I slogged through this (I feel sort of obligated to read books I buy) The definition of folklore they use is broader than most laypersons would use- it...moreI slogged through this (I feel sort of obligated to read books I buy) The definition of folklore they use is broader than most laypersons would use- it includes any ideas/information/practices that are passed down orally- not just stories but customs, jokes, music, children's games etc. There were some interesting articles here, such as one on female participation in a male-dominated comedy contest in rural Gascon, France, another about how girls play, and the Egyptian goddess Nuit. Some of it I just skipped or skimmed through. It's funny that most of this scholarship (like any other kind) has been done by men, since it seems like most folklore is passed down by women.
I'm amazed at how good feminist academics (and others) are at making interesting topics boring. However it does seem older books like this one from the '70s or '80s are more annoyingly pedantic than newer ones. Anyway, I would like to read other analyses of folklore that are more down-to-earth, especially European peasant traditions (music, holiday customs, stories etc) that may have pre-Christian roots. (less)
I've heard the Forestwife is very good, the sequel is Child of the May, and there's a third one, Path of the She Wolf, which was only published in the...moreI've heard the Forestwife is very good, the sequel is Child of the May, and there's a third one, Path of the She Wolf, which was only published in the UK. How can they not publish the 3rd of a trilogy? Well I saw that the trilogy is a available in this omnibus, so I think I'm going to order it from Amazon.
*Update 2-11-09 Requested this about a week ago, and it has just come in. (Forestwife by itself I mean, not the trilogy omnibus) If I like I will order the whole trilogy. (less)
Long before Dorothy arrived in Oz in a tornado, there was Elphaba. Born with green skin and ridiculed by both her peers and elders she would one day g...moreLong before Dorothy arrived in Oz in a tornado, there was Elphaba. Born with green skin and ridiculed by both her peers and elders she would one day grow up to be known as the Wicked Witch of the West. But who was she, really? Maguire tells the prehistory of the Wizard of Oz from her perspective, and in doing so imagines a darker and more complex Oz. Reclusive intellectual Elphaba goes to college and rooms with the beautiful and popular Galinda. There they become friends and rivals for both love and power.
I think Maguire says a lot in Wicked about women's roles, contrasting between Glinda & Elphaba, and the social acceptance of female power. I enjoyed the different cultures he created, from the Midwesterner-like Munchkins, the nomadic tribes of the Vinkus (Winkies) to the urban sophisticates of Shiz and the Emerald City.
I would give this book a higher rating, but it gets rather slow towards the end, in the Vinkus section. Still, overall it's a great read, and I promise you'll never look at Oz the same way again!(less)
Phoenix Dance becomes an apprentice to the royal shoemaker. When the 12 princesses keep wearing out their shoes each night, the shoemaker is blamed fo...morePhoenix Dance becomes an apprentice to the royal shoemaker. When the 12 princesses keep wearing out their shoes each night, the shoemaker is blamed for making lousy shoes. The queen declares that anyone who can solve the mystery of the shoes will get a handsome reward. Phoenix takes on this challenge, while also facing her own internal problems- the Illness of Two Kingdoms, or as we call it in our world- bipolar disorder.
I found this book quite enjoyable- the story was exciting and drew me in and Phoenix is a believable, sympathetic character. Windward is an original, well-realized world with a nautical culture- it does not really have any fantasy cliches. The author is very good at writing beautiful, evocative depictions of scenery without falling prey to having them be too long.
P.D. is a companion to Calhoun’s earlier novel, Aria of the Sea- it is set in the same place, the archipelago kingdom of Windward probably about a decade later, and features a few of the same characters in the story like Cerinthe Gale and Elliana Nautilus. I read that one several years ago, and will probably have to read or look over it again in order to give it a proper review here, but it’s also a very good read- it isn’t necessary to read it before Phoenix Dance, but I would recommend it as you will get more out of it that way(less)
I was looking for a fun, light read over spring break and this certainly did the trick. There are a million cultural variants and modern retellings of...moreI was looking for a fun, light read over spring break and this certainly did the trick. There are a million cultural variants and modern retellings of Cinderella but this has an intriguing twist. For any freethinker who has wondered why Cinderella was such a wimp- why did she go along with her stepmother? Why didn’t she just run away? Well Ms. Levine has an explanation: Ella was given a “gift” by a well-meaning fairy at birth: the gift of obedience. She must obey any direct order, no matter how degrading or dangerous. Though she tries to hide it, it is often difficult to disguise. After being sent to finishing school, Ella goes on a quest to break her gift/curse.
I think the best part of this book is the characters- they are vividly described, the spunky Ella, her obnoxious stepsisters- even her prince, who is just as nontraditional as she is. There is no sappy romance here- the relationship arises between two people who have much in common. The world created for the story is interesting too, the languages for gnomes, elves, and ogres that Ella learns add much to its feel. On the world-building front, my main problem is the depiction of centaurs- centaurs are as intelligent, if not more so that humans! The ones in this book are like animals.
The plot was a fun adventure and had many turns that I did not expect. I sensed that the author was trying to tell her own story while using Cinderella as a starting point, quite successfully but that some Cinderella trappings were left in at the end (the glass slipper, pumpkin being turned into a coach- which is from Disney) that were unnecessary to the plot. But I think this was one of her first novels, and she is still trying to find her voice. I look forward to reading some of her other books, such as Two Princesses of Bamarre.
I have to say, however that my favorite modern Cinderella is Cinder Edna by Ellen Jackson. It’s a picture book, but it’s just perfect. I will post a review of it later.
When I reviewed Ms. Levine’s previous novel, Ella Enchanted I said that it was a nice story but that the writer hadn’t quite found her voice yet. Well...moreWhen I reviewed Ms. Levine’s previous novel, Ella Enchanted I said that it was a nice story but that the writer hadn’t quite found her voice yet. Well, she definitely did in Fairest. It seems to be better developed- the characters and the story are more complex, and while the Kingdom of Khyrria in Ella is a rather generic fairy-tale realm, the reader gets to explore the neighboring land of Ayortha in this book. Ayortha is a fascinating culture, where singing plays a role in all aspects of life- ceremonies, communication, magic.
The protagonist of this story is Aza, the daughter of an innkeeper. While Aza is not seen as attractive by Ayorthaian standards, she has a gorgeous singing voice. Aza goes about her rather ordinary life until by chance, a Duchess stops by the inn. Her companion has become sick, and so she chooses Aza to replace her. This path leads her eventually to become the lady-in-waiting to Queen Ivy, after she discovers Aza’s ability to throw her voice. Ivy, a native of Kyrrhia, is not much of a singer and finds herself rather out of place in a country so focussed on the art.
It’s hard to tell until one is pretty far into the book, that it is based on another classic fairy tale. Can you tell which one? Snow White. Queen Ivy seizes power when her king falls sick, and Aza is caught between her and the dangers of a magic mirror. The tale of Fairest is a deftly woven fabric, with many surprising plot twists. It’ll definitely be worth a re-read at some point.(less)
Just Ella isn’t really a retelling of Cinderella, rather it is a sequel of sorts- Haddix imagines what might have happened after the supposed “happily...moreJust Ella isn’t really a retelling of Cinderella, rather it is a sequel of sorts- Haddix imagines what might have happened after the supposed “happily ever after”. As she awaits her wedding day, Ella wonders if her life in the castle, filled with elaborate rules of decorum and the instructors that teach them, is really that of her dreams. And is Prince Charming, handsome though he may be, really the man she loves?
This book is a great antidote to the cloyingly romantic stories that fill the shelves of the fantasy genre. As much as the rags-to-riches motif is a favorite, we often overlook the culture shock that accompanies it. Haddix insightfully imagines what it really might be like to change social stations so dramatically, and beckons the reader to wonder if being a princess is really so grand after all. Just Ella entertains while provoking thought. It’s really not so much a fantasy as a story based on a fairy-tale, set in an alternate world- with a many resemblances to our own complicated times.(less)