4

#Diversiverse Review: Karen Lord – The Best of All Possible Worlds

diversiverse3I’m a little ashamed to admit how long this book has been sitting on my TBR pile. I got a review copy right before it first came out and have only managed to finish it now. But being unread for a while is no judgement on the book’s quality and I am so glad I read this for Aarti’s A More Diverse Universe challenge. I liked this much more than Redemption in Indigo despite some minor qualms.

untitledTHE BEST OF ALL POSSIBLE WORLDS
by Karen Lord

Published by: Del Rey, 2013
Ebook: 325 pages
Standalone
My rating: 8/10

First sentence: He always set aside twelve days of his annual retreat to finish reports and studies, and that left twelve more for everything else.

A proud and reserved alien society finds its homeland destroyed in an unprovoked act of aggression, and the survivors have no choice but to reach out to the indigenous humanoids of their adopted world, to whom they are distantly related. They wish to preserve their cherished way of life but come to discover that in order to preserve their culture, they may have to change it forever.

Now a man and a woman from these two clashing societies must work together to save this vanishing race—and end up uncovering ancient mysteries with far-reaching ramifications. As their mission hangs in the balance, this unlikely team—one cool and cerebral, the other fiery and impulsive—just may find in each other their own destinies . . . and a force that transcends all.

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I know Karen Lord as a playful, witty writer who retold a Senegalese folktale in Redemption in Indigo. As she ventures into science fiction, she shows that there is much more to her than that.

As the Sadiri’s home planet is destroyed and they lose the majority of their population in one blow, extinction seems inevitable. A small group of Sadiri come to the planet Cygnus Beta to scout for appropriate wives for the largely male survivors of the disaster. With a deep desire to keep their culture and genetic lines alive, finding fitting wives is not an easy task.
Grace Delarua, the narrator of this story, joins the Sadiri on their mission and travels across the planet for likely candidates to help the Sadiri race survive.

Delarua’s narration is fresh and charming, full of humor and passion, and so creates the perfect balance between her personality and that of the Sadiri, above them all Dllenahkh, seemingly cold and reserved. The Sadiri, renowned telepaths, keep their emotions to themselves, if indeed they have any. Their thoughts are impossible to read on their faces, their body language gives away nothing. To juxtapose such people with open and outspoken Delarua just made their differences more visible and the entire book more interesting. Discovering more about Sadiri culture, about their customs and their use of telepathy, is what kept me reading wide-eyed and curiously.

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Once the group of scientists set off on their journey, among them gender-neutral Lian, the Sadiri Dllenahkh, Nasiha, and Tarik, as well as Cygnian doctor Queturah, the story becomes somewhat episodic. Every chapter narrates their discoveries in a different settlement which, most of the time, has little to do with whatever they learned in the last one. At this point, the novel felt a little stitched together like a quilt of smaller stories, none of them boring, but none of them properly glued together either. Some of these earlier chapters have no consequence on the larger plot whatsoever, others are an opportunity to give the characters depth and show the readers more about them. The visit to Delarua’s family, for example, opened a world of questions, only some of which are answered. It was a great exercise in world-building without bogging down the narration, of character growth and development on several levels, and it was the point – for me – where the story really kicked off.

After that, Karen Lord put more focus on her characters and their reaction to whatever settlement they visit at the time. What fascinated me most, apart from Sadiri culture in general, was the sense of doom hanging over Dllenahkh at all times. By losing their home planet, most Sadiri have lost people close to them. Partners, children, parents, and grandparents, and that tragedy is felt in almost every chapter. To make things worse, they are facing extinction if they don’t find suitable wives for their single (or newly-single) men to keep the race going. They are a proud people and want to keep their culture alive as well as their genetics. It’s not just about finding a wife they like but it’s about genetic and cultural compatibility. As they pass settlement after settlement without much success, their desperation becomes more and more clear. Karen Lord does a phenomenal job of conveying that dread and fear without ever actually saying it. No exposition is needed as it becomes clear through the characters’ actions and emotions. And, yes, after a while, the readers learn to interpret Sadiri emotions, just as Delarua does.

best of all possible worlds alt coverThe closer to the end you get, the clearer it becomes that The Best of All Possible Worlds is also a love story. Furtive glances, accidental touches, and all the other little things that people do to get closer to each other, are difficult enough within one’s own culture. Try the same thing across two cultures that are so vastly different and you’ve got a really thrilling tale of romance. For the romance-deniers among you, don’t worry. There is nothing cheesy or cliché about this story. Even the end, which felt a little too perfect at first glance, struck me as utterly real and honest after a little while.

I had started reading this book around its publication and then stopped reading because its episodic nature made it easy to put down after a chapter. This time, I pushed through the beginning up to the moment I got hooked. And then there was no stopping me. I enjoyed this far more than the author’s debut, Redemption in Indigo, simply because it focused more on characters and matters that offer food for thought. Culture, race, gender, relationships, they all find a place in The Best of All Possible Worlds, and they do so effortlessly. Nothing feels forced, nothing feels fake. Sure, the narration could have used some tightening, some red thread to follow, especially in the early chapters, but even those weren’t ever boring.

I think Karen Lord is finding her voice (in a delightful way, might I add) and I believe she will only get better and better. I am now really curious about the quasi-sequel, The Galaxy Game, which will follow Delarua’s nephew Rafi. The author has created a fantastic world, one that I’m not done exploring.

RATING: 8/10  –  Excellent

EDIT: Squee! I got an e-ARC of The Galaxy Game via NetGalley. Thank you, my day is made. Now I only need to restrain myself until January (or its vicinity) before reading and posting a review.

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4

Maggie Stiefvater – The Raven Boys

The internet has been buzzing about Maggie Stiefvater ever since her Shiver Trilogy. As far as I know, it is settled somewhere in the vicinity of werewolf romance novels, which is why I haven’t felt the need to pick them up. Then came the universally praised Scorpio Races and I gave myself a nudge and bought it. However, when both Renay and Justin Landon raved about The Raven Boys, I knew there must be more to this book than just a squeeworthy teen romance. And there must be far more to Maggie Stiefvater as a writer. Spoiler: they were right.

raven boysTHE RAVEN BOYS
by Maggie Stiefvater

Published by: Scholastic, 2012
Ebook: 468 pages
Series: The Raven Cycle #1
My rating: 8/10

First sentence: Blue Sargent had forgotten how many times she’d been told that she would kill her true love.

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“There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve,” Neeve said. “Either you’re his true love . . . or you killed him.”

It is freezing in the churchyard, even before the dead arrive.
Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them—not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her.
His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.
But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He has it all—family money, good looks, devoted friends—but he’s looking for much more than that. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents all the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul who ranges from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher of the four, who notices many things but says very little.
For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.

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This book presents real difficulties when it comes to reviewing, mainly because of its meandering plot lines. How can one sum up such a novel? Short answer: you can’t. So let me preface this rambling review-ish thing by telling you that I loved it. It was such a pleasure to find a gem like this in between the copies of whatever is currently successful (looking at you, Hunger Games and Twilight knock-offs).

The Raven Boys is about a group of eponymous boys and a girl named Blue Sargent who has grown up in a family of psychics without having the ability to see the future herself. Blue’s talent is making the occult forces “louder” or more clear for her gifted family. Except for that one St. Mark’s Eve when she doesn’t just help her aunt see the future dead but instead sees one herself. Gansey is clearly a Raven Boy – the school crest on his expensive sweater is a dead givaway. And Blue can see him because she will be the instrument of his death, one way or another.

The story is heavily loaded with magical portents and prophecy but other than so many fantasy prophecies – one unlikely hero to save the world from evil forces and all that – Blue doesn’t react all too strongly to what has been foretold. One day, she will kill her true love. And, so it seems, she will kill Gansey. The first part she has known all her life, the second comes as a bit of a shock but, hey, what’s she going to do? Try and prevent his death, of course. But knowing how prophecies work, she’s more interested in solving the mystery and less sure that she’ll be able to change the future.

raven boys detail

What drew me in at first was this prohpecy, because I just like that kind of thing. I have a very soft spot for them, especially self-fulfilling prophecies (Macbeth *sigh*). But what made me stay (and immediately buy the second book) were the Raven Boys themselves. Their relationships are complex and intricate and not easily summed up in a sentence or two. What Maggie Stiefvater does in this book is draw vivid paintings of a group of young men who care deeply for each other but are, to some degree, equally codependent. You’d think the rich kids who go to a preppy private school like Aglionby wouldn’t have many problems of their own and if they did they would be petty problems. Not so the Raven Boys. Sure, they may be rich and lead an easier life than someone who has to struggle for every penny, but they are each looking for something more from life, first and foremost true bonds with other people.

Gansey had once told Adam that he was afraid most people didn’t know how to handle Ronan. What he meant by this was that he was worried that one day someone would fall on Ronan and cut themselves.

This is not at all, as some reviewers have said, a romance novel. Blue and Adam do develop a certain magnetism but this is not what the book is all about. Navigating first love is part of it, certainly, but at the heart of the novel is friendship. I was most intrigued by the question who these people really are. It’s hard to pinpoint, which is what makes each and every one of them so interesting. As a female reader, I somehow cast myself into Blue’s role and debated how I would react in certain situations. Would I run away from anyone I could fall in love with? And so deny myself the joy of true friendship? Would I help the Raven Boys on their quest for finding a mythical king, shrouded in paranormal mystery? I don’t know. What I do know is that I can’t get nearly enough of the Raven Boys and their interactions.

In that moment, Blue was a little in love with all of them.
Their magic. Their quest. Their awfulness and strangeness.
Her Raven Boys.

Another reason this book stands out from that kind of YA – you know, the kind that makes me angry at having spent money on it – is that it’s also not about the plot. What happens is interesting and helps to keep you reading but despite the mystery, and the small part of it that’s resolved in this first instalment of the Raven Cycle, personally I wouldn’t have cared if this had just been 400 pages of Blue, Gansey, Adam, Ronan, and Noah spending time together. Whether they’re hunting for ley lines or having pizza and watching a movie really didn’t make much difference to me. Their personalities are what shines, their relationships are the real mystery. I can’t put my finger on anything with this book and that’s a huge part of its appeal. Ronan’s inexplicable anger at the entire world, Adam’s pride and desperate attempt to hide it, Gansey’s quest for keeping the group together, and Noah’s quiet observations were far more intriguing than finding a Welsh king’s grave could ever be.

The novel’s closing lines open up entire new worlds to be discovered in the sequels, making this a clear prelude to something bigger. But what is normally annoying, especially in longer fantasy series, doesn’t feel like a cop-out at all. This book needs to exist for whatever happens next to have any impact. If the story had started where The Raven Boys ends, I wouldn’t care nearly as much about the characters as I do now. It is an astounding feat by an author I unjustly dismissed so far. Here’s another lesson to all the YA-avoiders (as I still am, in part): The only reason this can be classified as YA in the first place, is that it’s protagonists are teenagers. The writing isn’t more basic than in adult novels, the relationships are just as complicated, the exploration of human emotions just as real.

I’m off to read The Dream Thieves next and whatever new mysteries await me there, I’m all in, as long as the Raven Boys are there with me.

RATING:  8/10 – Excellent

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The Raven Cycle:
raven cycle

  1. The Raven Boys
  2. The Dream Thieves
  3. Blue Lily, Lily Blue
  4. TBA
5

Zen Cho – The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo

I don’t remember how I stumbled upon this little book but the cover and premise both intrigued diversiverse3me enough to go buy it, no waiting on the wishlist required. And since it’s #Diversiverse time, this was the perfect moment to read the story – also, I’ve never read anything by a Malaysian author before and that needed to be remedied. Zen Cho’s story had some aspects that I loved and others that left me very disappointed.

perilous life of jade yeoTHE PERILOUS LIFE OF JADE YEO
by Zen Cho

Published by: self-published, 2012
Ebook: 81 pages
Standalaone novella
My rating: 6,5/10

First sentence: I had tea with the intolerable aunt today.

 

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For writer Jade Yeo, the Roaring Twenties are coming in with more of a purr – until she pillories London’s best-known author in a scathing review. Sebastian Hardie is tall, dark and handsome, and more intrigued than annoyed. But if Jade succumbs to temptation, she risks losing her hard-won freedom – and her best chance for love.

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Jade Yeo is a young Chinese woman, making her way in 1920s London by writing for a newspaper. She deals with her insufferable (and very rich) aunt and learns, for the first time, what it is like to fall in love and fall in lust.

Since it’s the first thing mentioned in the synposis, I need to adress the time and setting of this novella. The Roaring Twenties are somewhat of a buzz word that makes me happily buy a book. Except there isn’t really much roaring or twenties in The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo. Sure, the time period becomes somewhat apparent in how women are viewed by society, how Jade’s insufferable aunt things Jade should behave, what is considered proper and what makes a scandal. But for everything else that’s there, this could as easily have been set in the 1950s.

The story is set in London and as a Chinese woman, Jade has to deal with some degree of cultural misunderstanding and prejudice. I don’t know if it’s because of her practical, witty character that we don’t see much of it or because the author didn’t want to turn this novella into a novel, but I expected Jade’s life to be much, much harder. A young, unmarried woman whose proper name people can’t pronounce, whose family values are completely different from what she sees on an everyday basis… there should have been more problems for Jade than just paying the rent.

Taking into consideration, however, that the novella is written as Jade’s diary, she may just not be telling us everything there is to know. And  I must say that I adored her voice. She is a practical, surprisingly modern woman with a sense of humor and a hunger for life. When famous author Sebastian Hardie makes advances on her, she just goes with it. Because hey, adventure! She knows she isn’t in love but having an affair is just so damn interesting. The problems I had with the time and the setting are probably due to the fact, that Hardie – as well as his wife – are equally practical modern people. The arrangement that married couple has would be frowned upon by a lot of people, even by today’s standards. For clever, adventurous Jade to fall into the hands of such a freedom-loving couple is unlikely and lessens any drama there could have been given other circumstances.

But the writing and characterisation are spot on. Jade has something of a Jane Austen in her, with her clever observations, her quick comebacks, her overall view on humanity. She’s charming and funny and at the same time vulnerable and real. And she has fun with words which makes me love her infintely more.

A nice Indian servant gave me a drink (I wish I could have spoken to him). I skulked in a corner clutching it and trying as hard as I could to look inscrutable and aloof, but feeling scrutable and loof as anything.

This is a novella that basically reads itself. It happily goes along, without much risk for the protagonist or much impact. Jade may think she’s in trouble but that same trouble is resolved within a matter of a few pages. Zen Cho hints at some heavy subjects but because everything turns out well for our heroine, and everything is so easy, they are somewhat lessened. Come to a different country all aloneperilous life of jade yeo, having (and enjoying) sex as an unmarried woman,  and unwanted pregnancy are just a few things that feel like they were drizzled over the story to give it some depth. Except they don’t feel like issues because EVERYTHING FALLS INTO PLACE SO DAMN EASILY. As soon as a problem arises, somebody goes “Oh that? Don’t worry, here’s a neat little solution.”

At the very end, when Jade realises that she has fallen in love (rather predictably, one might add), that’s the only time where cultural differences really present obstacles. Of course Jade is determined to overcome them and make their love work somehow, but at least we get a glimpse of the difficulties they will face on the way to marital bliss. And even that discussion is over within minutes. But at the very least, there isn’t an immediate, pretty solution. They talk about the issues at hand and promise to find a way to make things work. But we, the readers, know it’s not going to be simple and it’s going to alienate people. Traditional, conservative families whose child wants to marry someone from a completely different culture, will be up in arms. They know this, we know this, and there’s no easy way out.

There were so many things I loved about this story, the protagonist’s voice the foremost among them. I can’t really say anything bad about it except that everything was too easy and happened too fast. A novel-length version of this story with some stakes for the characters would be perfect. If the solutions to Jade’s problems weren’t as quick to arrive, for example, that would have already made this more interesting. If her future hangs in the balance for a mere (short) chapter, I won’t get overly excited. If, however, her uncertainty and at some points, her helplessness were to last longer, that would make it memorable. That would make her little troubles real problems. I commend her for wanting to do everything herself and not relying on the help of others but again, help does come and it pretty much gets her out of any situation without much fuss.

This was only a nice and very quick read that keeps your heartrate at a steady level. No sizzling romance, no danger for our heroine, but a lot of interesting people with surprising views on love, sex, and culture. It’s a peasurable read but not one that will stay with me for long, I suspect. Who would have thought I’d ever say it but here it is: I need a little more drama in my fiction. If I don’t feel with the characters I’m not likely to remember their stories for long.

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10

#Diversiverse Review: Intisar Khanani – Thorn

diversiverse3My first read for Aarti’s A More Diverse Universe challenge can be declared a success. I am still very careful with self-published titles but if enough recommendations float my way, I usually give the book in question a try. As far as the usual prejudice against self-published books go, Thorn did really well. Either the author has a knack for spotting her own mistakes or she got herself a copy editor. Either way, well done Intisar!

thornTHORN
by Intisar Khanani

Published by: self-published, 2012
Ebook: 246 pages
Standalone
My rating: 6,5/10

First sentence: “Try not to embarrass us”, my brother says. “If you can.”

divider1Fairy Tales Retold

  • The Goose Girl

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Synopsis

For Princess Alyrra, choice is a luxury she’s never had … until she’s betrayed.
Princess Alyrra has never enjoyed the security or power of her rank. Between her family’s cruelty and the court’s contempt, she has spent her life in the shadows. Forced to marry a powerful foreign prince, Alyrra embarks on a journey to meet her betrothed with little hope for a better future.
But powerful men have powerful enemies—and now, so does Alyrra. Betrayed during a magical attack, her identity is switched with another woman’s, giving Alyrra the first choice she’s ever had: to start a new life for herself or fight for a prince she’s never met. But Alyrra soon finds that Prince Kestrin is not at all what she expected. While walking away will cost Kestrin his life, returning to the court may cost Alyrra her own. As Alyrra is coming to realize, sometimes the hardest choice means learning to trust herself.

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Having just read a retelling of “The Goose Girl”, I knew Intisar Khanani wouldn’t have an easy job with me. After all, even if she told the story beautifully and faithfully, I had just read it and wouldn’t be very surprised with her take on things. Except Khanani didn’t worry about any of that, and while clearly similar to Shannon Hale’s The Goose Girl, Thorn’s story is entirely her own.

Princess Alyrra lives in the shadows, always hiding from her abusive brother and her heartless mother. She finds more solace with the castle’s servants and with the wind who talks to her sometimes. When a powerful king comes to visit and picks Alyrra for his son’s bride, Alyrra looks at the developments with trepidation and fear. But also with hope. Then, of course, her servant Valka happens and Alyrra’s life is once more turned upside down.

One of the most intriguing aspects of Intisar Khanani’s version of this story was the identity theft commited by Valka. In Hale’s novel, there is mutiny, an uprising that kills all loyal servants and  anyone who could vouch for the real princess’ identity. However, in Thorn, the Menaiyan king had already seen Alyrra with his own eyes, has talked to her. Simply pretending to be her wouldn’t be enough for Valka. That’s where the magic comes in. It’s a bold move but I loved what the author did. Valka and Alyrra change bodies, voices, clothes, even scars. Magic also makes sure Alyrra can’t tell anybody about her curse. If she tries, she may just die. It’s a simple solution to one of the fairy tale’s problems but I loved how well it worked. If you die as soon as you speak about the curse, that is a solid reason for keeping your mouth shut and even trying to keep up illusions.

thorn cover cutout
Naturally, Alyrra has to deal not only with having lost who she is and the power that comes with that position, but also get to grips with living in a new body. If I’m honest, I would probably go mad. Now Valka is described as rather pretty – and a redhead of course, because princesses in novels always have to end up special even if they weren’t in the beginning – but even if I switched bodies with a Victoria’s Secret model I would probably lose my mind. Alyrra is confused at first, finding her way around in this new body. She’s also shocked at how differently people suddenly treat her. Valka was rather famous for being a nagging, selfish, greedy little brat and Alyrra – the total opposite – isn’t used to people reacting to her that way. Once she got over her first shock, Alyrra sees this magic as an opportunity. After all, she never wanted to sit on a throne, she never wanted the responsibility or the courtly talk and intrigue. A simple life among people she cares about sounds pretty damn good, no matter her social status.

She gets a job as the goose girl, makes new friends and discovers that not all is well in the land of Menaiya. Social injustices, some strange things happening around the prince, and of course that magical force responsible for Alyrra and Valka’s body switch is still hanging around somewhere… this is where the plot started getting a little convoluted, as if the author wasn’t sure what to keep in and what to cut. Mid-novel, a band of thieves is introduced to represent “street justice” if you like. A young girl is brutally raped and beaten – for no other discernible reason than to show Alyrra  that the justice system doesn’t work. The girl was barely properly introduced except for a few throwaway lines and I don’t know how to feel about that.

What I did like was how hard it was for Alyrra to pick up the Menaiyan language. She calls herself Lady Thoreena, but ends up being Thorn because the Menaiyans mispronounce her name. Thorn doesn’t spend a week and can hold conversations about politics. She starts out just like anybody, by learning how to say hello, how to count, how to ask for the most basic things. Especially fantasy novels tend to forget that different languages even exist, and when they do, they usually find a convenient reason for our heroine to learn it within hours or days. Thorn has to clumsily make herself understood, using hands and facial expression as much as her limited vocabulary. This makes it not only more realistic but also helps to show the readers how scary Thorn’s new life really is. Magic threats and hiding who you really are is one thing, but learning a new job, a new language, picking up a new culture is something entirely different. Thorn has a lot on her plate and her growth is a pleasure to watch.

thorn quote

Thorn’s romance with the prince was mostly absent and built on mystery and mistrust rather than conversations and friendship. It wasn’t a tender thing slow to grow but rather one of suspicious glances, careful probing how far each one could go, and small infrequent gestures of kindness. The end felt a little to convenient and predictable to me. I do like that Alyrra had to save Prince Kestrin’s life, but that part came out of practically nowhere and could have used some build-up. Foreshadowing is a wonderful thing, when done right. In Thorn, it wasn’t done at all, it just whacks you over the head with a hammer.

However, despite my misgivings, this was a competent novel, especially since it was self-published. By that I don’t mean that self-published authors are generally bad writers but that it is obvious whether somebody just published their first draft or carefully went over it, got feedback from others, had someone proofread the book, and so on. Intisar Khanani clearly put in the effort to make what she published something she could be proud of. And in my opinion, she really can.

RATING: 6,5/10  –  Good

4

FTF Book Review: Vivian Vande Velde – The Rumpelstiltskin Problem

Yeah yeah, Fairy Tale Frenzy is over but I still owe you a couple of reviews.  This little book of alternate versions of Rumpelstiltskin can be read in one sitting and so was very well suited for my current busy schedule (consisting of work, work, and to even things out, some more work).

rumpelstiltskin problemTHE RUMPELSTILTSKIN PROBLEM
by Vivian Vande Velde

Published by: Harcourt, 2000
Ebook: 128 pages
Standalone
My rating: 7,5/10

First sentence: Once upon a time, before pizzarias or Taco Bells, there was a troll named Rumpelstiltskin who began to wonder what a human baby would taste like.

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Fairy Tales Retold

  • Rumpelstiltskin

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Have you ever wondered just what was going on when that odd little man with the long name stepped up and volunteered to spin straw into gold for the miller’s daughter? If you stop and think about it, there are some very peculiar and rather hard-to-explain components to the story.
Vivian Vande Velde has wondered too, and she’s come up with these six alternative versions of the old legend. A bevy of miller’s daughters confront their perilous situation in very different ways — sometimes comic, sometimes scary. Most of the time, it’s the daughter who gets off safely, but sometimes, amazingly, Rumpelstiltskin himself wins the day. And in one tale, it is the king who cleverly escapes a quite unexpected fate.

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It’s true that Rumpelstiltskin has quite a few problems. As a child, I may have wondered about why he wanted the miller’s daughter’s firstborn child, but I never paused to think about all the other oddities the tale presents. In the author’s note, Vivian Vande Velde casually counts up all the things that are wrong with the fairy tale. And believe you me, there is very little that’s not wrong with it.

Some of the more striking questions are: Why would the miller say his daughter can spin straw into gold, knowing full well she can’t? Why would Rumpelstiltskin – who can spin straw into gold – accept a gold ring or necklace as payment? What possessed the miller’s daughter to promise him her firstborn child? And what’s with the king, letting the girl spin gold for three nights, immediately marrying her after that, and then never expecting her to spin gold again? It just doesn’t make any sense!

Irumpelstiltskin problem2n six little alternative versions, Vivian Vande Velde explores ideas that make the story a little less ridiculous and more believable, sometimes keeping the magic, sometimes finding perfectly mundane reasons for what happens. You get a Rumpelstiltskin who wants to eat a human baby, just to see what it tastes like. You get a domovoi who just wants his house to be in order, a female Rumpelstiltskin hungry for love, a Rumpelstiltskin who is a pretty elf, and you even get a story or two with no Rumpelstiltskin at all.

I loved every single way Vande Velde turned this story on its head. Mostly, the miller’s daughter isn’t half as stupid as she is in the Grimms’ tale, but sometimes I rooted more for Rumpelstiltskin than for the humans. In the very last version, it is the king who deserves our empathy and needs to outsmart those around him. The author still keeps a distinct fairy tale-ness to her versions (repetition, the number three, magic, and so on), but she updates the characters to smart, logically thinking people with reasons behind their actions.

The language is modern and colloquial. The backflap says “reading level 10+” and I’d say that’s a fair assessment. Children can read this easily, because as fairy tales should, the writing is simple and feels like somebody telling you a quick story before tucking you in at night. That’s why I also believe this would be a great book for reading out loud. The narrator begins each story with “Once upon a time, before bread was plastic-wrapped and sold in supermarkets, there lived a miller named Otto and his daughter, Christina.” or something in that order. It sets the scene to the distant and unknown fairy tale past, but it also grounds the stories in the present.

My favorite part, though, was the sense of humor. It’s clean and family friendly but at times so insightful as to make me chuckle out loud. The hungry Rumpelstiltskin from the first story “A Fairy Tale in Bad Taste” for example, is desperately trying to buy a baby for cooking – without much success at first:

Rumpelstiltskin could not find a single merchant selling baby. The closes he came was a woman who countered by volunteering to sell him her teenager, but even then Rumpelstiltskin doubted it was an entirely serious offer.

Vande Velde also ends her tales in great closing lines which I won’t quote here – at least three of them made me laugh. She knows how to make sure her readers gobble up her words (there aren’t that many, to begin with) and close her book with a big fat smile on their faces.

This little collection may not do outrageously innovative things with narrative, language, or setting. But it makes an old fairy tale, whose true meaning has apparently been lost over the ages, a little more understandable. It adds internal logic to a world of magic and makes each ending all the more satisfying for it.

RATING: 7,5/10  –  Very good

divider1Table of contents:

  1. A Fairy Tale in Bad Taste
  2. Straw Into Gold
  3. The Domovoi
  4. Papa Rumpelstiltskin
  5. Ms. Rumpelstiltskin
  6. As Good as Gold
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FTF Comic Book: Bill Willingham – Fables

This is not a review of the comic book series, or at least not all of it, because I haven’t finished reading it yet. As I write this, the very last few issues are being published, ending the series with #150. My final opinion will depend very much on stories yet to come, but because I am so in love with what I have read so far, I wanted to share with you just a few reasons to pick up Fables.

fables animal farmFABLES
created by Bill Willingham

Published by: Vertigo, 2002-2015
Issues: #1 – 150
Editions: single issues, TPB, deluxe HC
Artists: Mark Buckingham, etc.
Covers by: James Jean (up to issue #81)
João Ruas (since issue #82)

 

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What’s this all about?

In the same vein as best-selling “fractured-fairy-tales” such as Wicked and Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister is Bill Willingham’s runaway hit graphic novel series FABLES. No longer just children’s tales, Willingham has created a new world for these beloved fables…one that exists within our own.When a savage creature known only as the Adversary conquered the fabled lands of legends and fairy tales, all of the infamous inhabitants of folklore were forced into exile. Disguised among the normal citizens of modern-day New York, these magical characters created their own secret society-within an exclusive luxury apartment building on Manhattan’s Upper West Side-called Fabletown. But when Snow White’s party-girl sister, Rose Red, is apparently murdered, it is up to Bigby, Fabletown’s sheriff, and a reformed and pardoned Big Bad Wolf, to determine if the culprit is Bluebeard, Rose’s ex-lover and notorious wife killer, or Jack, her current live-in boyfriend and former beanstalk-climber.

Where do I start?

That was the first question I asked myself when faced with a ton of comic books, different formats, spin-off and crossover series, computer games, and even more stuff. The biggest help I found on the internet was this post by The Written Word, titled So You Want to Read Fables. The beginning is pretty straight forward but keep an eye on the issue you’re reading. At a certain point, you’ll have to jump into the Jack of Fables spin-off in order to avoid spoilers . Most recently, I read about a crossover episode between Fables and The Unwritten. As I’m not nearly far enough ahead in the series to have reached that particular issue, I’ll worry about that when I get to it.

fables issue 53The next big question is: Do you buy the trade paperbacks or the (super shiny) deluxe editions? Because I like pretty books with pretty covers, I went for the deluxe hardcovers. Let me tell you, they are gorgeous! There are some differences compared to the trade paperbacks, such as little flashback stories, prose stories, or even  1001 Nights of Snowfall, the Arabian Nights of Fables. These are all contained in the deluxe editions at points in the story that Bill Willingham thought suitable. If you buy the paperbacks, some of these will have to be bought separately. Wikipedia has a list of which physical book contains which issues so you can make a nice comparison between the paperbacks and the hardcovers and see what works best for you. As far as my own experience goes, either way of reading them is fine. But it does make a difference whether you hold a big, sturdy hardcover in your hands, with glossy paper, high quality printing and just all around prettiness. If you’re not the kind of person who re-reads comic books or you don’t want to spend that much money, the paperbacks are probably the better choice.

Is it worth it?

Hell yes! The first story arc (and the first half of the deluxe edition #1) called Legends in Exile, didn’t strike me right away as something I needed to read. But once all the characters are introduced in their urban setting, I fell into it. Once I got to know the Fables that can’t be integrated into mundy (read: muggle) society in Animal Farm, I got more and more intrigued. Seeing that not all is well in Fabletown society makes things way more interesting than just following a bunch of characters hiding who they really are.

My love for Sheriff Bigby Wolf knows no bounds, the tension between him and Snow White alone makes this worthwile. Plus, I started really digging the drawing style. It’s not all beautiful or brightly colored but it’s just perfect for the stories it’s telling. The covers, on the other hand, are always stunning!

fables covers

But what really made me go out and buy all the Fables that are currently available in hardcover (plus the entire Jack of Fables spin-off series) was the way seemingly unimportant side characters show unexpected depth in random places. Boy Blue, for example, was a likable guy who is always around, but only when I read The Last Castle did I truly appreciate him as a character. The same goes for Flycatcher – the Fables version of the Frog Prince. Boy, did those two rip my heart out!

Also interesting is the passing of time. While some issues follow up on what has happened before, others jump ahead a year or two in time. The flashbacks and POV switches add another layer of depth to the world. Whereas most of the plot happens in New York, the Fables chosen exile after the Adversary took over their Homelands, we do get glimpses of these fairy tale realms that used to be the characters’ home. Things that seem simple at first turn out to be much more complex and complicated after a while.

reynard fox esquire

Fables contains a world that is bigger than the sum of its parts. I may have come in for the fairy-tales-living-among-us-mundies but I stayed for the people I’ve grown to know and love. Once you know Jack, you’ll laugh at his idiotic schemes. When it becomes clear just how in love Bigby is with Snow, you’ll yearn for the two of them to work out their issues. You’ll rejoice when Rose Red finally finds her place in the world, and you’ll laugh at Flycatcher with tears in your eyes.

My love for Fables took a while to grow but now it is steady and strong and here to stay.

There’s other Fables stuff out there?

I’m only a Fables baby but thanks to the Steam Summer Sale, I went ahead and bought myself The Wolf Among Us, a prequel to the entire comic book series (no prior knowledge needed, no spoilers for the comic books) and have played it a few times since. I will be gushing about that game in a separate post within the next few days. But let it be said here that it is absolutely worth its price.

fairest issueApart from the crossover with The Unwritten (which is on my wishlist now), the women of Fables got their own spin-off series, called Fairest. It’s still ongoing and seeing as Lauren Beukes wrote for it, there is no question I will buy and eat it up.

Some other much shorter spin-offs include Cinderella: From Fabletown, With Love and Cinderella: Fables are Forever as well as Werewolves of the Heartland, a  graphic novel following – unsurprisingly – Bigby Wolf. 2009 also saw the publication of the first illustrated Fables prose novel, called Peter and Max. One look at the cover gives you a clue as to whose story it tells.  1001 Nights of Snowfall is contained in the deluxe editions but not in the paperbacks. It’s not vital to the overall story but trust me when I say you don’t want to miss it.

1001nights of snowfall

If all of that spinning off and prequelling turns your head, there’s a handy Fables Encyclopedia.

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FTF Radar – Upcoming Fairy Tale Retellings

Getting excited about upcoming books is a thing of beauty, if you ask me. Staring at the cover and wondering what the author has in store for you is one part of the pleasure. The other is finally getting your copy in the mail and moving to the couch with a blanket and the book with an invisible “do not disturb” sign over your head. For the fairy tale fans out there, here are a few books coming out this year or early next year that we can all look forward to together.

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R.C. Lewis – Stitching Snow

14th October 2014

stitching snowI am so excited because I have a review copy of this on my Kobo and I can’t wait to get started. The plot sounds a lot like someone was trying to hop on Marissa Meyer’s bandwagon, what with sci-fi mixed with fairy tales, but I’ll give this a fair shot. If you’d asked me a while ago, I would have said my favorite fairy tale was The Snow Queen, but I seem to be reading a lot more Snow White retellings than any others. So maybe my subconscious is telling me something here…

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.

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Claire Legrand – Winterspell

30th September 2014

winterspellIT’S THE NUTCRACKER! Now there’s a story that I never particularly liked in book-form. But, oh, how I loved the animated movie set to Tchaikovsky’s music. I watched it over and over and over, to the point that my old tape is broken and nearly unwatchable. Seeing how I don’t love the original by Hoffman, I have very high hopes for any retelling. And with this cover, I’m already half sold.

The clock chimes midnight, a curse breaks, and a girl meets a prince . . . but what follows is not all sweetness and sugarplums.

New York City, 1899. Clara Stole, the mayor’s ever-proper daughter, leads a double life. Since her mother’s murder, she has secretly trained in self-defense with the mysterious Drosselmeyer.

Then, on Christmas Eve, disaster strikes.

Her home is destroyed, her father abducted–by beings distinctly not human. To find him, Clara journeys to the war-ravaged land of Cane. Her only companion is the dethroned prince Nicholas, bound by a wicked curse. If they’re to survive, Clara has no choice but to trust him, but his haunted eyes burn with secrets–and a need she can’t define. With the dangerous, seductive faery queen Anise hunting them, Clara soon realizes she won’t leave Cane unscathed–if she leaves at all.

Inspired by The Nutcracker, Winterspell is a dark, timeless fairy tale about love and war, longing and loneliness, and a girl who must learn to live without fear.

divider1Alethea Kontis – Dearest

3rd February 2015

dearest*squee* Alethea Kontis has stolen my heart with the Woodcutter family. Friday, the quite, caring, loving sister is a perfect fit for retelling The Wild Swans and The Goose Girl (The Wild Geese?). I shouldn’t have gobbled up the first two books so quickly because now I have to wait soooo long.

In her third book about the delightful Woodcutter sisters, Alethea Kontis masterfully weaves “The Wild Swans,” “The Goose Girl,” and a few other fine-feathered fairy tales into a magical, romantic companion novel to Enchanted and Hero.

Readers met the Woodcutter sisters (named after the days of the week) in Enchanted and Hero. In this delightful third book, Alethea Kontis weaves together some fine-feathered fairy tales to focus on Friday Woodcutter, the kind and loving seamstress. When Friday stumbles upon seven sleeping brothers in her sister Sunday’s palace, she takes one look at Tristan and knows he’s her future. But the brothers are cursed to be swans by day. Can Friday’s unique magic somehow break the spell?

divider1Stacey Jay – Princess of Thorns

princess of thorns9th December 2014

This blurb contains some deal breakers (using Game of Thrones’ fame as bait, romantic adventure, warrior princess, ugh) but it also caught my attention with certain buzz words (girls dressing up as boys, sisters saving their brothers, hell yes!) so I’m approaching this neutrally and hoping for a great novel.

Game of Thrones meets the Grimm’s fairy tales in this twisted, fast-paced romantic fantasy-adventure about Sleeping Beauty’s daughter, a warrior princess who must fight to reclaim her throne.

Though she looks like a mere mortal, Princess Aurora is a fairy blessed with enhanced strength, bravery, and mercy yet cursed to destroy the free will of any male who kisses her. Disguised as a boy, she enlists the help of the handsome but also cursed Prince Niklaas to fight legions of evil and free her brother from the ogre queen who stole Aurora’s throne ten years ago.

Will Aurora triumph over evil and reach her brother before it’s too late? Can Aurora and Niklaas break the curses that will otherwise forever keep them from finding their one true love?

It seems that fairy tales are alive and kicking because there are a ton more retellings coming out next year. I thought I’d keep the list short and only add books that come out in the near-ish future. Expect another post like this around the end of the year – 2015 looks to be an excellent year for the fairy tale retelling.

 

 

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FTF Graphic Novel Review: Emily Carroll – Through the Woods

I picked up this short story collection on a whim when I was visiting my grandmother (how Red Riding Hood of me) and checked out the local bookstore. For a place whose English language section now stores nothing but bestsellers, naturally this new, creepy-looking book caught my eye. You can even get a taste online. The short story “His face all red” is on Emily Carroll’s home page, for free. I urge you to buy the book before you try the story because you’ll be wanting a lot more from where that came from.

through the woodsTHROUGH THE WOODS
by Emily Carroll

Published by: Margaret K. McElderry, 2014
Hardcover: 208 pages
Standalone
My rating: 8/10

First sentence: When I was little I used to read before I slept at night.

divider1Fairy Tales Retold

  • Bluebeard (sort of)
  • Red Riding Hood (sort of)

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Synopsis

A fantastically dark and timeless graphic debut, for fans of Grimm Tales, The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy and the works of Neil Gaiman

‘It came from the woods. Most strange things do.’
Five mysterious, spine-tingling stories follow journeys into (and out of?) the eerie abyss.
These chilling tales spring from the macabre imagination of acclaimed and award-winning comic creator Emily Carroll.
Come take a walk in the woods and see what awaits you there…

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This was such a lucky buy. The cover stood out next to the mainstream paperbacks – the crass black, white, and red is the first eye catcher. When you open the book and leaf through it to see what the images are like, you’ll be stunned by the amazing and creative full color drawings that await you. I especially liked the two-page spreads with words flowing all over the pages, almost being part of the picture, the font type changing according to the story’s mood. The book was amazing even before I’d started reading it.

32-33ladieshands

A few minutes later, I got home, the book in my bag, waiting eagerly to be devoured. I will admit that I read these short stories during the day and was very happy about the sun light and twittering birds outside. Reading this in darkness (well, comparative darkness… you’ll still need a lamp in order to see the pages) would have been more like watching a horror movie. And I know that my fridge always makes particularly strange noises after I’ve seen a horror movie. Even more so if I’m alone in the house. To say nothing of the cat, who seems to have a sixth sense for when I’m already on edge. Thanks to the sunlight, I was fine, the cat was oblivious, and the fridge made no more than the usual noise.

The tales in Through the Woods may not exactly be fairy tale retellings, although they are certainly fairytale-esque in nature. You can see glimpses of Bluebeard and Little Red Riding Hood in them, and if you look carefully, I’m sure many other fairy tales that feature woods would fit the bill. In tone, they are absolutely creepy, and I mean that in the best way possible. As graphic novels (or short stories) go, the author only has that much space to use for written words. The grunt of the work has to be done by the images. And Emily Carroll combines the two to create this magnificent, scary, yet somehow beautiful reading experience. When I finished the book, I wished there had been more stories. A good 400 or 500 pages more would have suited me fine.

It’s impossible to pick a favorite story because they each have elements that push all my fairy tale buttons. Terrible things happen to women and children (there’s a definition of fairy tales for you) and these stories don’t exactly end well. Some don’t even end at all. They leave you on the kind of cliffhanger I remember from the Goosebumps series by R.L. Stine. A big revelation right at the end, the rest is left to the reader’s imagination. We all know that our own imagination can create the most terrifying endings of them all. Emily Carroll does well in leaving a bit of work for her readers – it adds to the creep-factor. But like I said, it’s a really good kind of creepy. The kind that makes you want to go and tell your friends.

through the woods red riding hood

The blurb recommends this to fans of Neil Gaiman, and I see where that comparison comes from. There is a sense of the weird about Carroll’s monsters and a scariness that does remind me of some of Gaiman’s villains. I have had a middling relationship with his books but I can’t say anything bad about his villains. They are weird and cruel and creepy – they always evoke strong emotions, whether it’s repulsion or fear. And that’s similar to the feeling you get with this graphic short story collection. Add to that the fact that you can never be sure who the villains are or whether the monsters are evil or just misunderstood, and you’ve got a thrillride of black-white-and-red goodness ahead of you.

Reading Through the Woods  is an immersive experience that is worth its price. It’s such a quick read that I’m sure I’ll revisit these stories in the not too distant future. It’s the perfect blend of horror and fairy tales – not that the two are exactly far apart – and if it does nothing else for you, it gets you in the perfect mood for more. Nothing is quite as it seems in Through the Woods and even the more genre-savvy readers will be surprised occasionally. What if Bluebeard had a good reason for killing his wives? What if wolves are the last thing you should worry about when entering the woods? Emily Carroll takes well-known tropes and spins them around to give you a creepy reading experience, filled with wonder and imagination. I can’t wait to read her next book!

RATING:  8/10 – Excellent

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Other tales by Emily Carroll:

  • The Prince & The Sea
    A retelling of The Little Mermaid, with an added twist and lovely creepy images. Plus, the story is told in verse.
  • The Hare’s Bride
    This has an Alice in Wonderland feel to it but, again, turns what we know of the story up on its head. It’s a very short comic but I liked the clever protagonist and the creepy villain. There is no Disneyfication going on here…
  • Anu-Anulan and Yir’s daughter
    This reads like a tale out of mythology but is actually the result of a world-building project. I love the imagery! It’s not a horror story but instead a beautiful love story about a woman and a goddess.
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FTF Book Review: Lisa Jensen – Alias Hook

I will never tire of Peter Pan and the spin-offs, sequels, prequels, alternate stories, and whatever else it has inspired. The Neverland is a special place and fertile ground for the imagination. Some writers have made brilliant new stories of J.M. Barrie’s play, others riff on the Disney version of Peter Pan. Lisa Jensen gives a voice to the unsung hero of the story, Captain Hook. Let’s be honest. We all have a soft spot for that dark and sinister man, right?

alias hook newALIAS HOOK
by Lisa Jensen

Published by: Thomas Dunne Books, 2014 (2013)
Ebook: 368 pages
Standalone
My rating: 6/10
Review copy provided by the publisher (thank you!)

First sentence: Second star to the right of what?

divider1Fairy Tales Retold

  • Peter Pan

divider1Synopsis

“Every child knows how the story ends. The wicked pirate captain is flung overboard, caught in the jaws of the monster crocodile who drags him down to a watery grave. But it was not yet my time to die. It’s my fate to be trapped here forever, in a nightmare of childhood fancy, with that infernal, eternal boy.”
Meet Captain James Benjamin Hook, a witty, educated Restoration-era privateer cursed to play villain to a pack of malicious little boys in a pointless war that never ends. But everything changes when Stella Parrish, a forbidden grown woman, dreams her way to the Neverland in defiance of Pan’s rules. From the glamour of the Fairy Revels, to the secret ceremonies of the First Tribes, to the mysterious underwater temple beneath the Mermaid Lagoon, the magical forces of the Neverland open up for Stella as they never have for Hook. And in the pirate captain himself, she begins to see someone far more complex than the storybook villain.
With Stella’s knowledge of folk and fairy tales, she might be Hook’s last chance for redemption and release if they can break his curse before Pan and his warrior boys hunt her down and drag Hook back to their neverending game. Alias Hook by Lisa Jensen is a beautifully and romantically written adult fairy tale.

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Hook is trapped in the Neverland. The cultured and correct but lonely man yearns for nothing more but to finally die. Whether it’s at the hands of the tyrannical boy Peter Pan or through some other means, doesn’t really matter to him. But then he stumbles across a woman – a grown woman – in the Neverland…

Lisa Jensen takes her sweet, sweet time telling the story of how Hook got his life back. There is magic involved, and a prophecy (naturally), Hook needs to come-of-age in a way, despite his immortality and his eternal war with the eternal child. I could sum up the plot in one sentence or I could do it like the author and talk and talk and talk without getting to the point. Lisa Jensen’s strength is her use of language – she writes flowery prose with tons of description, an introspective, thoughtful protagonist, but very little action. I have nothing against a book that moves slowly, that demands to be savored rather than devoured in one quick bite. But the need for plot, for a reason for this story to be told, is still there. And this is where I was disappointed a bit.

Alias Hook started out well enough. It slogged along a bit until Stella Parrish showed up and turned Hook’s head with her modern (comparatively) speech, manners, and ideas. I loved, loved, loved the scene where the two banter over a bottle of wine and I really wish there had been more scenes like it. This book is also supposedly a romance. But apart from the abovementioned snappy banter, there is very little to go on. Hook falls in love with Stella, to a large part because Stella doesn’t mind his missing hand, his scars, or his dark past. Once they are together however, it gets sappy as hell and I rolled my eyes frequently.

alias hook audio coverI can forgive cheesiness for the sake of good old Captain Hook becoming a little more human, a little less cold-hearted. But what I can’t forgive is the very thin plot. We find out why Hook is in the Neverland in the first place, and then, through convenient intervention by fairies, the Indians, and the mermaids are shown the signs of an ancient prophecy that will finally set Hook free – if he reads the signs right and does the right thing at the right time. That’s it. There isn’t much more to it, I’m sad to say. The rest of the nearly 400 pages is filled with description and inner monologue and rehashing of the same things we read in the beginning of the book.

I did like certain aspects of the world-building, however. Pan’s tyrannical rule, for example, is shown through small details, such as his dislike of roses. The Neverland accomodates the boy in everything he wishes, so there are no roses. Another cool spin on the original is the mermaids, the only creatures that Pan is afraid of. We only touch the surface of their story but I was really hooked whenever the mermaids showed up. They did what I always hope for in a fairy tale retelling – they added something new to a well-known and beloved story.

The fact that it took me weeks and weeks to finish the book, reading in small increments only, speaks to its readability. It is not a difficult story to follow but the prose is so thick, so luscious that it can be overwhelming if you read too much of it in one go. This was by no means a bad book, just one that had quite a few flaws. A tighter and faster moving plot and more layered side-characters would have been a good place to start. Nonetheless, I had fun in this Neverland adventure. Recommended to readers with patience or a deep, deep love of Peter Pan.

RATING: 6/10 – Good

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#Diversiverse – A More Diverse Universe 2014

I’m still reading fairy tales for this month’s reading theme, but you know me well enough by now to understand I can’t just walk by a reading challenge. BookLust is hosting this year’s Diversiverse challenge. The rules are really, really simple:

Read one book by an author of color and review it.

diversiverse 2014
There you have it. Easy, right? Being somewhat of a Hermione Granger at heart, of course I plan on reading more than just one book. Here are a few books from my TBR pile that would qualify:

  • Karen Lord – The Best of All Possible Worlds
  • Intisar Khanani – Thorn
  • N.K. Jemisin – The Shadowed Sun
  • Nalo Hopkinson – Brown Girl in the Ring
  • Helen Oyeyemi – Mr. Fox
  • Hiromi Goto – Half World
  • Zen Cho – The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo
  • Fuyumi Ono – Sea of Shadows

Now I won’t be able to read all of these in September but I’ll try to read as many as possible. I’ve only been actively looking out for authors of color within my favorite genres for a year or so, and I’m astounded at how much my TBR has grown. The books above are really just a little teaser of what’s hiding in my bookshelves. So saying “there is no SFF written by authors of color” doesn’t hold up. I’ll also mention that all my listed books are written by women. So don’t anybody say “women (of color) don’t write X” – because they do. And that’s that.

Anyway, I can’t wait to get started on some of these books. Just finishing up a few more fairy tale retellings and them I’m ready to go. (Also, I cheated and already started The Best of All Possible Worlds because I have no discipline.)