, but I had too hard of a time liking the main character, Mira. When EVERYONE you meet is telling you that a guy is dangerous stay away, he runs a shady casino, and is a little too suave, maybe you should pay attention. Her stubbornness regarding this, particularly once she knew what was going on was more than I could buy into. Another thing that bothered me was the Felix plot thread left dangling at the end. Where was he? What was he planning? I did like Blue's character a lot, and the dialogue and interactions between him and Mira. The other supporting characters were also enjoyable and I would be happy to read more of their stories set in the town. Particularly Freddie's story now that is hero act is over and Layla's story because I love "Beauty and the Beast" and I loved her....more
This isn't a retelling so much as a continuation of Sleeping Beauty. Ror (Aurora) is the daughter of Sleeping Beauty and the prince who rescued her aThis isn't a retelling so much as a continuation of Sleeping Beauty. Ror (Aurora) is the daughter of Sleeping Beauty and the prince who rescued her a bit too early from he enchanted sleep. Ror has to saver kingdom, her brother, and worry about the effect her "curse' can have on the men in he life. I was hoping to like this one a lot more than I did. The character development was incredibly well done, but I was so bored for a lot of the story. I also felt the whole thing was a bit anti-climatic. This was particularly disappointing because I enjoyed Of Beast and Beauty so much. ...more
Originally posted here at Random Musings of a Bibliophile.
A review featuring Bit, age 9.
I didn't want to read The Storybook of Legends. On the one haOriginally posted here at Random Musings of a Bibliophile.
A review featuring Bit, age 9.
I didn't want to read The Storybook of Legends. On the one hand, it's by Shannon Hale and I often like her books. On the other, it is a commissioned series to go with a line of dolls produced by Mattel. Ugh. But it was nominated for the Cybils and then Bit found the book in the Scholastic flyer and had to have it. (She misses having a fairy tale series to follow since The Sisters Grimm has ended.) Anyway the book came to our house, we both read it, and had different reactions.
Bit's Thoughts I really like The Storybook of Legends. I knew from the first page I would love it. I love stories based on fairy tales and I think it's so cute how she combined modern life with fairy tales. My favorite character is Raven. I like Raven because she is smart and sarcastic. I admire her bravery and ability to question what everyone thinks is true. I also like Madeleine Hatter. Maddie is funny and she's Raven's best friend. I really want to read more.
My Thoughts I agree with Bit on a couple of her points. Raven is a wonderful heroine. She is brave, smart, questioning, and a bit of a rebel. Her desperate desire to write her own story and not be her mother's daughter combined with the thrill she sort of gets when she realizes the potential of her power make for a nuanced and layered character. Maddie Hatter is a great friend and supporter to have on her side too. She is the kind of friend anyone would want to have on their side. Apple White, the girl Raven is destined to poison, is a perfect foil for Raven. I think we are supposed to consider both of them protagonists, but I just couldn't do that. Apple works as a foil, highlighting Raven's different personality traits and filling in her character. She doesn't stand on her own as much of a character yet. The story Hale tells here is, at its heart, a good one. I love the themes of questioning tradition, self-discovery, independent thought, and courage that play out in the course of the plot.
My main problem with the book was how formulaic it was. How it clearly was set up to sell a product. The inner workings of the world building here make little sense if examined too closely. All these characters kids are almost the exact same age or close to it. And shouldn't there be quite a lot of incest and marrying of cousins happening amongst the Royal set since they keep reliving their parents stories? Yet few of the princes and princesses are actually related. Where are these people coming from? Another thing that bothered me, as much as it enchanted Bit, were the working in of modern pop culture. The kids have "mirror pods" and listen to "Tailor Quick" and "One Reflection" singing "You Don't Know Your Charming". (My eyes almost got stuck in my head I rolled them so hard.) It also overuses cutesy phrases. Text becomes Hext in every usage. "I'll hext you later!" "I lost my hextbook."
Given what this is, it is done as well as it could be I think. I asked Bit if she wanted to participate in this review to highlight how the target audience is eating it up. Most of the girls on Bit's swim team discovered this over their fall break and everyone was talking about it at practice when they returned, delighted that they had found it and that their friends had read it too. (These girls range in age from 9 to 12. Target demographic achieved.) I would have loved this as a kid too I think, and it will certainly be a thing. I truly hope that reading this series will push girls to read Hale's other books too, which have the same strong heroines and amazing themes but with fewer plastic sparkle components. ...more
Merrie Haskell is one of those authors that always surprises me. I have gone into each of her three books expecting one thing, and getting something entirely different. Is The Castle Behind Thorns a retelling of "Sleeping Beauty"? Yes. But it is a throughly unique and different take on the story. And I adored it.
This is a review of an ARC received from the publisher in exchange for a fair review.
This is a quiet tale, one that unfolds slowly. Sand spends a large part of the opening completely alone, isolated from the world in the castle trying to figure out a way to survive. He is inventive, clever, and hard working. He is also lonely and talks to himself. These chapters didn't seem to move at all slowly to me though. The language is so beautiful and Haskell is building the mystery even as she allows the reader to get to know Sand and what he is about before she brings in the other central character, the magically awakened princess. Perotte awakens remembering she was dead. Not asleep. Dead. She pulls herself into the light of day and Sand's path, and the two of them, after a rocky start, begin to piece the castle and her story together. Perotte comes off as a spoiled and indulged brat at first, but her behavior quickly changes as she realizes how unfair she is being. As the weeks pass her and Sand develop a deep friendship and connection. But there are parts of Perotte's past she wants to keep locked away and not remember. Unfortunately she needs to confront them if they are ever going to defeat the magic of the thorns and get out of the castle.
The story here is wonderful. I love political intrigue and there is quite a bit of that, but most of all it is a tale of friendship, perseverance, and the power of forgiveness. What I loved about the forgiveness aspect is that it is not about the power to affect the forgiven, but the forgiver, that release that comes from letting your anger and bitterness go so that it no longer consumes you. The way Haskell wove this into a thoroughly original retelling of a fairy tale makes this my favorite "Sleeping Beauty" retelling of all time.
I received an e-galley from the publisher, Katherine Tegen Books, via Edelweiss. Castle Behind Thorns goes on sale May 27th. ...more
I'm way behind. I know. I bought Cress by Marissa Meyer when it first came out and I was so excited, but I was also swamped with review books. Then something strange happened. I became less excited and more wary of reading it. It is so long. And it has been my experience that books don't typically need to be that long. So it kept getting put off. Finally I was in the perfect mood for it, I guess, because I didn't want to put it off anymore. Yes, it's too long in a way that required more editing. Yes, there are some issues. But it is also a whole lot of fun.
Cress has lived for seven years on a satellite hacking into Earth's computer systems for Mistress Sybil and Queen Levana. Her latest job is to track down the Rampion carrying Cinder, Thorne, Scarlet, and Wolf. She did this, and then immediately scrambled their signal and has since been protecting them from capture while lying to Sybil about her ability to find them. Cress has also been studying up on the occupants of the Rampion and has developed a moon size crush on Captain Carswell Thorne. When the fugitives contact her for help, they discover her situation and decide to rescue her. Except the rescue goes horribly wrong and now they are all separated and in different sorts of danger. Thorne and Cress crash land in the desert. Cinder and Wolf go to find Dr. Erland. Scarlet is taken captive. While all this goes on, the royal wedding between Emperor Kai and Queen Levana draws ever closer. A wedding that must be stopped if Levana is ever going to be ousted from power.
My favorite thing about these books is that Meyer has taken fairy tale heroines and made them into heroines who do science. A mechanical engineer, a pilot, a master hacker and programmer, these aren't the typical female protagonists in fairy tales, but we could definitely use more of them. And I kind of love how both Cinder and Scarlet have their respective men wrapped around their fingers and pining for them as we usually only see girls do for the hero. Cress has a different sort of story. She has been alone for so long and knows little about human interaction and socialization, particularly of the romantic sort. Her massive crush on Thorne, built entirely on her own assumptions from reading a few reports on his life, is understandable and so sad at the same time. Some of the conclusions she jumps to about his character as a result of what she reads of the "reasons" for his various misdeeds left me like, "Oh, Honey!"
As for Thorne himself...well. Let's just say that a lot of my love for him in Scarlet came from what I was hoping he would be. Kind of like Cress. Huh. WELL DONE, Ms. Meyer. The reality of Captain Thorne is a tad disappointing. Yes, he's dashing. Yes, he's snarky. Yes, he has that whole devil-may-care attitude. But I wanted him to develop more substance. I wanted him to be more. Cress is less upset about this than I am, but I rather liked where they end by the finish of the novel. I kind of hope she finds some other guys to date and lives a little first though. (Ummm....assuming they survive book four.)
I did enjoy the further development of the other characters, though I feel this book was light on Scarlet and Wolf (but they're my favorites so that may just be me). I'm still rolling my eyes at Kai a little bit. Cinder is still awesome, and I enjoyed how this book showed her strain more than the others really have. And Dr. Erland is just the best. I also loved the intro we had to both Winter and Jacin.
I really love these characters. I wish they were developed a bit more. These books are so plot heavy, and that is what they have to be for the story they are telling, but I will say that all starts to get more unwieldily in Cress. There is so much going on, and it's happening in five different places. There is a lot of jumping around and it's not at all smooth. There is a bit too much time spent on conversations and descriptions that are unnecessary, while I feel like there's other things missing that should be there. And I had a hard time buying how easily Thorne was able to get around and do things given his particular injury from the crash landing. Really??? I feel that these books may be suffering from being rushed into print to keep the hype going and not getting the full editing they truly deserve. It makes me sad because I do love these characters and the concept, but feel like the whole thing could be so much more than it is.
I'm very much looking forward to how things turn out in book four, which we still have a year to wait for. (Starting to appreciate that I waited to read this.) In the meantime there will be a bridge novel about Levana coming out in January called Fairest. I will admit to concerns that the characters I love the most are the expendable ones. ...more
Originally posted here at Random Musings of a Bibliophile.
I will admit it: sometimes I see things on NetGalley and think cute cover, MG fantasy, I wanOriginally posted here at Random Musings of a Bibliophile.
I will admit it: sometimes I see things on NetGalley and think cute cover, MG fantasy, I want. And don't even read the synopsis. Particularly if the book is from a publisher whose books I typically like. Such was the case with Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee. Then I began reading and discovered it was a retelling of "The Snow Queen". And it was good.
As a heroine, Ophelia shines. Her greatest strength is that she is a normal little girl. She has no particularly special talents. She enjoys science and is curious. But for the most part she is just a quiet little girl with asthma who is mourning the death of her mother. When she stumbles on the Marvelous Boy and he requests her help to save the world, she scoffs. But she remembers her mother, who wrote stories of the dark and fantastic. Her curious mind won't let her leave well enough alone. And she becomes a heroine. I love stories like this, a story any person can imagine themselves in. Kids love these sort of stories too and will have no problems finding a part of themselves in Ophelia. She is in every way an ordinary ten year old girl. The Marvelous Boy is mysterious. His name is hidden to give him a way to return home. He has waited 300 years in captivity for Ophelia to turn up and help him. His back story is told by him to Ophelia within the mainframe of the story. His story reads like a traditional fairy tale and does involve quite a bit of exposition, but is told in short bursts so as to maintain the interest of the reader.
Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy is a quick read, with a tight plot. Foxlee keeps the story moving at a quick pace. All the action occurs within three days, other than the Boy's story. As a retelling of "The Snow Queen" the novel excels in many ways. Ophelia has a series of quests she must go on in order to free the Boy. These all occur within the confines of the museum curated by a woman who is cold and remote. During these quests Ophelia encounters help she never could have imagined and is attacked by various minions of the Snow Queen, causing her to be intimidated at times but she never gives up. The one big difference is the motivation of Ophelia. Since she only just met the boy, she is motivated by her curiosity, their developing friendship (rather than a longstanding one), and the love she feels for her father and sister (who is in danger). I would have liked a little more closure in the relationship between Ophelia and the Boy, but other than that it was a fully satisfying read.
This book is going to be an easy sell. With interest in "The Snow Queen" rising due to the movie Frozen, it won't be hard to get kids interested. Once they start reading, they will stay interested because the story will pull them in. It is also a book that will make an excellent read aloud for kids in younger grades.
I read an e-galley made available by the publisher, Knopf Books for Young Readers, via NetGalley. Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy will be available on January 28. ...more
Originally posted here at Random Musings of a Bibliophile.
"Beauty and the Beast" is my favorite fairy tale and it derives from my favorite myth, the mOriginally posted here at Random Musings of a Bibliophile.
"Beauty and the Beast" is my favorite fairy tale and it derives from my favorite myth, the myth of Eros and Psyche. I am drawn irresistibly to any story that plays off either of them in any way. It is why Till We Have Faces is my favorite C.S. Lewis novel (one of the reasons anyway). It is one of the (many) reasons The Queen of Attolia is my favorite book of all time. Yet I have never fallen in love with a full length novel that was a retelling of the fairy tale and not just using elements of it. Until now. Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge is perfect for me as a reader in every way imaginable.
Nyx is a girl with a heart full of venom and rage. No one in her world is spared from the bitterness she carries around. Her father made a deal with the Lord of demons, and she was the daughter chosen as the sacrifice. Who wouldn't be bitter? She has been trained for years for one purpose and one purpose only: destroy the evil ruler of her kingdom. She is not expected to survive the experience. She walks into her situation determined, but hating it all the same. Nyx is manipulative and not above hurting others to get what she needs, or simply for the satisfaction of seeing them hurt. There is nothing about her that is "likable'. I adore her. She is complex, driven, intelligent, and in desperate need of someone to love her for what she is, poison and all. Enter Ignifex. Generally, I don't go for the Lord of demon types in books, so I was worried about this aspect. I do go for characters like Ignifiex though. He is sarcastic, flip, outwardly lazy, highly intelligent, and a pessimist to the core. He is also full of bitterness and disappointment with the world, and is not at all what Nyx originally believes him to be. And while he warns her that there are many dangers that could destroy her in the house, he never once presents himself as one of them. The interactions between these two are some of the best scenes of banter. And I love excellent bantering between two intelligent people whom I find myself invested in. I couldn't wait to get to the pages where they were together so that I could have more. I appreciated how, despite Ignifex's power, they were very much equally and well matched. Each gave as good as he/she got and both wielded power in their relationship.
The plot of Cruel Beauty follows the plot of the fairy tale, but is infused with so much more at the same time. And it is all my favorite things. There is Greek mythology woven through all of it, but the myth of Pandora is used the most and quite effectively. There is also, much to my everlasting delight as it is another favorite of mine, elements of "Tam Lin". I was in love with the book already for its rich prose, vivid imagery, layered characters, and excellent dialogue, but when the Kindly Ones were first brought in and I realized Hodge had included faerie lore elements too, my love soared to the heavens and knew no bounds. And how she brought it all to a conclusion was most satisfying. Woven through all of this are themes of pride, forgiveness, sacrifice, and the war in every one of us between light and dark. As I was reading I was reminded in so many good ways of the themes in Till We Have Faces, and was not at all surprised to read in the Afterward that Hodge is also a fan of that book and that it had a great impact on her.
Anything I say here can only touch the surface of how I felt while reading this book. It was a story I experienced in every and I can't convey all of that experience here. Sadly. I can see how for some people it won't work, but for me it is perfect.
I read an e-galley received by the publisher, Balzer and Bray, via Edelweiss. Cruel Beauty is available on January 28th. ...more
Fairy Tale retellings are my weakness. I will read them no matter what. I often get tired of reading the same old stories done over and over. So when Strands of Bronze and Gold by Jane Nickerson came along and I found it was a retelling of the Bluebeard tale I was super excited. Not only is that far from over done, but what a fantastically creepy story to transform into a novel.
I would love to hear the opinion of someone who didn't know the Bluebeard tale going in. I think it will make a huge difference in how the reader responds and reacts to the book. Knowing the story I felt incredibly frustrated with the pacing. The first half was hard to get into and the pacing had a lot to do with that. It took a long time for anything of true significance to happen. This story comes with quite a lot of set up. Even once things picked up a bit it still took forever to get to the point. It was only 30 pages from the end (I read an e-galley) that Sophie makes THE DISCOVERY. And then it was another 10 pages or so before the climatic confrontation making the end incredibly rushed.
Bernard is a spectacularly creepy villain and I do think that this is the main strength of the novel. How he treats Sophie, the way he weaves his web around her, how he pulls her in was so well done. There are some scenes that are stomach turning repulsive and unpleasant to read. I often found myself wanting to stop because I simply felt like I was being suffocated in the same way Sophie is. The sense of doom Nickerson creates is a credit to her. Knowing the story I was a bit impatient with Sophie at times wanting her to figure out something was off faster, but one has to make allowances for the fact that she is so young and innocent.
Overall I'm torn on this one. I can't say I enjoyed it but, other than the pacing, it is well done. I think young teenage me would have loved it-the Gothic horror of it, the atmosphere, the suspense. All of that is well done. Knowing the world better-being the mother of a young daughter changes my perspective somewhat and mostly it just made me entirely too sad and uncomfortable. I do appreciate that Nickerson has written such an authentic story.
Content Warning: Bernard is an old lecher. He presses unwanted, and at one point violent, physical touches on Sophie. This book may be a trigger for any who have experienced sexual abuse or assault.
I read a galley of this provided by the publisher via NetGalley. Strands of Bronze and Gold is available for purchase on March 12. ...more
Originally posted here at Random Musings of a Bibliophile.
"Beauty and the Beast" is my favorite fairy tale so I have a serious love/hate relationshipOriginally posted here at Random Musings of a Bibliophile.
"Beauty and the Beast" is my favorite fairy tale so I have a serious love/hate relationship with retelling of it. To be honest, I've never found a retelling of it to love, so more accurately a like/hate relationship. I almost returned Of Beast and Beauty by Stacey Jay to the library unread, but Christina happened to be reading it at the time and was saying good things about it on Twitter. I decided to actually read it and I'm so glad I did. Jay did a fantastic job.
I love how Jay manipulated the main elements of the fairy tale and included them into this story. The roses in particular, are a delightful twist on the old tale. But the most interesting twist for me was her reversal of the roles. The monstrous boy is the one held captive, left as a hostage by his father to accomplish a mission, the one who leaves and almost doesn't make it back in time to save the girl he loves. The princess is the one who forces the captivity and is none to pleasant about it at first. She is the one cursed, bound to the roses and their evil. The reversal of roles highlights the underlying theme of both story and novel, we all have the potential for both in us. Isra is a desperate girl, determined to help her cursed people, stubborn, yearning for freedom. I sympathized with her need to see and know. And her need to feel as though she had been truly useful in her life. Gem is also desperate, to help his starving people, to break the curse on the land outside the domed cities, to see life flourish again. He is manipulative and deceitful but also brave, daring and loving. The romance between them develops over time and working together in the garden. The reader does not see this take place, and this is the one part that was rather frustrating to me. However, when they are together it is plain that there relationship grew and changed and that they truly care for one another.
The world building here is fascinating with a bit of sic-fi thrown in for good measure. This is in a future where humans have populated another planet and centuries have passed. The mythology and customs that grew up out of the fear of the people and changing of the land was well done and makes perfect sense in the world Jay created. There is plenty of political intrigue thrown into the story as well. That's always going to make me happy. There are villains, separate from the evil behind the roses, but they are more nuanced than most fairy tale villains. There are shades of gray in everyone. What the villains do is wrong, but they believe they are working for the best. All of it, characters, plot, theme, tie together wonderfully to make a thoroughly enjoyable read. ...more
Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow was the only one of Jessica Day George's fairy tale retellings I had not read and recently decided that I needed to remedy that. I had put it off for so long because the more I love a retelling's source material, the more critical I tend to be of the book. When it comes to fairy tales that means "Beauty and the Beast" and "East of the Sun, West of the Moon" retellings are going to be judged harder by me. And I wanted to throw the last retelling of "East of the Sun, West of the Moon" I read at a wall. I had no such problems with this one though, it is now my favorite of George's retellings.
I have stated in the past that I am a fan of retellings that offer a twist on the original tale. This is really true only if the tale truly requires it. Some fairy tales can't work as a full length novel because they are not a layered enough story otherwise (Cinderella). "East of the Sun, West of the Moon" is layered and rich enough with so much plot that you don't have to add lots of bells and whistles to turn it into a really good novel. Thankfully George didn't try. What the original tale needed to make it richer was more characterization and that is what George gave it.
The youngest daughter of a poor woodcutter, the heroine is only ever called pika or Lass. Her mother refused to name her at birth as she was yet another worthless daughter. Her siblings have taken good care of Lass though. Her sisters taught her necessary skills and her brother, Hans Peter, showed her love. Her father also showed great care and regard for his youngest when he was around. Given the gift of speech with animals, Lass is sweet and content in her small life. Her mother's rejection and constant negativity have caused her to develop a wide stubborn streak and an iron will. And a need to prove that she is worth something after all. This makes all of her actions throughout the story believable and the choices she makes fit her character and history. The bear is less developed, but that is because he is cursed with the inability to speak about his past. The two do share long conversations about literature, life, and family. George also gave the servants in the palace delightfully endearing personalities and I loved the addition of Rollo, Lass's faithful wolf companion.
Other strong points of this retelling are the beautiful imagery in the descriptions of all the settings and the added texture of the Norse names and mythos. George gave this story a very real sense of place and it was easy to picture all the locales the story takes the characters to.
I highly recommend this to any one who loves a good fairy tale retelling to lose themsleves in.
This is a fun retelling of the story of Rumpelstilitskin. It's quite a lighthearted romp to come from what is really such a dark tale. I like that aboThis is a fun retelling of the story of Rumpelstilitskin. It's quite a lighthearted romp to come from what is really such a dark tale. I like that about it. There is a lot of humor and many of the questions the story brings to mind find answers through this story. I loved the nod to all the other fairy tales in it as well. I can see why so many kids are enjoying it....more
"East of the Sun, West of the Moon" is, like Beauty and the Beast, a fairy tale that finds its origins in the myth of Eros and Psyche. This is one of"East of the Sun, West of the Moon" is, like Beauty and the Beast, a fairy tale that finds its origins in the myth of Eros and Psyche. This is one of the many reasons I like it so much. This retelling does some interesting things with the original tale. I found all of those things to be 100% creepy and really had a hard time enjoying the story as a result. Yes, the original tale with its girl marrying bear and troll castle would set off the creepy meter of some no matter what. It isn't the original elements that made me uncomfortable though, it was the underlying themes the author wove into the original tale that made it impossible for me to enjoy. The concept of how souls were taken at death and dealt out at birth was not something I could buy into and it made Bear's character hard to accept. I was also made uncomfortable by the whole relationship dynamic between Bear and Cassie.
That being said, it is beautifully written. The descriptions of the Arctic are beautiful and well done. I could feel the bitter cold despite the 90 degree temps outside. ...more
I read and reviewed Zoe Marriott's Shadows on the Moon earlier this year (my review) and decided to track down some of her other novels. I started with The Swan Kingdom, a retelling of "The Wild Swans", because I like fairy tale retellings.
The story is basically a longer version of the original giving a more detailed accounting between the time the brothers are turned to swans and Alexandra sets them free. Marriott does add her own little spin on the end to how this happens and that is tied up in the magic Alexandra possesses herself. This was an interesting addition but felt a bit rushed in its conclusion. The language is lyrical and the descriptions vivid. The characters were a little flat and typical for a story like this. The handsome prince is all goodness and light. Alexandra is under appreciated. Basic fairy tale stuff, but it is told well.
Fans of Juliet Marillier's Daughter of the Forest might find this to be too simple in comparison. The Swan Kingdom would work well even with a much younger audience. Middle schoolers who like this sort of book would feel right at home in its pages. ...more
I love when authors take old fairy tales and spin them around in new and inventive ways. I was so very excited about The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy. Four disgruntled Princes Charming going out to make their names important. It is most excellent fun.
The princes are all suffering from different types of problems. Liam is less than happy about having to marry the spoiled petulant Briar Rose. Gustav is trying to prove his worth to his family, most especially his 16 older brothers, and having to be rescued by Rapunzel didn't do his ego any favors. Duncan and Snow White truly love each other, but are having difficulties adjusting to married life together. Probably because they are both exceedingly odd. Frederic truly wants to marry Ella, but Ella thinks he is boring and goes off adventuring on her own. It is this particular problem that sets the story in motion. Frederic wants Ella back and so ventures into the unknown himself for the first time in his life. Along the way he meets up with the other three princes and they form an alliance to save their kingdoms from the evil witch. With a healthy dose of help from Ella. And Liam's sister Lila shows herself to be fairly capable and awesome as well.
This is a large cast of characters and every single one of them is wonderful. I thought I would have a difficult time remembering which prince was which but I didn't. Their personalities are so very different it was not at all difficult to keep them straight. The story does have a touch of the absurd in it, but that is what makes it so utterly delightful. There is a lot going on too: a bandit king with an early bed time, dragons, surly dwarves, missing bards, and a witch with a diabolical plan that must be thwarted. It is great good fun.
I really enjoyed how the princesses were portrayed as well. (Other than Briar Rose, but every story has to have at least one mean girl right?) Ella and Liam's sister Lila were my favorites of the girls and I hope both of them continue to be important to the story as it continues in the next volume.
It is a little long, but I think most readers will be so caught up in the world and zany characters they won't really care. ...more
One could label Shadows on the Moon by Zoe Marriott as a Cinderella story. There is an evil step-parent, there is a ball, thereOriginally posted here.
One could label Shadows on the Moon by Zoe Marriott as a Cinderella story. There is an evil step-parent, there is a ball, there is a prince, there is a benevolent helper (two actually), there is kitchen work, and there are even cinders. It is not your run of the mill Cinderella story though. Cinderella is not too terribly concerned in attending the ball to capture a prince. Well, she wants his attention but only so she can use it to vengefully wreak destruction on her enemies. It is complex and dark tale.
Zoe Marriott has taken the bones of the Cinderella story and built a different, but familiar, creature from it. Set in a country similar to feudal Japan with it's culture and traditions added with the magic of the shadow weaving and Suzume's power as an Akachi, the world created is rich in detail and evokes a true sense of place. The magic of the Akachi is never really explained or fully explored, but it doesn't need to be. The details given are enough to make it real for the reader and to serve its purpose in the story.
Suzume's character is complex. She is in the midst of a full on identity crisis. She spends so much time pretending to be what she is not that she has lost who she is entirely. She desires happiness and a future, but is so full of self loathing she refuses to believe she deserves either enough to work for them. Her mother and her have an unhealthy relationship, going back to before her father's death, that contributed much to this. Full of self hatred and the pain of the tragedy she has experienced, she is constantly forced by her mother to play nice and happy. All of this combined causes Suzume extreme psychological trauma and she ends up with the physical scars to prove it. Feeling she is not good enough for anything else she dedicates her whole life and self to seeking vengeance against her step-father.
Suzume does have people who love her and try to help her see her value. She has two trainers in the magic of her shadow weaving. Youta is her mentor in the first half of the book and helps her as a child. Akira is her mentor in her later years, the one who helps her with the skills necessary to gain entrance to the palace. Akira is a fascinating character in her own right as well.
Then there is the hero. Otieno. One might say he is just a little too perfect, but he is oh so swoon worthy. Part of a group of visiting dignitaries from a place similar to Africa, he also has the power of an Akachi . There was an instant attraction there, but Marriott developed it well and made their relationship believable.
This is an engrossing and beautifully written story. Novels based on fairy tales can often be tiresomely alike. This one stands out as different in so many wonderful ways. I will now most definitely be seeking out a copy of Marriott's earlier works.
Note For Concerned Parents on Content: This is a book with some harsh realities. It also contains allusions to adult relationships and one brief not at all descriptive love scene.
Shadows on the Moon is currently available in the UK and will be released in the US on April 24. I read a galley of the book received via NetGalley.
This is the conclusion to the story that began in Princess of the Midnight Ball. It is 10 years after the sisters and Galen defeated The King3.5 stars
This is the conclusion to the story that began in Princess of the Midnight Ball. It is 10 years after the sisters and Galen defeated The King Under Stone, but things are not all happily ever after. The girls are all being visited by the princes in their dreams and forced to dance once more. Princess of the Silver Woods focuses on Petunia, the youngest of the sisters, and Oliver, an earl who lost his lands during the war and has taken to banditry. He joins with the girls, their husbands, and staunches supporters to break the curse once and for all. I liked this volume the most of the thee. Again, the love part happens awfully fast. They have a total of three whole interactions before Oliver is willing to die for her, yet it works because he freely admits he's also willing to die to stop the evil, Petunia threatened or not. Petunia is DELIGHTFUL. Having been so young when the original curse was stopped, she is the most vocal and feisty of the girls when things start back up. As a little red riding hood heroine, she is perfect. ...more
Tackling a retelling/reworking of Cinderella in a post Ella Enchanted (my review) world is a brave thing to do. And if you areOriginally posted here.
Tackling a retelling/reworking of Cinderella in a post Ella Enchanted (my review) world is a brave thing to do. And if you are going to do it you should really give your story some kind of unique spin. Jessica Day George did just that with Princess of Glass and the end result is an enjoyable and fun read.
There is a lot to like about how George manipulated the tale of Cinderella. The main character is Poppy, one of the may sisters from George's earlier retelling of "The Twelve Dancing Princesses", Princess of the Midnight Ball (my review), and she is not the Cinderella type character. That role is given to a maid by the name of Eleanora who is not all that likable. Turning the Fairy Godmother into the evil villain was a stroke of genius. These elements made the story different enough that it was page turner and took unexpected turns.
I also enjoyed how Poppy is very much the heroine of her story. She is the rescuer of the Prince and that is always an awesome addition to any tale. (He gets to do a bit of rescuing of his own too, but Poppy is even an active participant in that.)
This is a fun and light reworking of the old tale. I think that it might work better if it had not made so many references to the villains from the previous book and if the romance between Poppy and Christian had been developed a little better. Still, it is a good afternoon's entertainment.
This is YA, but is one of those that would work well for MG readers ready for something a little more mature and romantic. ...more
Enchanted by Alethea Kontis is a fairy tale reworking combining several fairy tales, most notably "The Frog Prince". And "Cinderella". And "Sleeping Beauty". And "Jack and the Beanstalk". Yes, all of them. And that is only the beginning.
"The Frog Prince" is a difficult tale to adapt because one of the characters is a frog. And this frog is supposed to be the romantic hero. It complicates things. It complicates things further when the author tries to throw a bunch more tales into the mix of the plot. In addition to those tales mentioned above, other tales woven into the story in different ways include "The Princess and the Pea", "Rumpelstiltskin", and "The Red Shoes." Also the nursery rhymes "The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe" and "Jack Sprat Could Eat No Fat, His Wife Could Eat No Lean" (okay that last one may have just been me making assumptions). Too much? Yes. It is. Waaaay too much. Because of all the other story elements, the development of Sunday and Grumbol-the-frog's relationship was rushed so there was not much depth there. We are told they have deep feelings of love and devotion and have to go with it. Then it turns into a rather complicated "Cinderella" meets "Sleeping Beauty" story wherein the good fairy vs the evil fairy thing is messing with Rumbold's plan to win Sunday's heart at the balls. Then there is the strange stuff the King is up to...Honestly, it was not too hard to follow I just couldn't figure out why Kontis felt including all of it was necessary and much of it was absurd.
The character development is the true victim of this complex web of plotting, which is probably why I had a hard time connecting with this story at all. We all know how I love my characters. Sunday spends a great deal of time feeling sorry for herself and grumbling. She is not at all proactive and though she is supposed to be special as a seventh daughter she never actually does anything. Rumbold was far more interesting. He has a past as a wild boy, but he can't remember it at all. He is trying to find his place in a home he can't remember while trying to rewin the heart of the girl he loves and this was the most interesting part of the story to me. I loved his relationship with his two best friends (his cousin and a guard). Their camaraderie and banter were what actually kept me reading to the end.
When compared to most other retellings, this one falls far short for me. As a retelling of "The Frog Prince" it can't come anywhere near to what Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier is. (I don't think I'll ever love another frog the way I loved Gogu. And he couldn't talk.)...more
The Swan Maiden by Heather Tomlinson is a novel that uses the idea of a girl who can transform into a swan via a magicalReview originally posted here.
The Swan Maiden by Heather Tomlinson is a novel that uses the idea of a girl who can transform into a swan via a magical swan skin. This is not a direct retelling of any specific swan maiden tale, but uses elements prevalent in several, and sets it against a backdrop of medieval France. It has many fairy tale staples in it. The impoverished man seeking to perform a task to gain the hand of a maiden, magic, transformations, enchantresses. If you go into it keeping in mind that it is really just a long form fairy tale and are not expecting much more you may enjoy it. I didn't have this mindset going in and it really didn't do much for me as a result.
The main character, Doucette, is a bullied doormat when we meet her. Unable to practice the magic her sisters, both swan maidens, were born to she is being trained by her mother to be a good wife and chatelaine. Her sisters bully her and use their magic to make her miserable. Then, during a time of spring cleaning, she finds a swan skin. Her swan skin that her mother has been hiding from her for years. Angry and energized with the knowledge that she can do magic too she strikes out on her own to join her sisters for their summer of magic learning with their aunt. She puts no thought or planning into her flight and takes absolutely no precautions. Then, intoxicated by her freedom and new found power, she propositions a guy she barely knows but has the hots for, then flies off in a huff before he can completely respond. (Showing her to be way too immature to be even thinking about a relationship like that.) This never changes throughout the entire novel. The only things standing between Doucette and her happy ever after is her own bratty petulance. Once she is reunited (the first time) with this young man they declare their love and intention wed. This is the most interesting part of the story. He has to complete three impossible tasks set by her father and she is struggling against her controlling mother. When they conquer her parents and have fled for his home, Doucette flies off in a huff again for no good reason other than she has to have her own way at all times. Clearly she was not ready for marriage. After spending some months alone she seeks out her love, who is then planning to wed some one else. Except I'm not convinced she really learned anything from any of this. The resolution of the story lacks closure because I couldn't help but feel she was going to repeat the same cycle over and over.
The hero of the tale is sacrificing, loving, caring, considerate and way to good for Doucette. I didn't have much respect for him because he made himself an endless victim of her fickle magical tantrums. I think his happily ever after will consist of being a doormat for his enchantress wife.
Some of these are issues inherent in fairy tales. You see them pop up all the time. The characters are selfish, two dimensional, self consumed, and focused on their own wishes. This is why Sondheim had so much fodder for writing Into the Woods. There are two acts to that play though, and in the end four of the characters have at least learned something and grown. You have hope for their future. This should be true of a fairy tale told in full novel form as well. You can do more, and I think should do more, with the character arcs. I was disappointed with The Swan Maiden because the characters never became real people. They were their two dimensional fairy tale caricatures from beginning to end.
There was an interesting question underneath the story. Could Doucette have both love and her magic? Does she have to choose or is there room for compromise? This mirrors the thoughts and struggles of many young women starting out in life. It would have been a compelling component if Doucette had been in any way sympathetic. Her behavior was too childish for this to be explored fully. (For a wonderful book that explores this conflict thoroughly and amazingly well read Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers.)
All that being said, the language of the book is beautifully descriptive and definitely conveys the old French setting well. If I had gone into reading this expecting nothing more than a longer form fairy tale I may not have been as disappointed....more
I have been looking forward to reading Janette Rallison's My Unfair Godmother since I read her first novel about the neglectfulOriginally posted here.
I have been looking forward to reading Janette Rallison's My Unfair Godmother since I read her first novel about the neglectful fairy godmother Chrissy Everstar, My Fair Godmother (my review). The two novels only share her as a character and therefore can be read individually. In My Unfair Godmother Chrissy is back to wreak havoc in another teen's life by grossly misinterpreting her wishes.
In many ways this book is similar to its predecessor. Again you have a teen girl sent against her will into a fairy tale, a hot acquaintance of teenage girl ends up in the past for a longer period and is able to help her when she gets there, members of her family are also transported so defeating the magic becomes a team effort. I enjoyed the first novel and like Rallison's writing so the similarities didn't bother me. It was nice to be able to read something and know exactly what I was getting: a humorous yet thoughtful romantic story with fairy tale tropes and a happy ending.
I admit that I was a little nervous about the fairy tale Rallison was tackling with this one. Rumpelstiltskin is such a disturbing tale that it is a difficult one to do a reimagining of and not veer into the creepy. It is just a creepy story. Rallison managed it though, baby and all, and how she did it was inventive. Tansy is sympathetic yet flawed as well and Hudson is a perfect fairy tale hero. I also enjoyed the story of Tansy's relationship with her father, stepmother, and stepbrother.
Overall I liked the first one a little better, mainly because I liked Tristan as a hero more than Hudson and I thought the first one was more amusing. This is a very nice one too for those looking for more of the same and I will certainly read it if Rallison ever writes a third installment....more
Ugh. I could elaborate and say more about the two dimensional characters, the abrupt personality changes, the less than witty dialogue, the unbelievabUgh. I could elaborate and say more about the two dimensional characters, the abrupt personality changes, the less than witty dialogue, the unbelievable (even for a fairy tale) plot elements, and the bad teen movie character and scene rip offs. Not to mention the historical part, which was sort of a medieval/renaissance/early colonial hodgepodge that made the history minor in me want to weep. But "Ugh" pretty much covers it. ...more