Brightly Woven is just my kind of thing. Impending war, epic journey, magic that is not understood by all, main character has interesting talent (weav...moreBrightly Woven is just my kind of thing. Impending war, epic journey, magic that is not understood by all, main character has interesting talent (weaving, folks, weaving!), and main character’s love interest is not all they seem. In fact, the words, dark, brooding, and misunderstood come to mind descriptively – what’s not to like about that?
Sydelle Mirabil is an engaging female lead, although I did get slightly confused at the beginning by her rapidly veering emotions. But then, she’s 16 years old – and I do remember being 16 (it wasn’t that long ago!), and allowing for that the emotional rollercoaster makes much more sense. Wayland North, rogue wizard with more to him than at first seems possible, seems much older than 18 – and I kept imagining him as such, then getting thrown utterly whenever his youth was mentioned. The secondary characters, notably Owain (who I wish there was a book about!), were fantastically fleshed out. I really have no complaints with the characters!
Recommendation: If you’ve read Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine and enjoyed the quiet feistiness and ingenuity of Ella, you’ll get on with Sydelle just fine! And Wayland North has all the qualities of a great (and literary-crush-worthy!) male character, with his secrets upon secrets that hide his motives. Peel away his layers with Sydelle and enjoy the ride. I truly hope that Brightly Woven’s world is revisited with further novels in the (near) future!(less)
High-points: Great story idea, new take on an old and well known tale, interesting world created, beautiful prose.
Hell-pits: Chapters names confusingl...moreHigh-points: Great story idea, new take on an old and well known tale, interesting world created, beautiful prose.
Hell-pits: Chapters names confusingly long (unnecessary, in my opinion), important world information only released when it came up in conversation making it seem forced.
Mini-review: Rumpel is told from many different points of view, which was at times confusing. It is set in the kingdom of Rodavlas, with threatened war from the kindgom of Niaps, in a world where you might be born with such an extraordinary gift that even in death you are chased, as a spirit.
I engaged with Rumpel (aka the troll, Rumpelstiltskin) far more than with any other character (with the possible exception of Boris, a Niapsan searcher). The names of the characters seemed odd: trolls had long names, yes, but humans had no uniformity about them and ranged from Elizabeth to Luna in one family.
The idea for this story is excellent, the writing descriptive and beautiful, but sometimes it felt as if it wasn't the story that gave the reader the information on how the world was built... information was instead spoon-fed out in an odd way (e.g. information on the mythical creatures, who was what and what each could do). Overall, I was impressed with the standard of this novel and would be very interested to read the rest of the series. (less)
Winterborne won me over on the first page and refused to let me go until it had finished with me. I felt literally gripped whilst reading it, to the p...moreWinterborne won me over on the first page and refused to let me go until it had finished with me. I felt literally gripped whilst reading it, to the point where my washing was almost left to take its chances on the line all night. Luckily, for the washing, I finished Winterborne before night fell. Unluckily, for me, I finished Winterborne. Now I’m left with the feeling that I’m missing out on moments with characters I’ve grown to care about. Sure, it was a whirlwind getting to know them, but I do feel like I know them now and I’m annoyed that I’m bereft of them now.
Mia Winterborne and Loie (rhymes with Joey) Bryce are not what they seem: they share a secret between them, one that stretches back to their shared birth-date and is added to when Loie’s parents die and Mia’s father disappears when the girls are 5 years old. The bond they share goes further than friendship; they are as close as sisters, but Loie accepts that Mia is special, a princess to be adored, and so they don’t clash the way sisters are prone to when each has a mind and agenda of their own.
Not to say that either Mia or Loie is mindless, far from it! On the brink of turning 17, both girls are aware of their futures: Loie is working hard to get scholarship-worthy grades for college, her ticket out of small-town living, and Mia is readying herself for her destiny. Imagine Buffy (the Vampire Slayer) knew she’d become The Chosen One and had the time to prepare for her calling, how much more hardcore would she have been in season 1 (especially if Willow had picked up on her Wicca vibe, too… but I digress!)? Mia knows something special is coming to her on her 17th birthday, and she’s well-equipped to deal with it thanks to her loyal sidekick, Loie.
When trouble comes, it brings a party of friends. There’s death, daggers, and dances on one side and Mia, Loie, and the newly-arrived Andreas (an Englishman, and a decidedly gorgeous one at that!) to oppose them with more than a drop of teenage flair and angst. I highlighted only a few lines, eyebrow raised: I’m English and I’ve never heard a boy refer to his swimming trunks as a swimming costume before (!) … but, actually, the part about English people assuming cheerleaders etc. was spot on, especially for people like me for whom Buffy the Vampire Slayer and reruns of Saved by the Bell are wholly responsible for views of American high schools!
Recommendation: I can’t recommend this book strongly enough. I’m amazed that this is a self-published title: the writing is sharp and witty, the characters immediately believable, and the world by turns recognisable and threateningly alien. If you get your hands on a copy of Winterborne, you won’t regret it. (less)
A Tale of Two Castles charts an episode in the life of Elodie, a 12 year old girl sent away by her parents to become an apprentice weaver in the flour...moreA Tale of Two Castles charts an episode in the life of Elodie, a 12 year old girl sent away by her parents to become an apprentice weaver in the flourishing town of Two Castles. Elodie doesn't take the course in life her parents have planned; she's yearned to be a mansioner (an actor) for years, learning the tricks of the trade (and much more besides!) from an old farmhand (and ex-mansioner) employed by her parents.
Twists and turns abound in this re-imagination of Puss in Boots: the well-known elements of tricksy feline and impoverished master, shape-shifting ogre, and a King with his Princess daughter looking for marriage are all present, but Gail manages to merge these factors with her imagination to create a perfectly-drawn world for this fairytale turned upside down.
Elodie is a fantastic character, lying about her age from the beginning and using her mansioning talents (along with a quick brain) throughout to get where she wants to go, even if that place is somewhere entirely different from where she imagined. Count Jonty Um, the ogre, and Masteress Meenore, the dragon whose gender is ITS own business, head a supporting cast of layered characters who act unexpectedly and quaintly in turn.
Recommendation: Surely aimed at younger teens, as in the case of Wrapped by Jennifer Bradbury, A Tale of Two Castles is an enjoyable read whatever your age. You won't find smouldering passion within its pages, but there is talk of love and poison to keep the pages turning, along with one of the most dragon-y dragons I've read in a while! If you enjoy fairytales and their retellings, add this book to your list. (less)