I hope that, no matter how you are spending it, the holiday season has been treating you well and given you time for relaxation and good books.
I want to again thank each of you who participated in our Secret Santa event. It was so much fun, and the care and thoughtfulness you each exhibited in choosing your gifts was wonderful. This is an amazing group, and I’m so proud and happy to know you all.
Finally, several of us have created a creative writing group to share what we’re working on and to get feedback, support, and encouragement. If you’d like to be added to the Telegram group and associated Dropbox folder, let me know.
On to the books!
Wow, such an amazing response to the book submissions for this month. We have fifteen books total, and because of this, voting will be broken up into two rounds.
In round one, you will have until 10:00 pm Eastern tomorrow (the 27th) to vote on your top five choices. I will then take the highest voted ones and put them into a second poll. You will then be able to vote on your final two choices. This second poll will close Tuesday at 10:00 pm Eastern.
Kringle by Tony Abbott
Just in time for Christmas comes a fantasy epic from one of today’s most popular writers for children. It is the story of a young orphan realizing his destiny — to become the legendary Kris Kringle.
Unlike the traditional Santa Claus myth, KRINGLE is a coming-of-age story about an orphan who becomes a force for good in a dark and violent time. It is a tale of fantasy, of goblins, elves, and flying reindeer — and of a boy from the humblest beginnings who fulfills his destiny.
Our tale begins in 500 A.D., when goblins kidnapped human children and set them to work in underground mines. Kringle is one such child…. until he discovers his mission – to free children from enslavement. His legend lives on today, as he travels the earth every Christmas Eve to quell the goblins once more.
Notable Review by Bren
I bought this book intended to give to my daughter, Maranda (9) to read. She loves to read. The synopsis of it caught my eye. It’s a book about the beging of Santa Claus. It includes Elves (good), magic (good), goblins (what?), and pirates (PIRATES?!). That caught my eye, so I ordered it.
It’s over 300 pages and I decided to read it out of nothing but curiosity due to the characters listed.
I’m having trouble with my short term memory, so reading is difficult. This book, though, was so well written, caught my attention immediately, had me hooked, that I actually REMEMBERED everything I was reading!
I could not put this down. I moaned when I had to. It was THAT good.
It is a children’s book, bought through Scholastic at school, but my gosh. It’s a beautiful, beautiful book. If you believe in Santa (I still do and always will), then you need to read this.
It’s full of magic, wonder, wars, saddness, fright, happiness, love, everything. It’s so well written, so well told, I fell in love with this book.
Since I just finished it and it’s now Christmas Eve, I have decided to put it in a special place and I will start to read it to my children next year before Christmas. Being 300+ pages I will probably start early December. It’s THAT good I’m willing to read a book that long to my children.
I haven’t read anything this beautiful in a long time. I am so grateful I bought it. So grateful curiosity got to me and I decided to read it.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who believes in Santa.
It does have a Lord of the Rings feel, though I’ve never read nor watched it, only what I know and describing it to my husband he said that’s what it sounds like. I do not like that type of book/movie, yet this pulled me in. He’s even going to read it now.
Merry Christmas to you all!
Troll’s-Eye View: A Book of Villainous Tales by Ellen Datlow
Everyone thinks they know the real story behind the villains in fairy tales – evil, no two ways about it. But the villains themselves beg to differ. In Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling’s new anthology for younger readers, you’ll hear from the Giant’s wife (“Jack and the Beanstalk”), Rumplestiltskin, the oldest of the Twelve Dancing Princesses, and many more. A stellar lineup of authors, including Garth Nix, Holly Black, Neil Gaiman and Nancy Farmer, makes sure that these old stories do new tricks!
Notable Review by Crowinator
I have a weakness for retold fairy tales and for short stories, so this collection of fairy tales told from the villains’ point of view was a must-read for me. Also, Datlow and Windling consistently helm the best anthologies out there, for kids and adults, and I read every one I can get my hands on. This collection has 15 stories by well-known fantasy authors for children and adults, almost all of which I’ve read at least something earlier, whether it be a short story or two or a novel or two, and it makes for quite the collection. Like all anthologies, there are a few weak stories, or maybe I should say a few stories I didn’t enjoy as much as the others, and a few stories that really stood out.
For me, the stand-outs are almost always the dark stories, for I am a twisted soul, and they leave more of an impact on me. My other stand-out story type is superbly done comedies. (For example, in Deborah Noye’s collection Gothic: Ten Original Dark Tales, my two favorite stories are MT Anderson’s marvelously disturbing “Watch and Wake” and Neil Gaiman’s hilarious parody of gothic conventions, “Forbidden Brides of the Faceless Slaves in the Nameless House of the Night of Dread Desire”.) So, of course, my favorite stories from this collection are Holly Black’s “The Boy Who Cried Wolf’ and Kelly Link’s “The Cinderella Game”, both very dark, creepy stories with endings that play with the “happily ever after” convention. In “the Boy Who Cried Wolf”, the narrator learns about a mysterious flower that turns those who sniff its scent into wolves who then devour whoever is closest, and he has to make some tough choices when he and his family land their boat on an island that appears to be covered with the flowers. In “The Cinderella Game”, Peter babysits his new, somewhat disturbed, step-sister (he appears somewhat disturbed as well) and things get weird when he agrees to play a game of Cinderella, in which the lines between the good Cinderella and the evil step-sister are blurred.
There are a lot of other great stories, including Peter Beagle’s funny “Up the Down Beanstalk”, which retells “Jack in the Beanstalk” from the point of view of the giant’s wife (I love how matter-of-fact she is about their diet), Midori Snyder’s rather haunting retelling of “Molly Whuppie”, called “Molly”, and Delia Sherman’s “Wizard’s Apprentice”, which follows a much-abused boy on his path to becoming the apprentice to an Evil Wizard who turns out not to be so evil after all.
Overall, this is another excellent anthology for Datlow and Windling.
Six-Gun Snow White by Catherynne M. Valente
A New York Times bestselling author offers a brilliant reinvention of one of the best-known fairy tales of all time with Snow White as a gunslinger in the mythical Wild West.
Forget the dark, enchanted forest. Picture instead a masterfully evoked Old West where you are more likely to find coyotes as the seven dwarves. Insert into this scene a plain-spoken, appealing narrator who relates the history of our heroine’s parents—a Nevada silver baron who forced the Crow people to give up one of their most beautiful daughters, Gun That Sings, in marriage to him. Although her mother’s life ended as hers began, so begins a remarkable tale: equal parts heartbreak and strength. This girl has been born into a world with no place for a half-native, half-white child. After being hidden for years, a very wicked stepmother finally gifts her with the name Snow White, referring to the pale skin she will never have. Filled with fascinating glimpses through the fabled looking glass and a close-up look at hard living in the gritty gun-slinging West, this is an utterly enchanting story…at once familiar and entirely new.
Notable Review by Carol
Take fairy tale mythology, the sideways structure of Native American folklore, a Wild West setting, weave it through with themes on race and gender and wrap it in Valente’s wordsmithing, and you’ll have Six-Gun Snow White.
“A body can only deliver up the truth its bones know. Its blood, which is its history. My body is my truth, and I have laid it out as evidence on the table of my father’s reputation, for by know you may have guessed my next revelation.” –from The Creation of Snow White
This bears thinking on. Where does the anxiety, the joy, the tears come from? My body perhaps knows truths my head won’t realize.
“It was not like any of the mirrors… it was like a door into nothing. The glass did not show the buttery light of the house behind me. It did not show the forest or the meadows. It did not even show me. The glass was so full up of dark, it looked like someone had tripped over the night and spilled it all into that mirror.” –from Snow White Bites Her Own Reflection
One of my absolute favorite things at my last house–the woodwork was a heavily varnished oak–is the way the setting sun would turn the living room into a buttery glow. Valente writes images that are incredibly resonant with my memory.
“I said I loved her back. I put my hand on the door and I said I loved her back, and when I said it, I thought of kissing her and also of shooting her through the eye.” –from Snow White Fights a Lump of Pitch
I loved someone like this once. Or was it?
“The dude hesitates. ‘She beat you, I suppose?’ Snow White just laughs. The dude feels that laugh in his spine. It saws there on the hard, old bone.” –from Snow White Cheats at Cards
The dude should be frightened when he hears that laugh, that almost-humor full of irony and pain. The laugh of someone who has survived hells.
“…until she walked out of the woods and into a town full of banshees with no love for anyone’s history. Your past’s a private matter, sweetheart. You just keep it locked up in a box where it can’t hurt anyone.” –from Snow What and the Birds From Heaven
There’s constant and loud metaphor here about what one can keep locked up/trapped/hidden in mirrors.
“So if you want it, you can have a nice life here…it’s a kind of magic, but then most things are. But story is an eager fucking beaver and someday soon someone will come knocking for you and you’d better just say no thank you is all I’m saying.”–from Snow White Dances With Prairie Dog
And here I ask: do we want the story? Or not? Do we open the door or appreciate magic of ordinary life? Can we even choose? One of the themes of the novella seems to be that of stories–of stories we tell ourselves, stories we tell about ourselves, stories we try and force other people to become.
Valente is one of those writers I never know entirely if I’m ready for, because she has that way of finding the boxes in my heart and my memory and opening them up. She did that again. I was quite startled to realize this isn’t a “fairy tale retelling” as much as a ‘reformulation,’ a genre-mash-up, a deconstruction and reconstruction of tales with modern considerations of gender and race. Thank you for that, Valente. As a child, I read everything not-real I could lay my hands on, so it was fun to recognize the ‘Just So’ folklore style and the animal symbolism of Native American tales that goes into the fairy-tale mashing.
The last segment, however, ‘Snow White Holds Up the Sky,’ worked less well for me. I felt it didn’t adequately resolve Snow’s story in a congruent fashion and likely should have ended with ‘Snow White and the Story of Death.’ Fairy tales–or at least the Disney ones–demand happy endings, but many folktales are much more ambiguous. But perhaps, it was finally Snow White’s own story about herself, unconstrained by boxes and coffins.
The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind—she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.
After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.
And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.
As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed—this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales.
Notable Review by Melanie
“Tell the story of Frost, Dunyashka. Tell us of the frost-demon, the winter-king Karachun.”
This book is magical. This book is whimsical. This book is one of the best things I’ve read in my entire life. I loved this with every bone, every red blood cell, every molecule in my body. This book was nothing short of perfection, and I’m sorry to gush, but I never expected this story to captivate me the way it did.
“In Russian, Frost was called Morozko, the demon of winter. But long ago, the people called him Karachun, the death-god. Under that name, he was king of black midwinter who came for bad children and froze them in the night.”
I’m not even sure where to begin with this story, but I guess I will start by saying that this story is a love letter to stories everywhere. This book is a mash-up retelling of many Russian fairy tales, but with unique spins of them, which are woven together to tell such a beautiful tale that makes me breathless just thinking about how expertly it is crafted.
Vasilisa and her family live on the edge of the Russian wilderness. Vasilisa’s father rules these lands, and her mother died giving birth to her, knowing that she was special. Vasilisa was raised by her mother’s nursemaid, who is constantly telling her fairy tales that most Russians fear, but Vasilisa loves.
“You must remember the old stories. Make a stake of rowan-wood. Vasya, be wary. Be brave.”
Vasilisa soon realizes that she is indeed special, and that she can see creatures that most people cannot. And, again, instead of feeling fear, she feels compassion and befriends and takes care of all the different creatures that dwell on her lands.
And even though Vasilisa’s family accepts her, the rest of the community cannot see past how different she is. Vasilisa’s father tries many different things to get her to want the same things most girls in this time want (marriage, babies, performing “womanly” duties), while Vasilisa only wants to be free and see the world.
Meanwhile, there is a frost-demon that does everything to ensure him and Vasilisa’s paths cross. And Vasilisa couldn’t resist the urge to go to him even if she tried. Then a beautiful story unfolds about a girl, a nightingale, and a bear, who are destined to have a story told.
“Before the end, you will pluck snowdrops at midwinter, die by your own choosing, and weep for a nightingale.”
Like I️ said, it’s now an all time favorite for me! I️ truly loved this story that much. It deserves all the praise, all the hype, and all the love.
This book had absolutely everything that I love in my fantasy:
✘ Feminist as all hell
✘ Magical forest
✘ All the morally grey characters
✘ Mythology and folklore
✘ Little fae folk saving the day
✘ Wintery setting
And when I say that this is the perfect winter read, I mean it with everything that I am. Never have I ever read a better seasonal read. Please give this a try in the upcoming months. I promise you, you won’t regret it
This book was nothing short of magical. From the lyrical prose, to the atmospheric town and forest, to the characters that constantly had me crying, to the message that girls can be anything they want to be, no matter what society tries to confine them to. This book is a tangible piece of heaven and I am so thankful that I was able to read this before the end of 2017, because it truly is a shining star in 2017 publications. I cannot wait to start my ARC of The Girl in the Tower tonight!
“I am only a story, Vasya.”
Ash by Malinda Lo
In the wake of her father’s death, Ash is left at the mercy of her cruel stepmother. Consumed with grief, her only joy comes by the light of the dying hearth fire, rereading the fairy tales her mother once told her. In her dreams, someday the fairies will steal her away, as they are said to do. When she meets the dark and dangerous fairy Sidhean, she believes that her wish may be granted.
The day that Ash meets Kaisa, the King’s Huntress, her heart begins to change. Instead of chasing fairies, Ash learns to hunt with Kaisa. Though their friendship is as delicate as a new bloom, it reawakens Ash’s capacity for love-and her desire to live. But Sidhean has already claimed Ash for his own, and she must make a choice between fairy tale dreams and true love.
Entrancing, empowering, and romantic, Ash is about the connection between life and love, and solitude and death, where transformation can come from even the deepest grief.
Notable Review by Heather
The GoodReads five-star rating system isn’t perfect because some books (like, say, pretty much all Fitzgerald and Salinger) get five stars because I think they’re just freaking brilliant writing; while other books (like, say, Bridget Jones’s Diary and the Traveling Pants books) get five stars because I love the characters so much.
Then, of course, there are the Harry Potters and Tales of Despereaux that receive five stars because it’s like they retell my whole world: Remember how lost you were when you were younger? This is what you were looking for!
Ash was that last thing for me.
I’ve always thought fairy tales were history books, always revered the Woods, always been reckless in pursuit of adventure, always wanted to fall in love with a girl. That’s this heroine.
Once I really got into Ash, I couldn’t get out.
I’m giving it four stars for freshness, four stars for writing, five stars for magic and five stars for speaking to greater truth. Plus, I am giving it five bonus stars for waking up the little kid in me. She doesn’t exactly hibernate, but sometimes gets so bored with the adult world that she is forced into a long winter’s nap.
I loved how Malinda — I can call her that; she was my editor once — writes about the smell of magic. And this:
“Have you ever wanted to be a princess?” Ash challenged her.
“That depends,” Kaisa said.
“On whether I would have to marry a prince.”
Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik
Miryem is the daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders, but her father’s inability to collect his debts has left his family on the edge of poverty–until Miryem takes matters into her own hands. Hardening her heart, the young woman sets out to claim what is owed and soon gains a reputation for being able to turn silver into gold.
When an ill-advised boast draws the attention of the king of the Staryk–grim fey creatures who seem more ice than flesh–Miryem’s fate, and that of two kingdoms, will be forever altered. Set an impossible challenge by the nameless king, Miryem unwittingly spins a web that draws in a peasant girl, Wanda, and the unhappy daughter of a local lord who plots to wed his child to the dashing young tsar.
But Tsar Mirnatius is not what he seems. And the secret he hides threatens to consume the lands of humans and Staryk alike. Torn between deadly choices, Miryem and her two unlikely allies embark on a desperate quest that will take them to the limits of sacrifice, power, and love.
Channeling the vibrant heart of myth and fairy tale, Spinning Silver weaves a multilayered, magical tapestry that readers will want to return to again and again.
Notable Review by Sean Barrs
This novel is pure escapism; it is enchanting, mystical and, most importantly, it’s a fantastic piece of writing. I loved it. Go read it!
I’m a critic but I found nothing to critique here. And for me that says a lot. I often find it hard just to sit back and enjoy a story without pulling it apart and dissecting all the elements of the book. It’s just want happens when you’re and English student. You consider the characters, the themes and everything the writing is trying to convey. With this, however, I was taken away by the majestic nature of the fairy-tale plot. It all just fitted together so perfectly and slid into an ending that left me feeling warm inside.
The novel is an amalgamation of fairy tales, all distinctively eastern European in feel, though they are fleshed out and twisted into something resembling a complex and compelling story that is not limited by the standard tropes fairy tales demand. This is not a novel about love; it is one about survival in a cut-throat world where the rich and powerful exploit the poor, weak and helpless. The peasants starve in the winter as their lands are raided by the mystical Staryk whilst their Tsar hordes the entire kingdom’s wealth and basks in his own splendour. He does little to help his own people.
As such, people have to learn to survive and defend themselves in an unjust world. There are no heroes, only people who are willing to be brave in the face of tyranny. And tyranny can come in many forms, and often those who are supposed to love and protect us become the worse of the lot. Daughters learn to overthrow their fathers and make their own paths in the world. Miryem learns to turn silver into gold by taking up her father’s money lending business, and eventually what appears to be a natural aptitude for business develops into a fully-fledged magical ability that captures the attention of an Ice King.
From here the plot only improves. There are a multitude of characters and point of views though they are all linked and brought together into such a powerful ending. As Miryem is taken back to the Staryk kingdom, the Tsar daemon of rage and fire seeks to melt the lands of always winter. Two conflicting powers come crashing together, as the veil is lifted revealing the truth of a character shrouded in misunderstanding and ice. Just because a people operate in a different way, it does not make them inherently evil.
Spinning Silver is so much better than Uprooted because it is consistent; it sticks with the same themes and develops them until the very end of the story rather than shifting into a radical new plot line half-way through the story. As such the magic begins on the very first page and stays until the very last- I highly recommend it!
The Wrath and the Dawn (The Wrath and the Dawn, #1) by Renée Ahdieh
One Life to One Dawn.
In a land ruled by a murderous boy-king, each dawn brings heartache to a new family. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, is a monster. Each night he takes a new bride only to have a silk cord wrapped around her throat come morning. When sixteen-year-old Shahrzad’s dearest friend falls victim to Khalid, Shahrzad vows vengeance and volunteers to be his next bride. Shahrzad is determined not only to stay alive, but to end the caliph’s reign of terror once and for all.
Night after night, Shahrzad beguiles Khalid, weaving stories that enchant, ensuring her survival, though she knows each dawn could be her last. But something she never expected begins to happen: Khalid is nothing like what she’d imagined him to be. This monster is a boy with a tormented heart. Incredibly, Shahrzad finds herself falling in love. How is this possible? It’s an unforgivable betrayal. Still, Shahrzad has come to understand all is not as it seems in this palace of marble and stone. She resolves to uncover whatever secrets lurk and, despite her love, be ready to take Khalid’s life as retribution for the many lives he’s stolen. Can their love survive this world of stories and secrets?
Notable Review by Katerina
I loved it beyond words.
I’m in awe. This beautiful journey, this journey of longing, magic and love sang to my soul, gave me wings, spilled vibrant colours in a bleak routine and made my heart burst.
Renee Ahdieh is a rare storyteller.
“One hundred lives for the one you took. One life to one dawn. Should you fail but a single morn, I shall take from you your dreams. I shall take from you your city.
And I shall take from you these lives, a thousandfold.”
The Caliph of Khorasan, the King of Kings, is a monster.
Every day he takes a new wife. And every dawn, he executes her. One of those unfortunate girls was Shahrzad’s best friend. Blinded by her grief, her hatred and the desire for revenge, Shahrzad volunteers to become the Caliph’s next wife, with one goal in mind; destroy him. Kill him and rid Khorasan of a bloodthirsty tyrant. When the dawn comes and she’s still alive, the speculations begin. Why did the Caliph spare her? Is it possible that the monster has a heart after all? And indeed, the enemy turns out to be just a boy, a boy with the weight of his sins on his shoulders. Torn between her promise for revenge and her traitorous heart, Shahrzad might be the only one that can make Khalid care again. But what is the cost?
“I will live to see tomorrow’s sunset. Make no mistake. I swear I will live to see as many sunsets as it takes.
And I will kill you.
With my own hands.”
When I started The Wrath & the Dawn I was cautious. Later, I was fascinated but a little detached. But as Shahrzad ‘s story progressed, as I fell deeper and deeper into a world of intrigue, secrets and lies, I was bound. To Shahrzad’s fierceness, to Khalid’s tragedy, to the sheer magic that engulfed me like it was a living and breathing thing. Because that’s what I felt while reading The Wrath & the Dawn. Alive.
“You have a beautiful laugh. Like the promise of tomorrow.”
Renee Ahdieh’s writing is exquisite. Whether she described luscious palaces, delectable dishes and lavish clothes or a love so palpable that ripped your insides open, devastating truths or heartbreaking choices, she captivated you. She trapped you in a world painted in yellow, orange and red, a world where you could touch the sand and feel the heat burn your skin. She invaded your life and with her flying carpet made you a part of a rich eastern culture, a part of a fairytale you wished it would never end.
“My soul sees its equal in you.”
Shahrzad was a fierce heroine, determined and stubborn, a plague of a girl that brought change to a lifeless palace. I was afraid that there would be love triangle drama that would ruin this remarkable reading experience, but Renee Ahdieh knew exactly how to handle it. Yes, when Shahrzad married Khalid she was in love with another boy. But the connection, the trust and eventually the love that was built between the boy-king and his wife left no space for doubt that they belonged together. Khalid was prepared to kill Shahrzad. Shahrzad was prepared to kill Khalid. But none of them was prepared to find their equal, their perfect match, the air that filled their lungs. Their relationship would be angsty, sweet or painful, but the bond that was forged was unbreakable. And Khalid, oh my darling Khalid, he was a mystery, a troubled king with good intentions, aloof but caring, a beautiful monster I came to cherish deeply.
“There is no one I would rather see the sunrise with than you.”
There is no one I would rather spend my precious free time with than Khalid, Shahrzad, Jalal and Despina. They made me smile, tear up and dream, travel and love, and for that I am forever indebted to Renee Ahdieh. If you haven’t read The Wrath & the Dawn yet, don’t waste another minute. A mesmerizing world of deception, curses and powerful feelings is waiting in the form of paper and words.
Daughter of the Forest (Sevenwaters, #1) by Juliet Marillier
Lovely Sorcha is the seventh child and only daughter of Lord Colum of Sevenwaters. Bereft of a mother, she is comforted by her six brothers who love and protect her. Sorcha is the light in their lives: they are determined that she know only contentment.
But Sorcha’s joy is shattered when her father is bewitched by his new wife, an evil enchantress who binds her brothers with a terrible spell, a spell which only Sorcha can lift—by staying silent. If she speaks before she completes the quest set to her by the Fair Folk and their queen, the Lady of the Forest, she will lose her brothers forever.
When Sorcha is kidnapped by the enemies of Sevenwaters and taken to a foreign land, she is torn between the desire to save her beloved brothers, and a love that comes only once. Sorcha despairs at ever being able to complete her task, but the magic of the Fair Folk knows no boundaries, and love is the strongest magic of them all…
Notable Review by Jessica
Everything I could tell you about Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier can be summed up in a single paragraph from the story itself:
If I were telling this tale, and it were not my own, I would give it a neat, satisfying ending . . . In such stories, there are no loose ends. There are no unraveled edges and crooked threads. Daughters do not give their hearts to the enemy. The wicked do not simply disappear, taking with them the satisfaction of vengeance. Young men do not find themselves divided between two worlds. Fathers know their children.
But this was my own story.
Daughter of the Forest may have a happy ending, but is not a happy tale. It is full of terrible ironies, of monsters and men, of betrayals and heartbreak and endurance.
And it is absolutely beautiful.
Sorcha is the first daughter who should have been the seventh son. Her mother did not survive her birth, and her parents had loved each other so deeply that her father never fully recovered from the loss.
Instead he threw himself into the protection of his lands, and plotting to win back the three islands of great spiritual significance, stolen by the Britons.
On the rare occasions he was at home:
He didn’t smile at me. Or at Finbar. Finbar said that was because we reminded Father of our mother, who had died. We were the two who inherited her curling, wild hair. I had her green eyes, and Finbar her gift for stillness. Besides, by being born I had killed her.
(It burrrrrrrrns us, preciousssssssssssssss.)
But Sorcha had her six elder brothers who carried her along with them on their adventures, and so she was happy.
For a time.
But as her brothers grew, they began to leave, campaigning with their father, and when the eldest became engaged, Sorcha knew that no matter how hard she fought against it, her world was forever changing.
And when the brother she has always been closest to enlists her help in freeing a prisoner, she begins her journey down a path with trials so numerous that the Fair Folk themselves have warned her of what she will face before the end.
I laughed. I cried. I raged. I pleaded. I loved, and my heart was broken. All b/c of this book.
If it wasn’t for an ugly rape scene, Daughter of the Forest would have been my second 5.0 star read in over a year, so if you absolutely cannot handle that sort of thing, you have been duly warned. If you’re unsure, I strongly suggest you check out Kat Kennedy ‘s review on Goodreads. BUT. If you think you can handle it . . . I know this isn’t the first time I’ve sung Juliet Marillier’s praises, but this time I entreat you: if you love fantasy at all, if you love fairy tales or retellings at all, read this book.
It is magic.
Poison (Tales from the Kingdoms, #1) by Sarah Pinborough
A beautiful, sexy, contemporary retelling of the classic Snow White fairy tale, illustrated by Les Edwards.
Poison is a beautifully illustrated retelling of the Snow White story which takes all the elements of the classic fairy tale that we love (the handsome prince, the jealous queen, the beautiful girl and, of course, the poisoning) and puts a modern spin on the characters, their motives and their desires. It’s fun, contemporary, sexy, and perfect for fans of Once Upon a Time, Grimm, Snow White and the Huntsman and more.
Notable Review by Mariah Roze
Wow! I really enjoyed this book. I normally don’t like remakes of fairytales, but I really enjoyed this one. Also, I am normally not much of a fan of fantasy, but this book was so easy and smooth to read.
My friend went to Canada to her visit family and bought this book. We both are enjoying it so much that she bought the other two stories in the series on Amazon and we are going to read it for book club 🙂
There were parts in this book that seemed a little random and didn’t fit, so that is why it is only a 4 star. However, I really enjoyed the read and its only 200 pages so it went very fast.
The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories by Angela Carter
Angela Carter was a storytelling sorceress, the literary godmother of Neil Gaiman, David Mitchell, Audrey Niffenegger, J. K. Rowling, Kelly Link, and other contemporary masters of supernatural fiction. In her masterpiece, The Bloody Chamber—which includes the story that is the basis of Neil Jordan’s 1984 movie The Company of Wolves—she spins subversively dark and sensual versions of familiar fairy tales and legends like “Little Red Riding Hood,” “Bluebeard,” “Puss in Boots,” and “Beauty and the Beast,” giving them exhilarating new life in a style steeped in the romantic trappings of the gothic tradition.
Notable Review by Amalia Gkavea
“My father lost me to The Beast at cards.”
I knew I was going to love it and my expectations were justifiably high. 10 exceptional short stories paying homage to classic fairy tales and especially to Charles Perrault. From ”Bluebeard” and ”The Beauty and the Beast” to ”Puss -in- Boots” and ”The Snow Child” written in a unique, sensual, dark language.
The Bloody Chamber :In my opinion, the jewel of the collection. This is a story based on “Bluebeard”, one of my favourite fairy tales because I’m weird and I like it:) Seriously, though, this is a beautiful showcase of Carter’s immense talent. She inserts elements from the dawning of Gothic Fiction and crafts a perfect story. The legend of Dracula, Carmilla, the Iron Maiden. As a young woman, who finds herself amidst the journey of marriage to a strange count, discovers sexual liberation, perversion and death. I loved the language in this one, full of underlying sensuality and the blurred line between pleasure and despair.
The Courtship of Mr Lyon : A story based on “Beauty and the Beast”. Carter kept the most well known features of the tale intact. Sometimes, the best retellings are the ones that stay close to the original source and this was definitely the case here.
The Tiger’s Bride : The second story based on “Beauty and the Beast”. A young woman of aristocratic origin travels from Russia to Italy. The Beast becomes a tiger in a tale full of weird twists that make the ending shocking and powerful. Carter shows that finding your identity is essential for both sexes and the descriptions are poetic and vivid. A story of winter and spring…
Puss-in-Boots : A tale based on the story by Giovanni Francesco Straparola. “Puss in Boots” had never been among my favourite fairy tales but Carter manages to combine it with Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia and Figaro is turned into a genius, cynic and all-around spectacular feline. An entertaining story that reads like a true opera buffa.
The Erl-King : Reminiscent of Goethe, the Grimm brothers and the legend of the King of Fairies in Scandinavian folklore. The tale starts with a beautiful description of an autumnal forest, haunting and colourful, full of smells and visions. It is the most sexually charged tale of the collection with beautiful erotic descriptions and a constant battle between innocence and awareness. Love isn’t a blinding force in this story. The maiden doesn’t saintly surrender to her fate. She changes it and prevails.
The Snow Child : There are many versions of this fairy tale. Carter chooses the most shocking, violent, dark variant, a twisted vision of a tormented Snow White. It is a short tale that strikes at the heart with its dark themes of necrophilia, abuse and lethal jealousy.
The Lady of the House of Love :”A girl who is both death and the maiden.” Carter combines the tale of “The Sleeping Beauty”, the legend of Elizabeth Bathory and the tale of Dracula to create a story set in the Carpathian region during the turn of the previous century that is nothing short of a masterpiece.
The Werewolf : It makes me sad that in our current times, books of dubious (to put it mildly) quality have transformed such haunting and fascinating creatures into a fad of a horrible pop culture. Thankfully, writers like Carter do not refuse them the position that centuries of lore have granted to these tortured creatures of the night. A tale based on “Little Red Riding Hood”, enriched with folklore from Walpurgisnacht and with an interesting heroine of dubious motives.
The Company of Wolves”The wolfsong is the sound of the rending you will suffer, in itself a murdering.” A second story based on “Little Red Riding Hood”. The wolf is the protagonist. The beauty, the agility, the danger. Carter makes use of the legends and fables about the werewolf juxtaposed with the innocence of the children and the allure of the forbidden. A story that is open to many interpretations…
Wolf-Alice This is the third story based on “Little Red Riding Hood” and the one fully demonstrating society’s obsession to have us all the same, denying us the right to be what we want to be. A young woman defies religious and social rules and discovers that compassion and companionship are sometimes waiting where we least expect them.
The stories are rich in visual scenes, faithful to the spirit of their original sources and composed of themes that are difficult and demanding. Carter speaks of female emancipation, sexual liberation, the heavy chains of patriarchy and society’s expectations of women. Carter defies the stereotypes and clearly demonstrates the desire for the identity of the heroine who saves herself instead of waiting for the Knight. Even when she falters, it’s by her own choice and she accepts the consequences. What are the canonical fairy tales, in any case? Didactic parables of the notion that “transgressions” turn people into monsters. Anything that doesn’t meet the common expectations of appearance and behavior is considered demonic. But we, as women, don’t need to read tales to discover there are monsters in the world. We’ve seen them. We have been facing them for centuries. We still fight against them. We always will…
It is my sincerest conviction that fairy tales, especially retellings such as these, can reveal more about the human nature than any “serious” novel or philosophical work. Carter’s tales couldn’t have been more meaningful, more relevant to our current times, mirroring issues that concern us constantly. That is if we are willing to look deeper and search for them. These tales are written in beautiful language but this is merely a “technical” issue. What matters is what they try to tell us and show us. This is beyond labels such as “Horror” or “Gothic” or “Literary Fiction”. It is about ourselves and our identities.
“The lamb must learn to run with the tigers”
Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast by Robin McKinley
A strange imprisonment…
Beauty has never liked her nickname. She is thin and awkward; it is her two sisters who are the beautiful ones. But what she lacks in looks, she can perhaps make up for in courage.
When her father comes home with the tale of an enchanted castle in the forest and the terrible promise he had to make to the Beast who lives there, Beauty knows she must go to the castle, a prisoner of her own free will. Her father protests that he will not let her go, but she answers, “Cannot a Beast be tamed?”
Robin McKinley’s beloved telling illuminates the unusual love story of a most unlikely couple, Beauty and the Beast.
Notable Review by Karen
fairy tale retellings are fascinating – i went through a datlow-phase years ago, and i have read many others outside of her collections – it is a comfortable pleasure for me. so, since i am now going on an “introduce myself to the fantasy genre” expedition, this book seemed like the most logical entrée into it all.
beauty and the beast was never one of my favorite fairy tales – i don’t know why, particularly, but i usually preferred the ones that didn’t have a corresponding disney movie which would unavoidably be playing in the back of my head as i was reading them, not to mention the songs – the dreadful songs…
but i really liked this adaptation.
the best thing about this particular version is that mckinley changes the backstory a little bit in a way that makes it more natural and a much better story overall.
most fairy tales operate by isolating the main character. the heroes and heroines are frequently orphans, or abandoned by their parents/stepparents, friendless and forced to make their own way with the occasional animal or supernatural ally. but in this retelling, beauty comes from a loving family. she and her sisters are close, her father loves her deeply, she has a strong sense of community and duty.
the cinderella type, who stoically goes on sweeping and polishing while everyone around her abuses her and enslaves her while she just keeps turning the other cheek as though she is in a morphine daze – i cannot get behind that kind of character, because they seem less human and more symbolic; they are empty. in the original b and the b – of course beauty would go to the beast – what’s she got to keep her where she is?? some shitty sisters and a weak father? (she does love her father in the original, but the rest of her life is pretty easy to leave behind). but in this version, her decision is made out of love and sacrifice and she is giving up so much, that it makes her sympathetic, but not some doormat like so many others, doing “good” because they have been lobotomized sometime in their past. her decision feels more natural considering her background; the sacrifice is greater than that of someone with nothing to lose. this young woman has learned how to love and how to be nurturing from a support system that includes her family, but also includes her neighbors and everyone she meets along the way, in a natural nice-girl way that is never treacly. and she is no gentle delicate flower, either – this girl is a perfect match for the beast.
without that family-oriented background, it is illogical that she would have learned how to be kind, how to be giving, how to care for the beast enough to bring him back to his true form. (there is no way i am putting a spoiler alert on this review, by the way – DO YOU LIVE IN A HOLE???) i think that mckinley made absolutely the right choice by changing the parts she did, and her prose is beautiful and simple and a real treat to read.
and don’t get me started on that library. this is why we need more booknerd heroines in our fairy tales. so books like this can be written.
i think i got muddled somewhere in the middle of all that, but never mind – maybe the brain will make more sense tomorrow…
and if anyone can tell me the fairy tale collection my grandmother had when i was little, i would be so grateful.
Second Hand Curses by Drew Hayes
(Note: I think this is audio only)
When your fairy godmother threatens to enslave you with a curse – when a malevolent piper solves your rat problem but steals your children – when you seek revenge on the prince who turned you into a frog – who can you turn to in your hour of need? The band of scoundrels known far and wide as the Bastard Champions – the swashbuckling trio who travel a world of legend, seeking adventure and righting wrongs – as long as there’s enough gold to be earned. They are Jack, the seemingly unkillable leader whose ever-present grin belies a dark past; Marie, who fights with fury but battles more fiercely to control the beast within; and Frank, the master of logistics, whose cloak hides horrific scars that are far more than skin-deep. As they slash and scheme through kingdom and village alike, the Bastard Champions uncover tantalizing clues to their ultimate quarry: the powerful Blue Fairy, who has made each of their lives a living hell.
Second Hand Curses adds a dash of sly wit and a heaping portion of action to the fairy tales you thought you knew.
Notable Review by Gergana
This is it, guys! THIS is the future of audiobooks! Absolutely brilliant voice acting, different narrators for each of the main cast, wonderful jo~ oh, wait…I’m supposed to talk about the book as well.
Second Hand Curses is…. entertaining, hilarious, action-packed, dark and, although I’ve seen novels using fairytale characters before, this one is so well-thought-out that it definitely stands out! Nevertheless, it wasn’t enough for me to give it a 5-star rating, but I would definitely give it around 4.
PROS include the:
-Awesome setting (imagine a mix between the fairytale stories and a dark fantasy world, like The Witcher or something) all fairytale heroes and villains come alive, from Cinderella to the Frankenstein monster, and it’s up to our heroes to solve mysteries, kill witches, save children from evil pipers and help damsels in distress (all for the fair price, of course).
-Three compelling, mysterious protagonists whose juicy past is slowly revealed as you go on. It’s great to see three people who are so different from each other manage to work together.
-AUDIOBOOK – IT’S SO GOOD!!!
-The Main deity is called The Narrator
-Structure – Each chapter, for the most part, focuses on one fairy tale story and how our heroes resolve the problem in it. The result is, although we learn a lot about the world, it takes a long time until we find out more about the main characters and relate to them.
I can’t believe that something as childish and innocent as fairy tales could be turn into a dark fantasy adventure with a great world-building and interesting twists to the classic stories, but Second Hand Curses is a pretty good attempt.
Is it one of the most amazing books I’ve ever read – far from it. But for what it’s worth, it’s entertaining and worth checking out the sequel.
Would I recommend to a friend? Hmmm…if you’re an audiobook fanatic like me, then yes. Otherwise, I would recommend checking out more reviews 😉
Hunted by Meagan Spooner
Beauty knows the Beast’s forest in her bones—and in her blood. Though she grew up with the city’s highest aristocrats, far from her father’s old lodge, she knows that the forest holds secrets and that her father is the only hunter who’s ever come close to discovering them.
So when her father loses his fortune and moves Yeva and her sisters back to the outskirts of town, Yeva is secretly relieved. Out in the wilderness, there’s no pressure to make idle chatter with vapid baronessas…or to submit to marrying a wealthy gentleman. But Yeva’s father’s misfortune may have cost him his mind, and when he goes missing in the woods, Yeva sets her sights on one prey: the creature he’d been obsessively tracking just before his disappearance.
Deaf to her sisters’ protests, Yeva hunts this strange Beast back into his own territory—a cursed valley, a ruined castle, and a world of creatures that Yeva’s only heard about in fairy tales. A world that can bring her ruin or salvation. Who will survive: the Beauty, or the Beast?
Notable Review by Emily May
“She wept because she did not know what she wanted, and because she wanted everything.”
4 1/2 stars. Wow, this was… unexpected. I got an arc of Hunted from edelweiss months ago. After putting it off again and again for other books, I decided to let it expire. Seriously, who even needs another Beauty & the Beast retelling? Then this book was given to me as a gift and resigned sigh I decided to just give it a shot. And I’m so glad I did.
Cruel Beauty is still my favourite Beauty & the Beast retelling, but this comes in at a close second. It obviously follows the familiar B&tB format, whilst doing something completely new and fresh with it. I loved what it did. I love the new themes the author explores in this old template.
It’s a haunting, well-written story. Full of icy coldness, the language of fairy tales, and underneath, a running theme of that inexplicable longing for something you can’t quite put your finger on. Maybe it’s like wanderlust – that restlessness and dissatisfaction with staying in one place for too long. Maybe it’s just wanting without knowing what you want. It’s powerful, though, and Spooner captures that feeling so wonderfully here.
Surprisingly, it’s very… not romantic. There is no time given over to lusty encounters and stolen kisses with a somehow sexy beast. Rather, the relationship between Beauty and this Beast is one between two outsiders who see something they recognize in one another. Yeva (aka “Beauty”) is a trained hunter and she remains dedicated to her passion and her family throughout.
The setting is inspired by rural medieval Russia. Lots of coldness, snow and ice, and it fits with the tale very well. Yeva and her father navigate this white-covered wilderness in their hunting, but then Yeva’s father starts rambling about a beast unlike any other. A beast that is smart and cunning. A beast that is following him.
The snow is a canvas, her father would say, upon which the beast paints his past, his home, his intentions, his future. Learn to see the picture and you will know him as you know yourself.
When he doesn’t return from a hunting trip, Yeva leaves her beloved sisters to go track him. Of course, she finds way more than she bargained for. Not just a beast, but a whole world of fantastical creatures that seem to play by a different set of rules. But Yeva knows these rules; they’re the rules of the fairy tales her father always read to her. The rule of threes. The rule of curses. The rule of breaking them.
Yeva is determined to kill the beast and return to her family. But her quest to kill the seemingly unkillable creature unveils ever more secrets, and the longer she spends in this world, the more she worries what world she will find when she leaves.
Despite having read so many retellings these past few years, Hunted found a special place in my heart. It was thoughtful, moving and – for me – unputdownable.
Lost in the Never Woods by Aiden Thomas
When children go missing in the small coastal town of Astoria, people look to Wendy for answers.
It’s been five years since Wendy and her two brothers went missing in the woods, but when the town’s children start to disappear, the questions surrounding her brothers’ mysterious circumstances are brought back into light. Attempting to flee her past, Wendy almost runs over an unconscious boy lying in the middle of the road, and gets pulled into the mystery haunting the town.
Peter, a boy she thought lived only in her stories, claims that if they don’t do something, the missing children will meet the same fate as her brothers. In order to find them and rescue the missing kids, Wendy must confront what’s waiting for her in the woods.
Notable Review by Debra
It has been five years since Wendy Darling and her two younger brothers, John and Michael, went missing in the woods. Now other children have gone missing. It is a painful reminder to Wendy and her family that while Wendy was found, her brothers were not.
One night Wendy almost runs over a boy lying in the street. A boy who asks, “You forgot about me?” His name is Peter. A boy, she thought only existed in stories. The ones her mother told her and the ones she tells the children at the hospital where she volunteers.
He needs her help! They must go into the woods….
A YA retelling of Peter Pan! This book touches on many things in a brilliant way. Through the book we see guilt, withdraw of emotions, missing children, fairy tales, love, loss, grief, memories, mental health, and friendship. Who could not feel for Wendy and her family? Parents who do not know where their sons are. The grief, stress, and heartache of their sons being missing. Wendy feels guilty for being found, guilty for being with her brothers when they all went missing, and we see a father who emotionally withdraws from his child when she is found but his sons are not and a mother who works long hours perhaps to avoid being home.
Peter represents childhood, innocence, wonder, fun, magic and the ability to make things be/feel okay again. He is like a safety net with possibilities. But what happens when a safety net needs help? Peter and Wendy are both likeable characters who both need each other. Both want to help others, yet both needs help themselves. So much more could be said about the characters (and plot) in this book, the metaphors and the hidden magic. But I will let you discover them.
Thankfully, the heavy subjects brought up in this book were handled/addressed with grace and care. There is also humor, magic and hope in this book. It is both heartbreaking and heartwarming. There were times I wanted the book to move a little faster, it felt like it slowed down quite a bit in the middle of the book. If you feel this way, stick with this book as it gears up again!
This is a YA book, but it is enjoyable for all. Fans of retellings, fairy tales, Peter Pan, and those who are a child at heart will enjoy this book.
Thank you to Macmillan Children’s Publishing and NetGalley who provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All the thoughts and opinions are my own.
Read more of my reviews at www.openbookposts.com
A Rush of Wings by Laura E. Weymouth
Rowenna Winthrop has always known there’s magic within her. But though she hears voices on the wind and possesses unusual talents, her mother Mairead believes Rowenna lacks discipline, and refuses to teach her the craft that keeps their Scottish village safe. When Mairead dies a sinister death, it seems Rowenna’s one chance to grow into her power has passed. Then, on a fateful, storm-tossed night, Rowenna rescues a handsome stranger named Gawen from a shipwreck, and her mother miraculously returns from the dead. Or so it appears.
This resurrected Mairead is nothing like the old one: to hide her new and monstrous nature, she turns Rowenna’s brothers and Gawen into swans and robs Rowenna of her voice. Forced to flee, Rowenna travels to the city of Inverness to find a way to break the curse. But monsters take many forms, and in Inverness Rowenna is soon caught in a web of strangers who want to use her raw magic for their own gain. If she wishes to save herself and the people she loves most, Rowenna will have to take her fate into her own hands, and unlock the power that has evaded her for so long.
Content warnings are available via the author’s website.
Notable Review by Anna Bright
ok but why is Laura so good at writing characters who are sharp as cut glass but also SO SO vulnerable
Outlander meets an old classic in A RUSH OF WINGS, Laura E. Weymouth’s retelling of the seven swans. Chock-full of cold, coastal atmosphere and ancient magic, RUSH also features Weymouth’s signature, a fully-drawn cast of characters who are by turns prickly, stern, deceptive, cruel, and vulnerable. Another success from a brilliant author.
Vote Here for Round One
Choose your top five books for round one.
- The Wrath and the Dawn (The Wrath and the Dawn, #1) by Renée Ahdieh (16%, 10 Votes)
- The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden (9%, 6 Votes)
- Kringle by Tony Abbott (8%, 5 Votes)
- Troll's-Eye View: A Book of Villainous Tales by Ellen Datlow (8%, 5 Votes)
- Six-Gun Snow White by Catherynne M. Valente (8%, 5 Votes)
- Lost in the Never Woods by Aiden Thomas (8%, 5 Votes)
- Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik (8%, 5 Votes)
- Second Hand Curses by Drew Hayes (8%, 5 Votes)
- Daughter of the Forest (Sevenwaters, #1) by Juliet Marillier (6%, 4 Votes)
- Ash by Malinda Lo (6%, 4 Votes)
- A Rush of Wings by Laura E. Weymouth (6%, 4 Votes)
- Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast by Robin McKinley (3%, 2 Votes)
- Hunted by Meagan Spooner (3%, 2 Votes)
- Poison (Tales from the Kingdoms, #1) by Sarah Pinborough (2%, 1 Votes)
- The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories by Angela Carter (2%, 1 Votes)
Total Voters: 13