fairy tale retelling

The Bachelor Goes Beast Slaying in “The Great Hunt”

22428707The Great Hunt by Wendy Higgins
HarperTeen: March 8, 2016
Genre: Historical Fantasy
Source: Free From Publisher

Beach Vacation
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The Great Hunt is a romantic, historical fantasy, and as a romance, I thought this one was pretty good. However, there were several times I felt that suspension of disbelief was required and because I really couldn’t shut off the logical side of my brain, I had a hard time enjoying this one as much as it deserves.

There is a beast stalking the kingdom of Lochlanach. The commoners are being targeted and its only when the betrothed of the king’s niece is killed that the king finally decides to act. The king’s army can’t kill the beast, and the king is losing the support of his subjects. To gain the manpower to track and kill the beast, the king offers his eldest daughter, and heir to the throne as the prize. The hunter that successfully kills the beast wins Princess Aerity’s hand in marriage.

Entering the contest is Paxton Seabolt, a young man of nineteen that wants to kill the beast that is ravaging his people and avoid marriage to the presumably pampered princess. Alongside his brother and the other contestants, Paxton hunts for the beast only to discover that this is no natural beast; there is something otherworldly about it, something that will have huge repercussions for Lochlanach. (more…)

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Joint Review: “Uprooted” Exceeds Expectations

22544764Uprooted by Naomi Novik
Del Rey: May 19, 2015 (Fantasy Romance; Retellings)*

The Book…

Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.

But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.

The Outstanding Adventure…

Uprooted was a wonderful read, in fact, both Stacey and I rated this one an outstanding adventure! Of course, that doesn’t mean that we didn’t love different things about the book. (more…)

Straying from the Path in “Crimson Bound”

21570318Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge
Balzer + Bray: May 5, 2015 (Fantasy; Young Adult)*

Beach Vacation
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“Something my aunt told me once. She said that you always had to choose between the path of needles and the path of pins. When a dress is torn, you know, you can pin it up, or you can take the time to sew it together. That’s what it means. The quick and easy way, or the painful way that works.”

Crimson Bound was another beautifully written fairy tale retelling from Hodge, this time taking on Little Red Riding Hood. Having read and loved her Cruel Beauty, I was highly anticipating another wonderfully twisted tale. While I enjoyed Crimson Bound, I did find it darker than expected.

Rachelle was fifteen when she was marked by the forestborn. Within three days she had killed and became one of the bloodbound. Rather than remain in her village for the inevitable punishment, Rachelle fled to the city and swore service to the king in the effort to make up for her crime in some way. Three years later, Rachelle is still fighting but when she discovers the Devourer is set to return and with it the Great Forest and the forestborn that will destory humanity, Rachelle decides that she must act. Rachelle wants to take her revenge on the forestborn that tempted her from straying from the path and her penance for her sins will be stopping the Devourer and forfeiting her life by finding the sword that will kill him. (more…)

Year in Preview: 2015 Reading Itinerary

I am so far behind. Obviously this post would be more meaningful in January. But, “better late than never,” right? Right? I think so, too. So read on for some of my most anticipated books that will be published in 2015 (images before blurbs):

The synopsis of this one brings to mind so many good books: The Scarlet Pimpernel, the Secret History of the Pink Carnation, and The Forbidden Rose. I can’t wait to read it!

A mishmash of Caribbean legend, zombies, and urban fantasy set in New York City, this book looks like a wild ride.

OK, the first thing that made me want to read this book is its cover. I know the old adage, but who actually follows that? But then, I was hooked by the lost princess working on a pirate ship, with an attractive captain and a curse that brings (and keeps) them together. Helloooo, pirate adventure romance!

Every book I read by Sarah J. Maas is better than the last. So you can probably see why I’m excited about her newest series, which reworks The Beauty and The Beast with faerie lore. A young huntress kills a wolf in the woods, gets dragged to Faerie, and is held captive by Tamlin…

Unlike Sarah J. Maas, I did not enjoy the previous books by Naomi Novik (full disclosure, I only read the first in the series about Temeraire). But Uprooted looks fantastic. About a dragon, who supposedly eats maidens from a nearby village, and a maiden from said village who knows better… but still doesn’t know what’s in store for her when she gets chosen by him. (I’m assuming that last, because she’s the protagonist, so it’s obvious, right?).

I’ve never read Holly Black, but I have read good reviews of her works, which have intrigued me. A topsy-turvy take on Sleeping Beauty, with love, betrayal, and complex relationships in a faerie setting, this one is first by this author on my to-read list.

In a setting parallel universes and Travelers who can journey between them at will, Kell is a young magician who gets caught up in treason and flees to a different London, where he runs into a young cut-purse who demands her own adventures and drags him along as her ride. Unique and with what looks like an engaging sense of humor, this book definitely fits on my most-anticipated list. As a bonus, it features a male main character, which is unusual for the books I read.

One for the historical mysteries sub-genre. Set in 1543, it follows a young woman who is also an alchemist, as she gets caught up in a poisoning investigation.

This one is intriguing, but I can’t, based on the description, actually figure out how badly I want to read it.

In steampunk Seattle, a young woman working in a bordello witnesses trouble and change – a man whose machine can control minds, and the brutal murder of a young streetwalker.

**This list tells me that I need to read more science fiction in 2015. Among other things…

Disappointment in “Princess of Thorns”

18782855Princess of Thorns by Stacey Jay
Delacorte Press: December 9, 2014 (Young Adult; Fantasy)*

My Rating: Beach Vacation vintagesuitcase3vintagesuitcase3vintagesuitcase3

The Princess of Thorns is a fairy tale retelling, but it plays around with the certain elements creating a fully developed novel. Princess Aurora is the daughter of Sleeping Beauty, and when her mother sacrificed her life to give her fairy gifts to her daughter, Aurora became more:

Knowing that the end was near, Sleeping Beauty embraced her eldest daughter, Princess Aurora, and wished for the girl to be granted fairy blessings. But it was not for grace, or beauty, or the gift of song that the beauty wished…

No, what Sleeping Beauty wished for is for her daughter to be strong and a fighter; she knows that Aurora will be in for the fight of her life if she hopes to survive the ogre queen bent on her destruction. But, like most fairy blessings, this one also goes awry. Sleeping Beauty also wished that Aurora will bow to no man, and instead Aurora is fated to steal the free will of any man that dares love her. With one kiss, they will only serve Aurora, becoming a shell of the person they once were.

When the ogre queen takes her younger brother, Jor, captive, Aurora decides that it’s time to raise an army and free her brother, and maybe take back her throne. When she’s rescued by Prince Niklaas, Aurora thinks maybe she can find her army with his help, and leads the prince to believe that she is her brother, nicknamed “Ror”. If only Niklaas wasn’t quite so insistent that he’s going to marry Ror’s sister… (more…)

A Cinderella Story in “The Prince Who Loved Me”

21412371The Prince Who Loved Me by Karen Hawkins (The Oxenburg Princes #1)
September 23, 2014, Pocket Books (Historical Romance)*

My rating: Beach vacation (3/5)

In The Prince Who Love Me, Hawkins gives readers a historical romance Cinderella story. This lighthearted romantic tale is full of humour as it follows what happens when an outrageous and self-indulgent prince meets his practical Cinderella. Sparks fly between Prince Alexsey Romanovin and Miss Bronwyn Murdoch when they first meet, but meddling relatives are there to fan the flames.

Bronwyn Murdoch is a practical girl, concerned more with books and assisting her father with his inventions than catching a husband. At the advanced age of twenty-four, she considers herself on the shelf and is more than happy to help her step-mother find husbands for her step-sisters; thankfully taking the focus off herself. At least Bronwyn was content until she encountered Alexsey Romanovin, a man who seems to have stepped off the pages of the romances she loves so much. Just what exactly has she been missing? (more…)

This time, Rapunzel’s story

rueSold for Endless Rue by Madeleine E. Robins
Published by Forge Books, May 14, 2013 (Historical Fiction)

My rating: I’ll definitely go here again / Outstanding adventure! (4.5)

In keeping with our theme of late – that is, fairy tale retellings, I add to our list Rapunzel’s story, as told by Madeleine E. Robins, in Sold for Endless Rue.

As the blurb says, this book does explain why Rapunzel’s mother/witch locked her in a tower. It tells the story compellingly and convincingly, with fully believable human failings and motives. A masterful blend of historical fiction and the familiar “Rapunzel” fairy tale, Sold for Endless Rue enchants readers with stories about the three women central to the original fairy tale.

In the first narrative, Laura, a young girl running from captivity, hides in the home of a mountainside healer named Crescia. She becomes the healer’s apprentice, studying and working hard to continue Crescia’s good works. Eventually, her tale brings her to Salerno, where she studies to be the first female physician in her lifetime. In the second tale, Agnesa, young wife of a merchant family scion, moves in next door to the medica, and they become friendly neighbors. In the third and final story, Laura’s young daughter struggles between doing her duty to her adoptive mother and following her heart.

(more…)

Cinder – my favorite Cinderella

cinderCinder by Marissa Meyer
Feiwel & Friends, January 3rd, 2012 (Science Fiction/Fairy Tale Retellings)
My rating: I’ll definitely go here again, even though there were a few problems with my reservation (3.5 stars)

Cinder is the most unique version of the Cinderella story that I have ever read. And it’s not just unique, it’s well-written, fast-paced, full of adventure and danger, as well as a very well-drawn heroine.

Cinder, a young cyborg living in the imperial city of New Beijing some time after the Fourth World War destroyed the earth, predictably lives with her uncaring stepmother and two stepsisters. New Beijing is the capital of the Eastern Commonwealth, one of a handful of continental nations whose union grew out of the devastation of the Fourth World War – supposedly, the people of Earth decided that greater governments and nations would be more peaceful. It is a city where androids have existed for centuries to serve humans. In opposition to the inhabitants of Earth is the powerful, cruel, and mysterious Lunar queen, who rules the people that live on the long-ago colonized Moon. Said to have powers that can control others’ emotions and thoughts, they are feared throughout the nations on Earth. For years, she has been pushing for an alliance with the emperor of the Eastern Commonwealth, who successfully resisted. But, the empire must deal with another enemy: the plague. When disaster strikes the palace, it is up to Prince Kai to protect his realm from the Lunar queen.

(more…)

A Cruel Fairy Tale in ‘Cruel Beauty’

15839984Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodges
January 28, Balzer & Bray (Fantasy, Young Adult)*

My rating: I’d go there again! (4/5)

Cruel Beauty was an interesting read, and it’s one that I’ve put off reviewing as I wasn’t really sure what to make of it. It’s part Beauty and the Beast and part Persephone and Hades retelling. It was the comparisons to Beauty and the Beast that drew me in, and while I was not expecting the allusions to Greek mythology, it somehow worked.

Nyx has been promised to Ignifex since birth, and the day has finally come when she will marry him. This will be no happy marriage, as Nyx has been trained to kill him when she gets the opportunity, ending the curse that enslaves her country, Arcadia.

Naturally, Nyx’s actual meeting of Ignifex changes things considerably. Rather than attacking her once they meet, Ignifex gives Nyx the single rule that she must follow:

Every night I will offer you the chance to guess my name.”

It was so completely unexpected that it took me a moment just to understand the words, and then I tensed, sure that his rules were about to turn into a threat or mockery. But Ignifex went on, as calmly as if all husbands said such things. “If you guess right, you have your freedom. If you guess wrong, you die.” (p. 44-45)

Nyx doesn’t expect to gain her freedom. She never expected to live period. She would kill Ignifex and likely die trying. So when Ignifex gives her another option, Nyx is completely baffled and her plan is thrown off course:

Why wasn’t my hatred simple anymore? (p. 130)

The writing in Cruel Beauty was quite beautiful. The whole book had a fairy tale flavour that I really liked. Even the dark themes reminded me of classic fairy tales. The world building was also lovely and I loved how the world of Arcadia was described. For a world so intricate, it was described perfectly and simply.

While I loved the writing and the use of fairy tales and folklore, what made this novel outstanding was the character of Nyx. She was an unusual young woman. She was selected to be the “hero” for her family and free Arcadia, but she resented this fact. She didn’t want to be the hero, she didn’t like her family much, she bordered on hatred for her sister who would get to live and was showered with their father’s attentions. In a sense, her family’s grooming of Nyx to be the savior, left her vulnerable to Ignifex and his attention to her:

I had been waiting, all my life, for someone undeceived to love me. And now he did. (p. 149)

I liked these qualities in Nyx. I think this contrasted nicely with the more one-dimensional nature of a fairy tale story. Fairy tales tend to be short and sweet, but Nyx was complex. Her choices weren’t right or wrong, and there was no easy answer for her. This conflict was beautifully executed.

Cruel Beauty was a fascinating look at the Beauty and the Beast story. And while I’m not overly familiar with Greek mythology, I thought the inclusion of this with a more traditional fairy tale was surprising in the best possible way. This was a lovely story and I would recommend it to fans of fairy tale retellings and fantasy alike.

*Review copy provided by the publisher via Edelweiss.

Similar Reads

Howl's Moving Castle (Howl's Moving Castle, #1)The Assassin's Curse (The Assassin's Curse, #1)Scarlet (Lunar Chronicles, #2)

Howl’s Moving Castle: This seems like a odd choice, but there’s something about Cruel Beauty that immediately brought this book to mind. I guess it’s more of a children’s version, with lots of curses to keep the intrepid heroine on her toes.

The Assassin’s Curse: Like Ignifex, Naji is cursed and only the pirate heroine will be able to break it, but at what cost?

Scarlet: This is book two in Meyer’s sci-fi fairy tale retellings and it’s amazing! If you like the fairy tale aspect of Cruel Beauty you need to check out this series. This one features a re-imagining of Little Red Riding Hood, and like Nyx and Ignifex, Scarlet and Wolf do not have an auspicious start.