There was a lot of rich, Celtic background going on in this book, which I actually adored, because I loOriginal review posted at Story and Somnomancy.
There was a lot of rich, Celtic background going on in this book, which I actually adored, because I love reading about the fae folk and the Tuatha De. There was certainly a lot of research and folklore put into this book, evident in Aed’s stories throughout the text. So as far as worldbuilding went, I thought it was excellent, and the premise–a woman who used to be a tree tries to find herself amidst the beginnings of a massive war–looks to be interesting going forward.
That said, my feelings towards the rest of the book are lukewarm at best, and most of it has to do with the POVs. There were far too many, especially in such a relatively short high fantasy novel. I think at some point almost every single character introduced had a POV in the book, some only coming up as a couple of pages total and then disappearing again. I didn’t think every POV was needed; as much as I adore female characters, the book could have done without Liaden (because Kai kind of mirrors her viewpoint) and Branwen’s POVs (between Ander and Branwen, I thought Anders had a more interesting viewpoint. Personally, the only viewpoints I really paid much attention to was Finn’s, Iseult’s, and Kai’s (ironic, because I feel the oncoming love triangle between these characters, and I cringe at the prospect).
I didn’t think the characters themselves were fully fleshed out–though this being a series, I can understand withholding much of what makes these characters come alive. Still, I was a little put off by Aed (whose vocabulary later on boiled down to very few derogatory remarks to every. single. character who isn’t Finn). I didn’t see much point in Branwen and Ander until the very end of Ander’s POV. There were other random characters that came in near the last fifth of the book for some reason, which confused me.
The other part of my lukewarm feelings falls toward the pacing of the story. I liked the beginning fine enough: Finn transforms from a tree to a human woman, is picked up by a mystical man much older and wiser than his years, and she undergoes a journey to find out who she truly is. By chapter nine, though, where I expected things to pick up from introductory to action, there was still a lot of talk taking place. I still didn’t know where Finn fell in the grand scheme of things, and while I adored reading the description and stories surrounding Aed’s background and that of the surrounding area, I would have rather experienced those things by reading vicariously through Finn’s eyes.
Things did pick up at the Blood Forest, and I was finally getting some action, what with fae trickery and characters lost in a dangerous wood. That said, it slowed down again soon after, and by the end of it, things got too hectic and confusing, and I came off with many more questions than answers.
Tree of Ages had strengths in the detail and description, and perhaps if the story had been a bit longer, I would have been more endeared to the characters and more invested in the storyline....more
Lately I’ve been breaking my stories down to things I loved, things I had love/hate relationships to, and tFull review posted at Story and Somnomancy.
Lately I’ve been breaking my stories down to things I loved, things I had love/hate relationships to, and things that didn’t fly for me. It was harder for Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn because while I liked the idea and premise of the retelling (I mean, come on, Ali Baba on an airship–how cool is that?!), I didn’t think much of the tale itself changed because of the steampunk elements. For me, it really did just feel like throwing in steampunk elements in a story that would have gone the same route without the clockwork boxes and automaton djinn. I would have liked to actually have seen Ali solve more of the problems using his tinkering, even though the original turns Ali into a background character by the second half of the story.
Then there’s Morgiana herself. I’ve always been a fan of Morgiana in the Ali Baba tale. Something to do with the fact that she manages to hold her own and rises out of her station as a slave/servant/submissivethingymajig. In this story, she’s a djinni of unknowable powers (no, seriously, I have no idea what her limits are and what she can actually do, since it’s not very clear). Trapped by the “King of Thieves” (he’s actually not called thus, but he’s certainly a leader among the thieves), Morgiana is freed by Ali and willingly serves him in his household. What gets me is the fact that she’s a djinni. With powers. I know she’s grateful to Ali and all, but really? There must have been some other rank in the household that lets her protect Ali without setting herself down as a servant. Heck, her frelling kindred-djinni was a badass clockwork falcon. Instead Morgiana gets stuck in a rather limited female robot body. I wonder as well where her personality went afterward, because she went from “dangerous-flashy-eyed-djinni” to “bland-as-a-rock.” Even Malekeh was more intriguing as a female, and she wasn’t perfect.
Which brings me to the characters. I liked a number of them, but I felt that the retelling was much too short and there were too many characters that got spread too thin as far as development went. I loved the Langstroms, and Babbage was pretty fantastic in the scenes he was in. Malekeh was a standout character, though as I said, there wasn’t much story to flesh any of the characters out besides Ali. And even then Ali wasn’t very inspiring of a character. The only thing I knew about him in the end was that he was a really good tinker and he made the body of a perfect woman in order to hold the terrible unfathomable power of a djinni. Which is a shame, really.
As far as the steampunk went…as I said, I thought it was an added bonus, but I also thought it didn’t quite reconcile with the fairy tale. The story itself wasn’t really altered, everything still happened within the pattern, and I was really hoping I’d have gotten some major changes in the tale. But maybe that’s just wishful thinking....more
Valiant retells the tale of “The Brave/Valiant Little Tailor” inasmuch as it kept the essence of the tale andOriginal review at Story and Somnomancy.
Valiant retells the tale of “The Brave/Valiant Little Tailor” inasmuch as it kept the essence of the tale and expanded on the world of the giants and the backdrop of the tailor. Of course, the Brothers Grimm version was merely a rough skeleton of the retelling, and Valiant itself emerged not so much a variant, but a full-blown story that could very well be a new tale to be AT-classified.
The story is about Saville, the daughter of a tailor who disguises herself as a boy in order to make ends meet after her father gets terribly sick. While posing as a tailor for the king, she is trapped in a city that is about to be conquered by a duke with an army of giants. There isn’t much for a tailor’s daughter to do, right? Well, you would think that. But then again, nobody in Reggen’s met the likes of Saville until now.
What I Loved
The tailor is a young woman named Saville. I’m already a sucker for fairy tales, but a fairy tale with a woman as the hero who gets by on sheer force of will, cleverness, and courage? YES PLEASE. I loved Saville as a character. She had her ups and downs, and there were times she said or did things that I found were a wee bit annoying, but I loved her for them anyway. The word “valiant” clearly defines her journey in the story, but she’d probably tell you differently.
The good, the bad, and the smart giants. THERE ARE GOOD GIANTS. THERE ARE BAD GIANTS. AND THEY’RE NOT DUMB. I emphasize these things because I swear they’re mostly considered bad. And they’re not in this story. In this story, they’re as much human as the humans are. And I loved that. It does remind me a bit of Gail Carson Levine’s Ella Enchanted in that respect, but obviously both stories are completely different. Also, Volar is awesome.
The little homages to the Grimm tale. I liked how McGuire incorporated that whole stone-cheese and stone-bird trick that was in the Brothers Grimm variant, because it reminded me that the story pulls loosely from an already-established tale. Yet as the story went on, it’s clear the tale will not end exactly as is. Plus, the fact that Saville didn’t exactly go goo-goo-eyed for the king or the princess made for a more interesting outcome in the romance portion.
The characters. Saville was undoubtedly my favorite character, but Will and Galen were close seconds. Will more so because his story was heartbreaking. I admit to having teared a bit at the end, but I won’t say more than that.
The romance portion. SO ADORABLE OMGAH. Okay, fine. Again, I owe this bit to the story itself being a fairy tale retelling. But it’s also probably because of the gradual way the romance grew. Not in a matter of days or weeks, but one that took months to come to fruition. Swoonworthy, that.
What I Was Iffy About
The redeemability of a few characters. Don’t get me wrong, I liked how there was redemption in a few of the characters, the king and his sister-princess in particular. At the outset, both were kind of silly to the point of me asking how they managed to survive so long as monarchs with the way they went about their daily business. It was tiresome to see (yes, I’m using their favorite word, apparently), and I was only too glad when Eldin and Lissa sucked it up and produced their own flavors of valiance. That said, while Lissa’s change had been a bit more obvious, it seemed sudden on Eldin. I guess it would have been nicer to develop him more as a character, but this is just me half-wishing the story had been a bit longer in that respect.
What I Didn’t Love
The Tailor. He’s supposed to be a wretchedly unlovable character, but gods, did I hate him. I don’t know why there was any point to giving him the stroke, though. I thought it would have been just as effective to keep him around as a secondary character who either redeems himself or doesn’t (seeing Saville get around the latter would have been interesting, too).
Overall, I cannot wait to re-read this again upon publication. I devoured this in a day and a half....more
I kind of lost it at the magical toy boat scene. That was definitely when I knew the series was picking up and slightly much better than most of the MI kind of lost it at the magical toy boat scene. That was definitely when I knew the series was picking up and slightly much better than most of the Mister Dark saga. I loved reading about the cubs, and that scene at the end was so disturbing and sad that I ate the last star away from my rating. The two shorts on Bigby were awesome, too....more
I really need to stop reading the Fables spinoffs out of order. Luckily, this Cinderella-centric volume seemed more standalone than the last Fables spI really need to stop reading the Fables spinoffs out of order. Luckily, this Cinderella-centric volume seemed more standalone than the last Fables spinoff I read, so kudos there already.
There wasn't as much spying as I would have liked, but I enjoyed it nevertheless, and I certainly liked it better than the Jack of Fables spinoff.
- Picks up after the North Wind vanquishes Mr. Dark. - With the North Wind incapacitated, his kingdom needs a new ruler, and it's all dJust some notes:
- Picks up after the North Wind vanquishes Mr. Dark. - With the North Wind incapacitated, his kingdom needs a new ruler, and it's all down to the seven of Bigby and Snow's cubs. - Stuff with Bufkin that I don't pay attention to half the time. - Some new development with Mrs. Spratt. Though to be honest, her arc seems underwhelming in comparison to the previous villains that have shown up. - Overall, I'm interested to see how Ozma's prophecy about the cubs plays out, seeing as Winter was a slight surprise--a pleasant one at that....more
Been meaning to pick up some of the Fairest issues after seeing them at the comics store, but settled for a library loan of Fairest in All the Land. GBeen meaning to pick up some of the Fairest issues after seeing them at the comics store, but settled for a library loan of Fairest in All the Land. Girl power, right?
Ever since the issue she had shown up (Fables #22), I've always adored Cinderella, and second to Snow, she's probably my favorite fair-faced gal in Fabletown. That and the fact that this collection of tales was a fairy tale whodunit became the clincher for me. And who doesn't love a bit of murder every now and then, eh?
That said, there really should be a place to tell me what part of the Fables canon the stories are in, 'cause I was running into spoilers of things I did not get to yet in the actual Fables series. Those slightly put a damper on things, especially since I'm still not caught up on what happens past volume 16, and apparently this was supposed to be a standalone. But anyway, other than that, I liked the compilation, certainly didn't mind the change in artwork (I got used to it after The Sandman series), and adored the characters, so yes....more
I really, really liked this volume. Up until the end, where I went: "wait...what just happened?!"
This pretty much finishes a few more story arcs, inclI really, really liked this volume. Up until the end, where I went: "wait...what just happened?!"
This pretty much finishes a few more story arcs, including Frau Totenkinder's (I was a little sad at that!). It also starts up others, but I think the best part of this volume is the backtracking of the Rose Red and Snow White stories (needed in order to perk Rose Red up like nobody's bizness). I'm a sucker for those two sisters. Stuff with Beast and Beauty are going to be interesting, and I wonder what the North Wind will do about the secret he received from Frau Totenkinder....more
After the defeat of the Adversary, a couple of thieves or grave robbers or whathaveyou have unleashed the dangerous Dark Man back into the world. ThisAfter the defeat of the Adversary, a couple of thieves or grave robbers or whathaveyou have unleashed the dangerous Dark Man back into the world. This was clearly a bad thing because of the havoc that has become the ruins of Fabletown. In order to escape Mister Dark, the surviving Fables escape for refuge towards the Farm, and the 13th floor witches are setting in motion plots upon plots to vanquish this nefarious foe.
Really liked this volume, for a number of reasons: - It goes back to the Fable characters and their story (none of the crack that occurred in the previous filler volume).
- The witches themselves are highlighted. Frau Totenkinder gets a bit of a spotlight here, which is awesome, especially when you realize what her true form is.
- There's a backstory about the Empire and Mister Dark, which was pretty cool.
- A really angry Baba Yaga emerges free of her restraints and in search of her chicken-legged house. It's too bad the Boxers got to that first. Still, you don't really want Baba Yaga pissed off and trapped in a closed magical place.
- Bufkin's misadventures are highlighted. Not too bad, considering he actually does get more useful than usual (he does take on the king of the djinn and Baba Yaga, and came out unscathed, so that's a plus).
- A Haven story! I love Flycatcher, and the bit with his kingly duties was heartwarming and a good end to the volume. ...more
I...actually am not sure if i can rate this, to be honest. I picked it up and got terribly confused, and at some point, after Bigby's transformations,I...actually am not sure if i can rate this, to be honest. I picked it up and got terribly confused, and at some point, after Bigby's transformations, I just went: "Is this a filler? 'Cause nothing happens to the Fables in general..."
Then I realized I actually forgot to read the Fables volume BEFORE this one. Which did have a lot of what I missed. And yeah, this volume pretty much just tried to put Jack and the Literals and the Fables all together (with Bigby, you know this wasn't going to work out for the best, considering the Wolf IS the Big Bad)....more
I read this book in one sitting. One. I'm not even sure why I did it. People have stopped just to get away from the scariness of it all. But I just keI read this book in one sitting. One. I'm not even sure why I did it. People have stopped just to get away from the scariness of it all. But I just kept going because I knew the narrator would be alright in the end. Yet even the end wasn't predictable at all.
Neil Gaiman is to the writing world like Morgan Freeman to the acting world. (Okay, my metaphor only makes sense if you knew why I firmly believe Morgan Freeman is the voice of God). He weaves and spins stories that effectively make you think of fairy tales and children's folklore, with all of the scary bits and rich mythology behind them. It's beautiful, what he does in this book. And if this was the only one I've read of his, I'd devour the rest.
Fortunately, I've had more Gaiman exposure than this book, and that in itself is a blessing....more
The book is clearly reimagined fairy tales with the steampunk elements thrown in. And sometimes that surprised me at how well these twFull review here
The book is clearly reimagined fairy tales with the steampunk elements thrown in. And sometimes that surprised me at how well these two things melded together. Some of the stories did stick out, others made me want to read the fairy tales they were based off of, because it was difficult having to follow otherwise.
The standouts (at least, for me):
“La Valse” by K.W. Jeter was a gruesome way to open a book on fairy tales and steampunk, but I find this highly appropriate, considering how dark the old fairy tales could be. It took me a bit longer to get into this, however, because I wasn’t sure what the heck was going on the first time around (all that steampunky terminology, I tell ya!). That said, I kind of did find the punishments at the end were more warranted than not.
“Fair Vasyl” by Steven Harper was, hands down, my favorite in the collection. It was certainly a gender-bending version of “Vasilisa the Beautiful,” and Harper just didn’t take the tale and go with it, he embellished it to flesh the characters out. Also, I love the mechanical cat. And Baba Yaga’s mechanical home. Oh, and Baba Yaga herself was practically fantabulously witchy. Yes.
“You Will Attend Until Beauty Awakens” by Jay Lake wasn’t so much a retelling of the events of “Sleeping Beauty,” but more of a background intro to the characters involved and the lead-up to what could be if the Sleeping Beauty fell in love with an automaton instead. I liked the little points of view, from the faeries to the prince, to the king and queen. I’m not sure if this counts as a “short” story, because I felt like it could have been made into a novel in order to tell the entire thing of it. Still, I liked it enough.
“The Clockwork Suit” by G.K. Hayes was based off of “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” so I wasn’t sure how this was going to go about, considering the fairy tale itself was simply straightforward. I liked the turn-around here, showing not the tinker conman and king’s conversations, but what was happening in the background that led up to the emperor wearing his birthday suit. As grim as the story had been, the end made me chuckle somewhat.
“The Mechanical Wings” by Pip Ballantine wraps the anthology up with what I thought was a fantastic derivation of “The Wild Swans”. I’d been struggling through a derivation of this in Juliet Marillier’s Daughter of the Forest (which I swear I will end up finishing…eventually), so a shortened, steampunk retelling was something welcome in my book. I loved that this was taking place in floating cities. And that there was still that hint of magic and folklore in there (not that the other stories didn’t…Ballantine’s just had it engraved so well in her story in any case). So, yeah, this is probably my second favorite of the collection.
All in all, I think the book itself was worth a read, if not for the sake of steampunk and fairy tales, then for the fabulous authors above....more
I was tempted to put this under children's literature, but by the time you hit the end of the book, there was hardly anything childlike about the storI was tempted to put this under children's literature, but by the time you hit the end of the book, there was hardly anything childlike about the story or the fairies! Go figure.
Was interesting and amusing to read. It was also great to see subtle slice of aristo life during the time period (mostly a mention of the Arabian nights illustrations...that got me distracted looking for the book for at least an hour!)
But yes. These fairies are not exactly wholesome in any sense of the word. Silly little pranksters....more
Grabbed this book at a Dragoncon bookstore hoping I could get it autographed by Mercedes Lackey (only to realize that she'd already done so, hah!). AnGrabbed this book at a Dragoncon bookstore hoping I could get it autographed by Mercedes Lackey (only to realize that she'd already done so, hah!). Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed all three stories. Obviously my enjoyment ranged in varying degrees, but that's out of taste, not so much because the writing was bad (and, yes, the writing was fabulous). Anyway, just some tidbits of what I liked about each story.
A Tangled Web - Lackey mixed a ton of mythologies here, from the Norse gods to the Greek, and then throw in some Fae in the process! But I suppose considering the short story is a little spinoff of her Five Hundred Kingdoms books, it works! I loved the Hades-Persephone retelling she spun (and I loved Hades for some reason...), but I think this was mostly because I was more familiar with the Greek part of the myth, not so much the Norse.
Cast in Moonlight - Here's another series I've put on my to-reads list! Another good thing about short stories is that you get a sense of what some authors are doing for their novels. This story was definitely a fantastic introduction to Kaylin Neya and the world of Elantra. It's an interesting take on law enforcement, in a world where the Hawks, the Swords, and the Wolves work together (or not) to solve crime of the human and arcane persuasion. I'm only sorry this was such a small piece of Kaylin's world, I could have kept on reading, seriously!
Retribution - Usually pulp isn't something I read in huge gulps. Domino Riley as a sorceress, though, well, that was pretty good. The fact that she had a crazy--though otherwise amusing--angel after her was the kicker. All the same, it reminded me too much of a female, gangster version of Harry Dresden. And Bob can probably out-inform Mr. Clean any day....more
After I'd been resolved to not liking this book, it was probably the last story that made me rethink it and go: "You know, the stories aren't all thatAfter I'd been resolved to not liking this book, it was probably the last story that made me rethink it and go: "You know, the stories aren't all that bad."
Well, in a YA-"omg love" sense. Not all the stories ended well (I was particularly fond of how "Fan Fictions" ended up, it was just so odd, but so interesting!). I think overall, however, Scott Westerfeld and Melissa Marr had my favorite stories.
Okay, yes, I picked the book up because I saw Westerfeld's name on the list of authors, so there was always going to be bias there. His "Stupid Perfect World" was written in his YA Uglies style, so I wasn't exactly blown over by the change of style from his Leviathan trilogy (and while I certainly preferred the latter, the former worked fine with this story). He managed to put in a little info about a scifi-world, created lovely repeat-phrases (like "meeker", which I'm not particularly what it means still), and put in two characters whose points of view were entertaining.
And yes, I've heard of Melissa Marr and Wicked Lovely is probably in my reading list somewhere. So I'm actually pleased at how her "Love Struck" turned out, mostly because it was all about selkies! I really can't resist a fairy tale-related story, oh no. And the story was adorable, albeit I could have used a bit more story with the brother (there was so much background unsaid that I would have liked the story to go for more than 40-something pages!).
The other three stories had something interesting to say about love as well, though again, perhaps not my favorites. "Thinner than Water" had to do with falling in love with the fae folk and the repercussions after living with a all-too traditional family; it was nicely done (again, my same complaint goes to the fact that the story was too short). "Fan Fictions" dealt with a girl crazy in love who appears to be morphing a story to meld with her own life (who wouldn't want their favorite fictional guy to literally come out of the page and serenade her?). And "Sleeping with the Spirit" started the anthology off with the supernatural feel (think a YA Ghost with no need for a physical Whoopi Goldberg medium).