I genuinely enjoyed this story. I love the setting and the new/old mythology woven into the characters lives. The historical accuracy is more refreshiI genuinely enjoyed this story. I love the setting and the new/old mythology woven into the characters lives. The historical accuracy is more refreshing than it's peers in it's genre. It's definitely got the sadness in it, so be prepared for the heartbreaking. I love, love, love witches and magic and I found this story to be a good addition to the many stories that I've read. My only complaint is that it was a bit drawn out. I might encourage the author to quicken up her pace in the future but that opinion is subjective to the individual reader....more
This book has an audience. That's for certain just from the first page, alone! It's reminiscent of Monty Python and The Princess Bride and Galavant (AThis book has an audience. That's for certain just from the first page, alone! It's reminiscent of Monty Python and The Princess Bride and Galavant (ABC medieval musical comedy tv show, lol). Over the top and (a little too much for my taste) crude, smelly humor. Like I said - this book definitely has an audience. It is creative and funny and not to be taken seriously....more
This is book two in the Tyranny of Petticoats series. I dearly hope that there are more books to come. I have loved historical fiction since I was a lThis is book two in the Tyranny of Petticoats series. I dearly hope that there are more books to come. I have loved historical fiction since I was a little girl and was introduced to The American Girl series and so this anthology series naturally has a special place in my heart. And I am pleased to be able to say that The Radical Element is just as great as it's predecessor. (link to my thoughts on the first book here). The Radical Element includes a variety of heroines, settings, and themes. Each author delivers. And the works combined create a multi-colored tapestry of the young, female face of American history. And the anthology includes in their diversity a face that is often over looked and especially so in American History.
The Disabled Girl.
It's only in the past decade or so that I've noticed a real turn in the way that persons with disabilities are portrayed and how much people are trying to actively represent people of all dis/abilities in their works. However, there's still quite a ways to go. Me Before You, anyone? (There's a reason this disabled girl has not blogged about that book on her book blog. lol). When I was a kid and my love for historical fiction was probably at it's apex - there weren't any disabled characters. Hell, there weren't many disabled characters ever. So to find in my hand an anthology that has intentionally main characters who are disabled and female and in history - well...my tween self was pretty damn excited. There was inner-tween squealing and hand clapping going on in the back of my head.
I appreciate that there is a representation of both a visible disability and a invisible disability. It's no spoiler since it's literally in the description blurb above ('balancing the tightrope of neurodivergence'). In years of never getting any representation and then to get it in one of my favorite genres...it makes me a happy girl. Both stories are void of any of the ableist traps. I won't lie - one is a bit cheesy, but I'll take it!
With short stories it's hard to give out information without giving out the majority of the plot..and essentially the whole story. I think with an anthology of short stories it's best if you keep it well...short! The anthology gives everyone a little bit of everything. It spans to the eighties. It is inclusive. You even get a little bit of each genre within the genre...with in the genre. Magical realism, mystery, law drama, etc.
The Radical Element continued to give me what I loved about the first installment and it gave me more. And I want more. I think you'll want more too. And when I say I want more - I mean, I want more inclusion in the fiction I read. More accurate, un-ableist stories....more
**spoiler alert** We start out slow, drawing out the foundation and foreshadowing possibilities for extended story telling, and giving us enough time**spoiler alert** We start out slow, drawing out the foundation and foreshadowing possibilities for extended story telling, and giving us enough time to feel the loss and tragedy of Vasya's tragic birth and her mother's decision. We meet her family before we even meet her. And it is this opening picture that sews the emotional core to the reader's subconscious mind. The span of time encompassed in this first book's plot is over sixteen years so while Vasya (Vasilisa) is just a little girl (getting into scrapes) we learn about the political and grown up decisions that lead her unfortunate step mother to be married to her father. Vasya's home is deep within the wilderness. Her Father is a a great Lord but in the first scenes he is in the stables helping an animal give birth to a baby.
Arden does an illustrious job of bringing feudal Russia alive for the reader. A giant oven with a bed over for it for the elderly and sick, descriptions of food (or the lack of it), women covering their hair, the use of a steaming bath house, dangers and lore of distant 'Tatars' invading, reverence of paint icons. A poetical voice lyrically and quaintly describes the world in a way that could only be described from someone who lived in that world. You forget that the author wrote this in Hawaii, had gone to college, grew up with TV and cereal for breakfast, and knows (I'm assuming!) how to work a microwave.
And the CREATURES...the magical, strange, ancient creatures! Everything it seems has a guardian or a creature of its own. A little stout man creature protects the hearth, a prophecy giving bathhouse spirit, a guardian caretaker of the horses in the stables. You will fall in love with them like I did. Russia folklore creatures are both fairies and goblins rolled up in one. Both terrible and endearing. Strange and familiar. Good and bad.
Family and the love that is held by Vasya's family is absolutely rejuvenating. From the premise and the death of her mother in the start you might naturally assume that Arden will follow the trope that Vasya is forlorn and unwanted by her family. Despite her step-mother's malice against her Vasya is given nothing but love and loyalty from her siblings - even from her half-sister (her step-mother's daughter). Her brothers protect and love her. Her father loves her and though his attempts might be stunted by his perceptions of the world and as it 'should be' - he loves her and that love is rarely if ever questioned by the audience. Her grandmotherly nurse Dunya is a mother and guardian to them all. Their home is cozy and warm because of the strength of their family.
And that warmth and strength is what keeps both Vasya and us readers going when the Vasya's world steadily becomes more narrow, more dangerous, and more mysterious. By the time we are in the middle of the book she is a strong-willed teenager who does not fit the cage that, as a woman of that time, she was born to, a Frost King has been seeking her since she was a girl, a Priest is obsessed with her, her tormented step-mother conspires against her, her Father wants to marry her off (apparently the Dad Solution of feudal Russia - get your daughter married so she'll settle down....it doesn't go as planned to NO one's surprise), and the ancient creatures that only Vasya and one other can see are warning of a Bear and it's awakening, and a horrible winter to come. And yes, she definitely inherited her mysterious grandmother's mystical abilities.
**spoiler alert** She literally just unwittingly throws herself into the fire and then she realizes she's in the fire - she just keeps doing her thing**spoiler alert** She literally just unwittingly throws herself into the fire and then she realizes she's in the fire - she just keeps doing her thing. In 'Nightingale' (don't we love Solovey!?) though she was in danger - she was in the safety of her home. Sure, that home was surrounded by neighbors who called her a witch, the guardian spirits were dying, and vampires were literally rising up from the grave to claw at their door at night - but it was still home. The action, the stakes, the choices are far more daunting and heart-pounding. Little Vasya has grown up. She becomes a woman but on her own terms. And if you think the harshness of her childhood realities was heavy? It has absolutely nothing on Moscow.
Like in the first book - we are introduced first to her family. In this case - it is her sister and brother (Olya and Sasha) in Moscow. Instead of one chapter - we spend a good chunk with them setting up the environment that we know that Vasya is destined to be in eventually. Women aren't just sheltered and covered - they are secluded, separated, partitioned away from the men. They can only go out to church and to visit to each other. If a woman was to step out of this norm - they would bring disgrace and ruin to their family and the repercussions could be a matter of home or no home. On the plus side - her niece sees a ghost of a mysterious girl wandering around. It turns out that Vasya is not the only one who inherited the mysterious grandmother's gifts.
There are new creatures and some familiar. Vasya has wholeheartedly accepted the mysterious, supernatural world that only she can see. She willingly wishes to learn about her gifts and uses her connection to the supernatural to save herself and others. Solovey is her constant and amusing companion. And whether he likes it or not - Morozco cannot help but watch over her.
The relationship between her and her siblings are more tense and partially questionable than we are used to. These siblings have lived in the dangerous world of Moscow and her appearance is dangerous and startling to their world. It's sad to see the stress between her and her siblings when in Nightingale the love she had for her siblings and that they had for her kept everything going in the darkest times. In the darkest times of this story - Vasya must rely on herself.
I can't go much further without giving away things I don't believe should be given away.
The same illustrious voice narrates and weaves the new faces of feudal, medieval Russia and yet it matches the new daunting, adventurous pace. Where we spent a whole book to meander through her childhood and to set up her world in 'Nightingale' - we cover a few months in one book in 'Tower'. The tempo is like a fire. At first it's just a flicker, kindling, then it lights and the embers burn, and it slowly crackles and starts to light, and then all of a sudden - it takes off! And when it burns - it burns with passion, heartbreak, and magic.
There's so many tidbits thrown out through the book - questions that are leading and need to be answered. Where does the magic come from? Her grandmother - who was she and who was her people? The legacy of a line of witches and the weight of being born different in a world where being different and a woman at the same time was considered a curse is explored. What will happen to Morozko when no one believes in him? Some questions are answered in this story and some are still yet to be faced...
If you haven't read The Butterfly Garden yet - don't read this book. It has too many recurring characters and references to the Garden from the firstIf you haven't read The Butterfly Garden yet - don't read this book. It has too many recurring characters and references to the Garden from the first book to make proper sense to read alone. I, myself, kind of wish I had reread Garden before reading this one. However - the new characters and the developing of old ones is original and organic. The tone, and general theme, of this book is different. Whereas Garden was about trauma and how to survive and what you might do to do survive...Roses of May was about what to do after. What happens when you survive, when you're the one left behind? The theme of recovery is layered several times over within the plot. Familial bonds - both by blood and by choice - are also a recurring theme. As is the refreshing and clear difference between a healthy relationship and a unhealthy one. Priya, has a tight bond with the 'Quantico 3'. Eddison who has been handling her sister's case since the start in particular. When you have a series centered around the obsession of young girls/women in the most sadistic, creepy-as-fuck way I think it'd be easy to fall into the trap of making all adult male figures a crap-shoot. There is no confusion as to the platonic, paternal nature of the relationship between Eddison and Priya (and her mother). Just because family is blood doesn't mean they are Family. Looking back on the Butterfly Garden I'm beginning to see a re-occurring theme linking the series together. Ultimately the theme shifts from - what to do after surviving...to making the active stance to no longer being a victim. It's a deeply personal choice and it means different things to different people and I felt that Hutchison effectively communicated this. (Read more here: http://birdbooksandcoffee.blogspot.co...)...more