Well-worn. Dog-eared. Falling apart at the binding. These are all ways to describe my poor copy of Crown Duel. Once published as two books, Crown Duel...moreWell-worn. Dog-eared. Falling apart at the binding. These are all ways to describe my poor copy of Crown Duel. Once published as two books, Crown Duel and Court Duel, Firebird Fantasy reprinted them in 2002 as one, a very wise decision as the two stories are only halves on their own. Together the two books create a heroic tale of Mel as she leads a rebellion as a bare-foot countess, to her attempts to survive the deceptions of royal court life. I must admit, though, to loving the second book the most, and have often been tempted to just reread Court Duel, but in the end, I always want the full tale, and begin at the beginning, as any great journey should.
The first book chronicles Mel, as she and her brother, Bran, fight off an invading army sent by their greedy king. Leading a group of hastily-trained villagers, Mel employs sneaky tactics (such as harassing all night or flooding the enemy camp) to hold off the invading army. When Mel ends up injured and captured by the enemy, she is taken by the Marquis Shevraeth to the king, and sentenced to die if she doesn’t surrender. Escaping, she leads them on a cross-country chase, is rescued by the Marquis, and forced to realize that while her ideas might be noble, her methods are less than successful. Feeling defeated, she retreats back home after the king dies, convinced she lost the battle.
Into the second book we go, as Mel is dragged off to court by her brother, still feeling defeated for not keeping her promise of making the kingdom a better place. At court, she finds a new kind of battle, navigating the graces and deceits of those who have been schooled as courtiers all their life. As the former king’s sister and family make trouble and Mel deals with her ‘enemy’ the Marquis being decided as the new king, Mel still manages to save the kingdom and realize love in a place she was afraid to look.
Sherwood Smith has created a world full of tiny details that form a living world. From the unique hour keeping, using colors and candles to keep time, to the detailed language of fans that the courtiers use to display their true words while trapped in the court of a corrupt king, the reader will find themselves in a vivid setting, experiencing Mel’s journey with her.
I’m rather indifferent towards the cover of Crown Duel. In some senses I like it, but I also feel that it isn’t all that interesting. It certainly wasn’t the main element that led me to read the book.
Here’s a quick lesson in cover design. Look at the books that you own, note how many have people on the cover. Now note how many of those people are looking straight at the reader. That’s a way to get an instant connection with the potential book buyer while at the store. Take a look at the books facing out next time you go. I have also noticed that many YA male/non-gender books feature symbols or abstract covers, while ones aimed at girls more often use a female looking to the reader.
This retelling of Cinderella from the Once Upon a Time series is like most of the books in the series, taking a short fairytale and expanding the char...moreThis retelling of Cinderella from the Once Upon a Time series is like most of the books in the series, taking a short fairytale and expanding the characters and plot, but still managing to keep the heart of the original story intact. In order to tell the tale more believably, it’s split into the tale of Cendrillion and Raul, automatically complicating the plot, but helping to lead the tale to a satisfying conclusion. Yet even though the book takes away the element of a fairy godmother’s magic, other symbols like glass slippers and pumpkins still find their way in. Even without a blatant fairy godmother, it’s evident that a more subtle magic is taking placebehind the scenes, a power driven by wishes and one’s heart’s desires, often depicted through the reaction of nature (sudden storms, odd growing seasons, and the like).
In the author’s note at the back of the book, Dokey mentions that when she began researching Cinderella, she found that the father was not dead in the earliest versions, like he typically is in modern versions. Therefore she wanted to explore his role in the tale and his share of the blame for what happens to Cinderella. In fact, in this version, there’s very little that’s evil about the step-family; they’re merely reacting to a confusing situation that none of them asked to be a part of. Certainly, one sister is a bit of a spoiled brat and the other nice but aware of the difference in station between her and Cendrillion, but neither could be called “evil” by any means. Cendrillion shares her own blame in her fate, too ashamed of the fact that her father never mentioned her to correct the mistake and claim her life as a noble daughter.
I love this series for how quick the books are to read. I read this one night when I wanted a fast read, and in three hours I was done with the book, thoroughly entertained and smiling. It’s nice to read a good book that doesn’t take forever to get to a plot, yet still has plenty of intrigue and character development to spare.(less)
Set in the heart of Transylvania, where folklore is central to village life, Juliet Marillier takes us back to the time before Dracula, weaving a capt...moreSet in the heart of Transylvania, where folklore is central to village life, Juliet Marillier takes us back to the time before Dracula, weaving a captivating romantic fairytale. A stunning mixture of old legends and familiar tales, the reader will enjoy the new interpretations and learn a bit about Transylvanian culture along the way.
Readers are fully drawn into the world of the book, from the intricate cover art, to the chapter layouts within. The cover itself is a work of splendid art, and I often found myself just staring at it, each image gaining more impact as the plot deepened.
Magic, mystery, fairytales, and romance, this book has everything I look for in a good read. Ideally aimed at teenaged girls, any lover of fantasy should also enjoy this well-crafted tale, woven with enough twists and turns to keep you reading all night. Those interested in the history of Transylvania will also enjoy the book, as Marillier depicts a riveting backdrop, using the already magical land of Transylvania as a perfect setting for this book. Looking back to the tales before Dracula, the setting and detail alone will captivate readers.
Whenever I pick up a sequel book, I’m always hesitant, fearing the book simply won’t be as good as the first one. Thankfully, Cybele’s Secret lives up...moreWhenever I pick up a sequel book, I’m always hesitant, fearing the book simply won’t be as good as the first one. Thankfully, Cybele’s Secret lives up to the standards set by Wildwood Dancing. All the charm and wonder of Wildwood Dancing is here, and Marillier expertly builds on the magical framework she established in the first book, this time weaving in pagan cults and pirates. Unlike Wildwood Dancing, Cybele’s Secret doesn’t build off of any particular fairy tale, but instead uses the trials the Other Kingdom likes to set as the basis for an entirely unique tale.
The description alone is reason to pick up this book. Marillier lays out Istanbul in wonderful detail and vivid color. I like to get a glimpse into other cultures in my reading, at least when the author does it well. A good mix of the new and familiar can help the reader experience a place they’ve never been. This means using colloquial phrases and foreign words in the correct balance—just enough to give the flavor, without making the reader flip to a glossary ever five minutes. And of course, things need to be clear in context.
I’m betting most readers of Wildwood Dancing are eagerly awaiting this book. It’s just as good as you’re hoping, except when it comes to the release date. American fans will need to buy the book online from Australia or wait until Fall of 2008 in order to get their hands on a copy. I’m not sure why it’s been delayed so long, but reading an Australian copy isn’t hard, the only real differences (and you’ll probably have noticed the differences if you’ve read any English language books published outside the US) are that you only get single quotes for dialogue and some oddly spelled words.
This is one of those sequels that stars a character who was minor in the first book. Paula was certainly in Wildwood, but as the younger sister of the main character, and her impact on the story was minimal. So this book builds off of the world and family relationships established in Wildwood, but it can also stand on its own. All of what the reader needs to know about the girls earlier adventures in the Other Kingdom is recounted throughout the novel. In some ways, though, I think this might be an easier book to give to friends that you want to read Wildwood Dancing. The first relies a lot on magic, faeries, and the Other Kingdom, where as this book is much more about mystery and intrigue, with the Other Kingdom as simply an instigator.
The cover is once again beautiful and filled with hidden secrets. Like with Wildwood, I often found myself flipping back to the cover as more things became clear. Like many pieces of art, the cover tells a story of its own. I would be enchanted by it if I happened to come across it as a painting in a gallery.
Overall, this book was everything I hoped it would be. I finished in two nights (silly day life keeping me away from reading -_-) and was enthralled the entire time. From beginning to end, the tale is artfully woven with hints and intrigues. Looking at a few fan reactions on Marillier’s message board, some saw plot twists coming, while others were as surprised as I was. I like to think I got all the plot twists at just the right moment—early enough to go “I figured out what’s happening next!” with a gleeful giggle, not but not early enough that anything seemed predictable. (less)
One of these best parts about this book was the ending. Without giving too much away, I was awed by how well the author wrapped up the plot. It was un...moreOne of these best parts about this book was the ending. Without giving too much away, I was awed by how well the author wrapped up the plot. It was unpredictable, yet finished up exactly the way it should have. For most of the book I wondered how it could end; so much seemed against poor Dashti if (and when) she was found out. Happily, Hale worked out a believable fairytale ending.
This isn’t your normal fairytale. Personally, I’d never heard of the original Maid Maleen. Though after reading it, I can see where the ideas sprang from, but Hale pulls out her own story from this inspiration. The weaving in of Mongolian history and Genghis Khan’s (or “Gengie” as Hale liked to call him at the book talk [audio]) own history. A lot of fairytales pull from medieval history, but it’s much rarer to see the culture of a non-European country used as inspiration.
The modern reader might have trouble understanding why a maid/servant would look up to and hold their masters/ladies in such high acclaim, but Hale shows easily how Dashti’s culture sees nobility as offspring of the Ancestors (gods). Better yet, since this is a diary, we see Dashti’s thoughts, an evolution from thinking her lady can do no wrong to seeing her as a scared child who needs to be pushed to action. Dashti and her lady are portrayed wonderfully, in such a way that we see the full scope of a medieval maid/lady relationship. I love it when an author isn’t afraid to have the character act as they would of for their time and culture, instead of trying to make the modern reader relate to them by pumping them full of modern thoughts.
I know I’ve mentioned before that I’m in grad school studying publishing, and because of that I’ve started noticing the design elements of books. Before, I only cared if it was readable or not, but now I see the way design affects a book. One little detail about Book of a Thousand Days is that the text font is slightly scripted–it’s still clear enough to read, but there is a tiny bit of flourish that makes it feel like handwriting. You can’t use a real script font for large portions of text (look at the cover and think how hard that font would be to read for a whole book), but it’s a very nice touch for the interior design. Another great element is Dashti’s illustrations. That alone made it feel like a real journal.