Tag: fairy tale

October 13, 2017

The History of Fairy Tales | Beauty and the Beast

the stats

first recorded version: 1740

author: Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve

original title: “La Belle et la Bête”

 

the story

Once upon a time, a young girl lived with her rich merchant father and six siblings. The two oldest sisters, wicked at heart, treated book-loving Beauty like a servant instead of their sister. Soon, their father loses his ships in a storm and is forced to move his family away from their lavish lifestyle to a small home. However, years later he discovers one of the presumably-doomed ships from the missing fleet has returned, so he sets off to investigate. Before leaving, he asks each of his children what they would like for a present upon his return. Beauty asks simply for a rose.

On the way home to his children, the merchant gets lost and stumbles across a gorgeous palace. When the door opens, he takes advantage to get out of the storm and spend the night. As he is about to leave, he spots a rose garden and plucks a flower for his youngest daughter. Unfortunately, this decision comes with a price: his death or, on the condition she never know the bargain, his daughter’s life. The merchant chooses the latter and resumes his journey home.

Beauty, learning of the bargain, heads to the castle to uphold her end of the deal. The Beast greats her as mistress of the castle and, at the conclusion of every evening, asks her to marry him. She politely declines.

Beauty spends her days with the Beast, her nights haunted by a mysterious handsome prince who demands to know why she consistently denies the Beast’s offer of marriage. Yet she begins to long for home and asks permission to leave the castle for a visit to her family. The Beast agrees, giving her an enchanted ring that she need only turn three times to return, and a magic mirror.

Beauty’s sisters are green with envy when she returns and devise a plan to compromise her life with the Beast. They convince Beauty to stay past her original plans. When Beauty uses the mirror to  check on the Beast, she discovers he is lying unconcious, hurting from a broken heart. She returns and, crying, professes her love for him. As her tears fall onto him, the curse is broken and he becomes man again. They are married and live happily ever after.

the inspiration

While Beauty and the Beast may have been influenced by the popular 2nd century story of “Cupid and Psyche,” it was also supposedly intendd to prepare young girls in 18th century France for arranged marriage (source). Make of that what you will.

the versions around the world

Without a doubt, this tale is as old as time…and just as varied.

  • The Pig King by Giovanni Francesco, Italy
  • The Scarlet Flower by Sergey Aksakov, Russia (1858)
  • Beauty and the Beast…The Story Retold by Laura E. Richards, England (1886)

did you know?

  • Disney’s Beast is a mashup of many different animals
  • While the story was first recorded in 1740, historians belive it originated some 400 years ago
  • Beauty and the Beast is among the first pieces of literature that reflect the changing social norm surrouding appearance

takeaways

Don’t judge a book by it’s cover

Image result for beauty and the beast gif

Posted October 13, 2017 by Ellen in history of fairy tales / 0 Comments
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June 15, 2017

Review | Heartless by Marissa Meyer

Review | Heartless by Marissa MeyerHeartless by Marissa Meyer
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends, November 2016
Pages: 453
Format: Hardcover
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Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland and a favorite of the unmarried King, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, she wants to open a shop and create delectable pastries. But for her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for a woman who could be a queen.

At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the King’s marriage proposal, she meets handsome and mysterious Jest. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the King and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into a secret courtship.

Cath is determined to choose her own destiny. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.

The Queen of Hearts is one of those mythical figures in literature, a character so intense in their present state that we forget they were once more (or less) than they are now. From Voldemort to the Joker so many villains get to tell their side of the story in today’s novels. It’s time, don’t you think, for the Queen of Hearts to share hers?

I was thrilled when I saw Marissa Meyer was writing a take on Alice in Wonderland. After The Lunar Chronicles had ended, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on her next book and immediately pre-ordered it. Unfortunately, it wasn’t all I hoped.

In all fairness, I probably cracked this up in my head more than it should be. Cath (our pre-Queen of Hearts) is a sweet girl, devoted to her baking and desperately wants to leave the court to open her own bakery with her friend. Yet without her parents’ permission and financial support, Cath’s in a bind. Her parents would rather she marry a nice (preferably rich) man who would take care of their eccentric daughter. Lo and behold, the King of Hearts soon reveals he has his eye on her, but too late; Cath is entranced by the court joker.

The courtship of Jest (the Joker) and Cath is sweet, edged with just a hint of danger. Both know nothing can come of it, and with the king’s eye on Cath, she’s all but queen. But her little rebellion livens up what is otherwise a slow narrative in Heartless.

Without the fast pace of The Lunar Chronicles, Cath’s story fell flat. Instead, Meyer pumps up each supporting character’s primary characteristic: the king gets more ludicrous, the Cat more mysterious, the Hatter more…well, mad. With a great narration, the characters’ eccentricities wouldn’t have been as noticeable, but instead, they are left to carry the weight of the story.

Cath herself started to border on whiny, making it hard to stick with her through the slow portions of Heartless (and as much as I hate to say it, there were quite a few). I stopped caring about her; really, by the end, View Spoiler »

The transformation from Cath to the Queen at the end of the book stole the show. I might reread that section just to revel in the change. As for the rest of the story? Not for me.

3 Stars

Posted June 15, 2017 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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October 14, 2016

Review | Roses by Rose Mannering

Review | Roses by Rose ManneringRoses by G.R. Mannering, Rose Mannering
Series: The Tales Trilogy, #1
Publisher: Sky Pony Press, June 2016
Pages: 328
Format: Ebook
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She bears no name. Her silvery appearance is freakish to the numerous inhabitants of Sago, the cosmopolitan capital of Pevorocco in the Western Realm. With her mother vanishing at the instance of her birth, she is sent to live with the cruel, rich Ma Dane, where she is punished daily for something, though she knows not what. Tauntingly named Beauty, she flees Sago in a violent uprising that sets out to massacre all Magics and journeys to the farthest point of the country.
But Beauty cannot hide in the grassy Hillands forever. Before long, the State officials find her and threaten to take her back to war-torn Sago where death surely awaits. In a midnight blizzard she escapes them, running into a deep, enchanted forest to a great and terrible beast who will bargain for her life.
But can Beauty accept Beast? Eternity is a long time. Now for the first time in paperback, Roses is sure to capture your heart as you fall in love with Beauty and her Beast all over again.
For readers 12+, this is a very imaginative, fantasy retelling of a classic fairy tale, which is still popular to the YA genre. With lessons about bullying others and falling in love, this is not only a light, fun read but also engages kids to think about their relationship to others in the real world.

Roses isn’t quite what I expected it to be.

First, when I read it was a Beauty and the Beast retelling, I expected it to be the story of Beauty and the Beast. While that element is in Roses, it isn’t the main story. Instead, it tells how Beauty became Beauty, starting back with her mysterious birth, subsequent abandonment, and sad childhood at the hands of her aunt (more on this later). Parts I loved, parts I didn’t, but it wasn’t the story I chose.

Other reviewers have pointed out Roses‘ confused story lines, and I have to agree. The novel splits into two distinct plots: Beauty’s mysterious past/family and the more familiar fairy tale story. Mannering tries to combine the story lines to create a cohesive novel, but they didn’t mesh. Instead, it felt like two distinct novels.

I found the same lack of consistency when it came to Beauty’s aunt, a woman who isn’t comfortable with Magic and spurns it in her apparently Magical niece. Instead of a Harry Potter situation (Harry knew his relationship to the Dursleys), Beauty’s aunt doesn’t disclose her relationship. Instead, she varies in her treatment of Beauty, giving her the cold shoulder at times, trotting her out to show her friends, and occasionally letting a little warmth shine through. Her ambivalence and occasional cruelty were never really explained or tied back to the fairy tale retelling.

I wish there was more explanation to the worldbuilding in Roses. It was unusual: Magical beings were persecuted after a civil war spreads throughout the continent. It added to the Beauty’s past storyline but didn’t make much sense in the fairy tale retelling. I would have loved a further connection to this worldbuilding in the novel.

The saving grace? When the narration turned over to the fairy tale retelling. It was stunning. I loved the outlines, the little descriptions that referenced the Disney movie, and the Beast himself. It was easy to believe the story’s magic, to fall into their world.

3 Stars

Posted October 14, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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October 10, 2016

Review | Armageddeon Rules by J.C. Nelson

Review | Armageddeon Rules by J.C. NelsonArmageddon Rules by J.C. Nelson
Series: Grimm Agency, #2
Publisher: Ace, February 2015
Pages: 336
Format: Paperback
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Marissa Locks, newly appointed partner of the Grimm Agency, has a reputation for making a mess of magical matters—although causing Armageddon is a new low, even for her…
Marissa is due for a little happily ever after. After all, she did kill the evil Fairy Godmother, end a war, and snag a sweet promotion within the Fairy Godfather's magical-problem-solving Agency. But between maintaining a relationship with someone whose amorous advances can cause third-degree burns, dealing with a killer-poodle infestation, and helping her best friend, Princess Ari, learn to wield spells more powerful than curing a hangover, she’s not getting as much peace and quiet as she hoped.
When an enemy from her past appears to exact a terrible revenge, Marissa’s life goes from hectic to hell on earth. With Grimm inexplicably gone and Ari trapped by a sleeping spell, Marissa decides to fight fire with hellfire—and accidentally begins a countdown to the apocalypse.
With the end of days extremely nigh, Marissa will have to master royal politics, demonic law, and biblical plagues in a hurry—because even the end of the world can’t keep the Agency from opening for business…

I was stunned to discover a light-hearted book about Armageddon, yet Nelson’s Armageddon Rules is exactly that. It’s light, silly, a little fluffy, and just fun.

In her mind, Marissa Locks has paid her due. She saved the day in Free Agent and is looking forward to a little relaxation – well, as much relaxation as a partner in Grimm’s agency can get. Loaded down with evil poodles, lost princesses, and lusty princes, Marissa has her hands full. Then the world erupts in chaos.

Grimm is unreachable, and soon, Marissa finds herself trapped into organizing the beginning of Armageddon.

Normally, I wouldn’t find Armageddon funny, but I loved the hilarity that Nelson brought to it. Everything, from the demons orchestrating it to Marissa’s take on the dreaded plagues, was just funny. It also brought out a deeper side of not only Marissa but Grimm, the all-knowing fairy godfather. I loved the depth that the lighthearted nature of the book brought to their relationship and how it intensified the characterizations. Instead of simply being the man in the mirror (hah), Grimm became a person of emotions and history.

I didn’t like how quickly Marissa’s relationship had progressed with Liam, her cursed boyfriend (no, the girl does nothing halfway). When we left them at the end of Free Agent, they were just starting a relationship. In Armageddeon Rules, their relationship has moved up multiple levels, leaving me feeling like I had to rush to catch up. I felt like I had missed out on crucial parts of their relationship, parts that I would have loved to read.

Armageddeon Rules is first and foremost a humorous urban fantasy. I love the world that Nelson has created: the magic hiding in plain sight only empowers the storyline. There’s one final book in the Grimm series, and I can’t wait to get my hands on it.

4 Stars

Posted October 10, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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September 12, 2016

Review | Delphine by Richard Sala

Review | Delphine by Richard SalaDelphine by Richard Sala
Publisher: Fantagraphics, January 2013
Pages: 128
Format: Hardcover
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A mysterious traveler gets off the train in a small village surrounded by a thick, sinister forest. He is searching for Delphine, who vanished with only a scrawled-out address on a scrap of paper as a trace. In his newest chiller, Richard Sala takes the tale of Snow White and stands it on its head, retelling it from Prince Charming's perspective (the unnamed traveler) in a contemporary setting. This twisted tale includes all the elements of terror from the original fairy tale, with none of the insipid saccharine coating of the Disney animated adaptation. Yes, there will be blood.
Originally serialized as part of the acclaimed international series, Delphine is executed in a rich and ominous duotone that shows off Sala's virtuosity just as much as last year's full-color post-apocalyptic horror fantasy The Hidden did; punctuated with stunning full-color chapter breaks.

Delphine, a twisted take on the famous Snow White tale, tells the story from Prince Charming’s perspective as he searches to save his lost love. In the guise of a young university student, the hero traverses roads, woods, dangers and disguises to find out what happened to Delphine, his girlfriend that returns home at the end of the semester to help her struggling father. However, his journey changes him in ways that he can’t imagine.

I’m split on this book. To start, the good:

Sala does an amazing job of evoking emotions: fear, danger, sadness, and hope all pour through his pages, his images. I was surprised at his basic color palette, but as I read, it suited Delphine well. The neutral colors allowed the hero and his task to jump through the pages.

I didn’t realize Delphine was a graphic novel and, unfortunately, I’m not much of a graphic novel fan. Yet I was surprised how hooked I got in the story despite myself.

Now, let me explain the “despite myself” comment. Delphine follows in the history of the Grimm fairy tales, not Disney. In short, it’s dark, gruesome, a little violent, and a little more disturbing. It was entirely too violent for my taste, and the depiction in the images pushed me a little too far at times.

This isn’t a story to read to your kids at bedtime, or even for young teens – there’s a lot of cursing and graphic content. I expected this to be a little more like Coraline – creepy, but not violent. Delphine dives into the dirty, graphic, scary side of forests, spells, witches and fairy tales.

In the end, I’m not sold on the graphic novel or the dark side of fairy tales, and especially not together. Yet, there’s a majesty to Sala’s work that I can’t help but admire. While Delphine isn’t exactly my cup of tea, it’s a great piece of work.

2 Stars

Posted September 12, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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July 27, 2016

History of Fairy Tales | Snow White

snow white

It’s a tale we all know, full of animated animals, multiple dwarfs, and a princess in hiding. Yet there’s more to the beloved fairy tale then meets the apple…er, eye.

the stats

first recorded version: 1812

authors: The Brothers Grimm

original title: Sneewittchen

the story

Once upon a time, a princess with hair as black as ebony and skin as white as snow was born to the king and queen. After the queen fell ill and passed away, the king married another woman, vain and power hungry. Jealous of her stepdaughter’s beauty, the queen asked her mirror, day after day, to name the fairest of them all. Time and time again, the mirror named the queen as the beauty. Yet, one day, when Snow was fully grown, the mirror claimed Snow White as the beauty.

Furious, the queen orders her huntsman to take Snow White out into the forest and not return until he held her heart. The huntsman tries to follow orders, but finds himself unable to harm the girl. Instead, he presents an animal heart to the queen to satisfy her.

On her own, Snow White finds herself in the home of the seven dwarfs. They offer her shelter, food and protection…as long as she does not let anyone inside while they are away.

The queen, returning to her habit of asking the mirror for praise, is stunned to discover that she is not yet the fairest in the land. Donning different disguises, she attempts to lure out the princess, finally felling her with a poisoned apple. The distraught dwarfs lay Snow White to rest in a glass casket, waiting, hoping for her one true love to break the spell. When the prince comes riding by and decides to see what the hubbub is about, he is captivated by her beauty, giving her true love’s kiss and breaking the spell.

 

the inspiration?

Snow White may not, after all, be a figment of the Grimm brothers’ imagination.

In 1994, German historian Eckhard Sander published his research comparing Snow White to Margaretha von Waldeck, a young woman in love with Phillip II. Hated by her stepmother, Margaretha was sent away and caught the eye of the then-heir to the throne. Although they fell madly in love and promised to marry, the match was forbidden by both parents. Rumored to be poisoned, Margaretha was found dead at 21.

the versions

The brothers Grimm actually updated their 1812 version in 1854. The first version paints Snow White’s mother as the villain, not the stepmother. The 1854 version changed the villain to the stepmother we know and love to hate today.

The 1937 Disney version we grew up with made some changes. Check out this in-depth comparison!

ABC’s Once Upon a Time is one of the most popular retelling of the fairy tale. (Let’s face it – Snow White and the Huntsman was just bad.)

did you know?

takeaways

Wise words.

Posted July 27, 2016 by Ellen in history of fairy tales / 0 Comments
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June 9, 2016

Review | Stitching Snow by R.C. Lewis

Review | Stitching Snow by R.C. LewisStitching Snow by R.C. Lewis
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion, October 2014
Pages: 338
Format: Hardcover
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Princess Snow is missing.
Her home planet is filled with violence and corruption at the hands of King Matthias and his wife as they attempt to punish her captors. The king will stop at nothing to get his beloved daughter back—but that’s assuming she wants to return at all.
Essie has grown used to being cold. Temperatures on the planet Thanda are always sub-zero, and she fills her days with coding and repairs for the seven loyal drones that run the local mines.
When a mysterious young man named Dane crash-lands near her home, Essie agrees to help the pilot repair his ship. But soon she realizes that Dane’s arrival was far from accidental, and she’s pulled into the heart of a war she’s risked everything to avoid. With the galaxy’s future—and her own—in jeopardy, Essie must choose who to trust in a fiery fight for survival.

All Essie wants is to be left alone to work on her drones.

She fights in the bars at night to make some money and keep her independence, colors her hair a vibrant red, and has a deep secret she’s hidden deep. When a mysterious shuttle crashes on the edge on the settlement, Essie and her drones save a young man from the wreckage…a young man with a secret like hers.

Essie was a real treat. I didn’t expect a Snow White retelling to have a character molded by her gumption and determination, and I sure didn’t expect to like her crankiness. But that’s exactly what appealed to me.

Essie’s determination to make her own way was endearing, and actually working, unlike many heroines that struggle to stay afloat. She’s created a niche for herself “stitching” the drones to help the miners on her planet.

Dane, in turn, I wasn’t so sure about. He did have an about-face, but his earlier tricks made me suspicious of his every move, even when the story was obviously turning into a romance. His motives and rationale behind his actions made sense, but I still didn’t buy he’d completely changed from his deceiving behavior.

Lewis creates a fantastic sci-fi world to showcase her Snow White retelling. I would argue that, second to Essie, the atmosphere and world building is the best element of the book. I loved how she offered enough details to give me a picture, but didn’t overwhelm the narrative with the descriptions. It helped create the mysterious war of Windsong and depict the characters caught in the midst of it.

Because of the sci-fi nature of Stitching Snow, it took a while for the fairy tale bones of the story to show up. While in some cases, this would be a negative, it fit Lewis’ story perfectly. Both her characters and her story had a chance to stand on their own, develop into live, believable characters, and then twine into the retelling of a story we love so well.

3 Stars

Posted June 9, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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May 16, 2016

Five Enchanted Roses

Five Enchanted RosesFive Enchanted Roses by Anne Elisabeth Stengl, Kaycee Browning, Savannah Jezowski, Jenelle Schmidt, Dorian Tsukioka, Hayden Wand
Publisher: Rooglewood Press, 2015
Pages: 502
Format: Paperback
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REDISCOVER THE ENCHANTMENTSummer 2015
A ship bearing the souls of sinful sailors drifts upon a ghostly sea. An abbey looms as the final defense between mortals and ghouls of the underworld. In the stillness of a throne room, statues stand forever frozen in a moment of terror. Monsters and men stalk their prey deep in the jungle’s shadows. A rose blooms in the dead of winter, sheltered in the ruins of an ancient Scottish castle.
And only true love can free the Beast from his prison.
ESPRIT DE LA ROSEBy Kaycee Browning
To steal from the Fee is to suffer their wrath! So Cecilia learns when these fabled beings charge her father with the theft of a certain mirror and sentence him to torment. But when she is taken as substitute, Cecilia discovers that the punishment meted out by the Fee is far stranger than she could ever have imagined. Trapped aboard a ghost ship with a crew of condemned souls and aided only by charismatic Captain Pepin, can this pirate’s daughter unlock the secret to the Fee’s dark omens?
WITHERBy Savannah Jezowski
As penalty for the merchant’s theft of a single rose, the Beast of Briarstone Abbey demands his youngest daughter, sweet and innocent Sookie. But Lilybet Haverly will never allow her sister to face such a dreadful fate! Armed only with a butcher knife and her own determination, Bet climbs the wall and plunges into the Neverway, where the dead walk and ghouls hunt human flesh. She will find this Briarstone Abbey—and the Beast who lives there—whatever the cost.
STONE CURSEBy Jenelle Schmidt
Years ago a terrible curse swept over the revelers at Thorndale Castle, turning them to stone and transforming Prince Barend himself into a hideous beast. But Karyna, a former lady-in-waiting, will not abandon either her father, who stands in the throne room among the other statues, or the prince. Indeed, she sets out alone on a dangerous quest to find the one responsible for this dreadful spell. If she can but discover the reason why the stone curse was cast, perhaps she can also discover the solution.
ROSARA AND THE JUNGLE KINGBy Dorian Tsukioka
Maor has determined to take her as his third wife, by force if necessary. But Rosara would rather risk her life alone in the jungle than submit to any man’s brutality. When a beautiful jaguar tells her that it knows where to find one of the karawara, she resolves to seek out this jungle spirit and request its aid. The jaguar warns Rosara, however, that gifts from the karawara are never without a price . . .
THE WULVER'S ROSEBy Hayden Wand
A life is a high price to pay for stealing a rose. Nevertheless, Bonnie honors her father’s agreement and travels to the remote, ruinous castle wherein dwells the legendary creature known as a wulver—half man, half wolf. Though he is monstrous to behold, this beast is oddly gentle, tenderly caring for his beautiful rosebush, which blooms out of season. Is there more to the wulver than meets the eye? Is he somehow connected to the frightened child who visits Bonnie in her dreams?

I have a soft spot for Beauty and the Beast. Maybe it’s Belle’s determination to save her father, or the Beast’s long suffering, erased by true love…or maybe it’s finally a heroine with a nerdy nature like mine. Either way, Beauty and the Beast has been a favorite of mine, ever since I saw the Disney retelling.

Admit it. You’ve always wanted to do that.

When I found Rooglewood Press’ collection of Beauty and the Beast retellings on Mel’s fairy tale recommendation list, I was in. What’s better than an original fairy tale? A creative, unique retelling. Duh.

Unfortunately, that’s not quite what I got.

Five Enchanted Roses is a collection of perfectly fine but regrettably forgettable Beauty retellings. I was hooked by the prospect of a ghost ship in the first story, “Espirit de la Rose,” but the character development wasn’t there to support the plot. “Wither” started out with promise as well, but I found myself mystified by the lore, and a little confused by the roles different characters played. Each story started out with the promise of being a beautiful retelling of the enchanted story, but I couldn’t get into it.

I can’t imagine how tricky it would be to fit Belle’s story into a short narrative with the complete character development, plot, and enthralling dialogue we’ve come to expect from fairy tales. Five Enchanted Roses did it’s best, but without those extra pieces, the collection didn’t have the oomph I was hoping for.

Strangely, the section I loved the most was the preface. To delve into the publishers’ thought process and motivation behind the collection showed such passion. I was sad that the following stories didn’t live up to the promise.

That said, if you’re searching for a quick, light fairy tale retelling, give Five Enchanted Roses a try. The span across genres will make sure there’s the perfect fit for you.

3 Stars

Posted May 16, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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April 15, 2016

Review | Spinning Starlight by R.C. Lewis

Review | Spinning Starlight by R.C. LewisSpinning Starlight by R.C. Lewis
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion, October 2015
Pages: 336
Format: Hardcover
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Sixteen-year-old heiress and paparazzi darling Liddi Jantzen hates the spotlight. But as the only daughter in the most powerful tech family in the galaxy, it’s hard to escape it. So when a group of men show up at her house uninvited, she assumes it’s just the usual media-grubs. That is, until shots are fired.
Liddi escapes, only to be pulled into an interplanetary conspiracy more complex than she ever could have imagined. Her older brothers have been caught as well, trapped in the conduits between the planets. And when their captor implants a device in Liddi’s vocal cords to monitor her speech, their lives are in her hands: One word and her brothers are dead.
Desperate to save her family from a desolate future, Liddi travels to another world, where she meets the one person who might have the skills to help her bring her eight brothers home—a handsome dignitary named Tiav. But without her voice, Liddi must use every bit of her strength and wit to convince Tiav that her mission is true. With the tenuous balance of the planets deeply intertwined with her brothers’ survival, just how much is Liddi willing to sacrifice to bring them back?
Haunting and mesmerizing, this retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Wild Swans strings the heart of the classic with a stunning, imaginative world as a star-crossed family fights for survival in this companion to Stitching Snow.

All Liddi Jantzen has in her life are her older brothers. Make that her eight, super-smart, technologically advanced, older brothers, who aren’t around as much as they used to be anymore. When she discovers they’ve been trapped in a conduit in space and their captor has implanted a device in her so if she speaks, they’ll die, it’s up to Liddi, the media darling of Seven Points, to save them.

I liked Liddi off the bat. She didn’t quite fit into her world and didn’t know how to transform herself to make it easier. She isn’t as smart as her brothers, but isn’t as ditzy as the media makes her out to be. Yet it seemed like everyone (everyone) coddled Liddi – she doesn’t have any real responsibilities, and in her flashbacks, someone else is protecting her. When Liddi discovers her brothers are missing, she has the chance to make something of herself.

I admired the single-minded determination that she threw into finding her brothers. There was a level of unbridled trust in them, of a family unit, that I loved. And when your family’s in trouble, you help. She might have gotten herself into some tight situations, especially after she meets Tiav, but her resolve to save them, whatever it took, endeared her to me. She was, without a doubt, the heroine to cheer for.

Spinning Starlight is built on science – well, the science of Liddi’s world. I struggled with the world building in Spinning Starlight – just when it felt like I had a handle of what was going on, someone would throw a wrench in the plot and twist everything around. The battle of religion/myth versus science was solid, but when that began to unravel, it started to pull apart pieces of the story with it. After a while, I stopped trying to follow along.

confused, spinning starlight, ron

Without a doubt, Liddi’s heroic journey is the star of the show. She sets out to defeat a three-headed dragon – save her brothers, shed the public reputation of a spoiled playgirl, and prove her worth to herself. Even without the cohesive world building, her story shone through.

3 Stars

Posted April 15, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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April 11, 2016

Review | Drown by Esther Dalseno

Review | Drown by Esther DalsenoDrown: A Twisted Take on the Classic Fairy Tale by Esther Dalseno
Publisher: 3 Little Birds Books, October 2015
Pages: 260
Format: Ebook
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Seven emotionless princesses.

Three ghostly sirens.

A beautiful, malicious witch haunted by memories.

A handsome, self-mutilating prince.

Belonging to a race that is mostly animal with little humanity, a world obsessed with beauty where morality holds no sway, a little mermaid escapes to the ocean’s surface. Discovering music, a magnificent palace of glass and limestone, and a troubled human prince, she is driven by love to consult the elusive sea-witch who secretly dominates the entire species of merfolk.

Upon paying an enormous price for her humanity, the little mermaid begins a new life, uncovering secrets of sexuality and the Immortal Soul. As a deadly virus threatens to contaminate the bloodstreams of the whole merfolk race, the little mermaid must choose between the lives of her people, the man she loves, or herself.

A complete reinvention of Hans Christian Andersen's classic fairy tale, this is a magical-realist fable that captures the essence of sacrifice and the price of humanity.

The merfolk are an unfeeling, gruesome sort of people. In a world of black and white, love is nonexistent, emotion is frowned upon, and committing horrible acts to feed one’s family is an everyday way of life. But there’s one who doesn’t fit in: the little mermaid.

Unlike her sisters and her father, the king of the sea, she has questions, curiosity, and a deep longing to learn about everything, including souls and what merfolk call humanity’s “Great Condition”. She doesn’t tell anyone about that weird flutter she feels in her chest, the one that no one else does. When she takes her first trip to the surface on her birthday and spies the gorgeous castle perched by the sea and the equally handsome prince inside, she’s willing to give up any and everything to go to land.

This isn’t your typical fairy tale.

Drown was definitely an unexpected retelling of Hans Christian Anderson’s The Little Mermaid. Dalseno’s creative decisions to differentiate her retelling from others yet keep elements from Anderson and the Grimm Brothers fascinated me, but nothing more so than her narrative.

It was simply spectacular. Dalseno created an unexpected narrator to tell the little mermaid’s story, empowering the narration itself to be entirely unique. It was a slow, lyrical prose that painted scenes and emotions in beautiful watercolors: a slow creation of each scene that gave me enough detail to imagine myself there, but transparent enough to remind me it’s a third person narrator.

I was enchanted that Dalseno never gave her characters a name. They were the little mermaid, the prince, the sea king, and so on. It built up the narration and gave my imagination a little more free rein.

The mermaid’s determination to reach shore cost her many things: her tongue (she couldn’t speak), her pride (although she isn’t a prideful person by nature) since she arrived on land without a stitch of clothing, and her ability to walk without pain. Each step felt like knives cutting into her feet, but her optimism and determination to make the prince fall for her was so great that she overlooked all of this. Seeing the human world through her young, somewhat naive, eyes was both at once fascinating and heartbreaking.

Her pursuit of the prince, once romantic in my eyes, changed in Dalseno’s Drown. It reminded me of watching others go through the pangs of first/unrequited love after I had, seeing the signs and wishing I could warn them for what was to come.

The most potent scene was near the end when Dalseno described what could be and what happened. The emphasis on her choices and the path they took her down was so emotionally charged.

Drown isn’t a fairy tale to share with kids or to read in hopes of a Disney version, but it’s beautifully written, incredibly emotional, and simply a good story.

4 Stars

Posted April 11, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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