Showing posts with label fairy tale. Show all posts
Showing posts with label fairy tale. Show all posts

Thursday, January 25, 2018

In The Night Garden (The Orphan's Tales #1) by Catherynne M. Valente

In the Night Garden by Catherynne M. Valente. Bantam Dell, 2006. Paperback. 483 pages. 

I've been debating for a while on whether or not I wanted to try to write a full review for this book, but it was just so beautiful and engrossing it has continued to stick with me quite some time and I really want to share it with you all. Just a note: this review will only cover the basics of this book, as it's hard to go into detail about this book without writing far too much than anyone would actually want to read. 

I have loved Valente's writing ever since I first picked up her Fairyland series, and then onto Deathless and Palimpsest, and I have yet to meet a book of hers that I don't enjoy, but I honestly did not expect to enjoy this one as much as I did because of the formatting. Somehow, though, Valente made it work in her usual magical, captivating manner that completely pulls me in.

In the Night Garden is written in a format inspired by The Thousand and One Nights, which includes an ongoing frame story that contains many stories within. With In the Night Garden, however, the basic premise of a story within a story turns into yet another story within that story, and another story in that one, and so on and so forth. For example, the book begins with a young girl telling a young boy a story, and one character in that story then tells another character their own story, and that idea continues, delving deeper and back out of the story, coming back to the frame every now and then to push the dialogue forward. I really did not at all expect to love this as much as I did, as I'm actually not usually that much of a fan of people telling stories within stories, but somehow each tale managed to fully capture me.

The tales that Valente tells through her characters are not just random stories thrown together, but instead have threads among each one that very cleverly and neatly tie them all up together. Some are obviously connected (especially among the outer stories), but some have connections that tie not only to the stories it is a part of, but even to earlier stories that were a part of a different main plot. (Apologies if that sounds confusing--it's really hard to describe!)

The characters in this collection were all so dazzling in their unique portrayals and their own strengths, each of which was different from the last. All of our main protagonists have fascinating, complex stories and are shown to be very strong people with each showcased in their own way that is displayed at some point in each magical tale. There are influences from so many myths and cultures, from Grimm's Fairy Tales to The Arabian Nights and so much more. If you are at all interested in fairy-tale and myth-like stories,t hen you must pick this one up. There are endless magical events such as animal transformation, witches, and so much more. 

The most notable part of Valente's writing is, of course (and as usual) her stunning prose. To help close up this review, I'm going to share some of the many gorgeous pieces of writing that can be found in this book:

“Never put your faith in a Prince. When you require a miracle, trust in a Witch.”

“We all have someone we think shines so much more than we do that we are not even a moon to their sun, but a dead little rock floating in space next to their gold and their blaze.”

“You wanted Death? This is it. Dirt and decay, nothing more. Death translates us all into earth.” He frowned at me, his cheeks puffing slightly. “Are you disappointed? Did you want a man in black robes? I’m sure I’ve a set somewhere. A dour, thin face with bony hands? I’ve more bones in this house than you could ever count. You’ve been moping over half the world looking for Death as though that word meant anything but cold bodies and mushrooms growing out of young girls’ eye-sockets. What an exceptionally stupid child!” Suddenly he moved very fast, like a turtle after a spider—such unexpected movement from a thing so languid and round... “You want Death?” he hissed. “I am Death. I will break your neck and cover you with my jar of dirt. When you kill, you become Death, and so Death wears a thousand faces, a thousand robes, a thousand gazes.” He loosened his grip. “But you can be Death, too. You can wear that face and that gaze. Would you like to be Death? Would you like to live in this house and learn his trade?”

“Stories,' the green-eyed Sigrid said, unperturbed, 'are like prayers. It does not matter when you begin, or when you end, only that you bend a knee and say the words.”

...and so many more. I have so many marked passages from this book. Overall, I've given In the Night Garden five stars! I really never expect anything less from Valente, and I can't wait to continue devouring the work I haven't read by her. 



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Monday, November 20, 2017

The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic by Leigh Bardugo


The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo. Imprint, 2017. Hardcover. 281 pages.

This collection was every bit as gorgeous as I had hoped it would be--if not more. I love how unique the stories are while also bearing strong influences and taking on familiar forms of other classic fairy tales. Bardugo truly proves her creative and accomplished writing skills in this collection, weaving together lyrical words with jaw-dropped stories and themes. These stories contain beautiful messages and dismantle on so many fairy tale tropes in order to create new ones by maintain the classic ideas but warping them into something rather different. 

The illustrations in this book are also so beautiful and add so very much to this entire story. I love how each story alternated with the blue and red color scheme, and I particularly loved how the border of each story developed as the story continued. That entire concept was a beautiful, creative idea that worked out wonderfully.

And now I'd like to include a brief word on each story: 

Ayama and the Thorn Wood - ★: I found this to be a perfect story to start the collection off with. There were some incredibly classic elements that made it feel very classic, while also ebodying an wholly new and unique story at the same time. I loved the storytelling element added to this story and felt that the entire thing was quite lovely. It became slightly repetitive towards the end, which I understand is common in these types of stories, but that took away some of my enjoyment.

The Too-Clever Fox 🦊★: I really enjoyed this story, although I found it slightly predictable at times. This one felt particularly classic and familiar, but I loved the various twists Bardugo weaved into it. I really enjoyed reading about all of the different animals and there roles, but the clever fox, of course, was my favorite. "The Too-Clever Fox" gets a little darker than the first story, but it still weaves in an interesting little fable message. 

The Witch of Duva - ★: I loved this one! The entire concept and the dark atmosphere that permeated the entire story in such a wonderful manner were amazing, and I really think Bardugo crafted this one perfectly. The witch was a fascinating character, and i loved how somewhat disturbing and odd this story became as it went on. 

Little Knife 🌊 ★: "Little Knife" is brilliant. This is a story about a girl named Yuva who is so jaw-droppingly beautiful that she literally has to go around with a veil over her so that people can control themselves when she is around. This is another one that I really loved. It was such a classic and timeless tale, and one that I really enjoyed. 

The Soldier Prince - ★: This was probably my least favorite content-wise. I loved the illustrations and border decorations on this story, but the story itself fell somewhat flat for me. This is a take on the Nutcracker, and although I enjoyed that aspect, I felt a little lost and uninterested in many parts o this story. the plot idea was interesting, but the execution felt lackluster.

When Water Sang Fire★: I completely understand why this was chosen as the last story of the book, as it leaves an incredibly strong message. This is a Little Mermaid-inspired tale that is all about sacrifice, ambition, and acceptance. I don't want to go into any detail on this one because it is wonderful to discover on your own. 


Overall, I've given The Language of Thorns five stars! I can definitely see myself re-reading these tales and even reading them to others. 


Buy the book: Amazon | Book Depository





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Monday, October 30, 2017

Hiddensee: A Tale of the Once and Future Nutcracker by Gregory Maguire

*Hiddensee is available Tuesday, October 31st!*


If you're not already aware, Gregory Maguire is also the author of Wicked, which, you know, is a little popular. I've never read Wicked (but I've seen the play!) and I have heard so many mixed opinions about Maguire's writing. Some people love it, but a lot seem to hate it. I don't know how similar in styles Hiddensee is to Wicked, but from reading through Hiddensee I can understand why some people dislike his writing style, as it is certainly distinct... but I really like it.

Hiddensee is a very unique tale that aims to tell a story about the Nutcracker and his toy maker, Dirk Drosselmeier. This story ended being more about Drosselmeier than the nutcracker, which was honestly slightly disappointing to me. I was expecting something more magical in its telling and focused on the nutcracker's story. Despite this, I was still very engaged in Drosselmeier's story and still found an abundance of elegance in his writing.

The most engaging aspect of this book is simply Maguire's prose. It is truly gorgeous and it is apparent that he has a natural gift for crafting lovely sentences and phrases. Something that I particularly liked about Maguire's writing was how he manages to combine fairy-tale based atmospheres and imagery with regular human life in a way that meshes together really well. In addition to this, all of Maguire's characters are delightfully crafted, with some that I loved, some I hated, and some I that I could never really decide upon my feelings towards. Drosselmeier himself is an peculiar character that I enjoyed following and discovering his backstory and the many odd events of his life.

Hiddensee can be slightly hard to follow at times, but for me that was  made up for by the intriguing manner in which this book is written. It's a dark story, which I expected and was happy with how Maguire seemed to handle keeping this darkness present. There are also small moments of humour interspersed, nothing overbearing, but just enough to allow the reader to connect with the story.

 The only downside is that I felt that things were left a little too uncertain at times. I generally enjoy books with uncertainty and incomplete endings, but sometimes I just felt too lost or unsure and it did take away some of my enjoyment. This is also due to the book being a bit slow at parts, and if you're looking for the Nutcracker-focused moments you'll have to wait til the last part of the book. Things get a bit confusing at various moments, but I was always able to re-orient myself and enjoy the book again. However, even when I was confused I still found myself immersed in Maguire's writing.

After reading Hiddensee, I definitely think that I'll be giving Wicked a shot sometimes. Overall, I've given Hiddensee four stars!

Buy the book: AmazonBook Depository


*I received an ARC of Hiddensee in excange for an honest review. This has no effect on my rating.*


You might also like:
The Woodcutter King by Ærick Graham
Helen of Troy by Margaret George
The Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee
The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski
Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood

Monday, October 24, 2016

Blood Red, Snow White by Marcus Sedgwick


*Blood Red Snow White will be released Tuesday, October 25th!*

Blood Red Snow White
Blood Red Snow White by Marcus Sedgwick. Roaring Book Press, 2016. Ebook. 320 pages.

*I received a copy of Blood Red Snow White courtesy of NetGalley and Roaring Book Press in exchange for an honest review.*


Before I dive in, I would like to note my initial confusion over this title. I had not heard of this book when I came across it, and I assumed it was a new, unreleased upcoming book, but I soon realized that it has in fact already been published, and that this will be a re-publication. I am not sure why this is the case, but I am still glad to have had the opportunity to read it! Now, on to the review!

The first half of Blood Red Snow White was stunning and magical and I was immediately drawn into Sedwick's gorgeous fairy tale-like prose. His prose was dazzling and took me to a warm, cozy place that I looked forward to reading more of. This was the part that included the fairy tale retelling and, in my opinion, the best parts of the entire book.

However, once I hit the halfway mark when the fairy tale neared its end, the charm started to wear off and I found myself feeling lost and unsure if I was reading the same book that I was reading when I felt so charmed by it. Things got confusing, and I found myself feeling somewhat bored, almost wishing for the book to hurry up and finish. I no longer cared much for our main character - Arthur Ransome's - struggles and story. It felt like it was both stretched out and too hasty at the same time. I intended to write a bit more about Arthur's character, but I'm suddenly finding myself coming up short on things to say. That's not to say Arthur was a bad character - he had some redeeming quirks and qualities - but he wasn't exceptionally interesting, and sadly, he doesn't really stand out to me.

What I admire about Sedgwick is his courage and complete lack of fear. He seems unafraid to try out new stories and writing styles, and I admire and appreciate that about him; in fact, it is partly what drew me into this book and prompted me to continue reading it despite my occasional lack of interest. And despite my 'meh' feeling about the end of this book, I will definitely be looking into more of Sedgwick's works, as I would love to see what else he can do with his wonderful writing abilities.

Overall, I am giving Blood Red Snow White three-and-a-half stars.





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Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit
Gilded Ashes by Rosamund Hodge

Thursday, February 4, 2016

"Krim Du Shaw" by Talia Haven

"Krim Du Shaw" by Talia Haven. 6 pages. Ebook.

**I received a free copy of "Krim Du Shaw" in exchange for an honest review**

Have you ever pondered the myths and stories of unicorns? Did you believe they existed when you were a kid? Talia Haven tackles this particular issue in a lovely little short story about unicorns themselves. Most people tend to treat unicorns as a bit of a joke, which has caused my interest in them to wane a bit over the years, but I have always been interested in mythical and magical creatures, and this story has really sparked my interest of unicorns.

"Krim Du Shaw" is a wonderful, fable/folktale-like short story concerning the existence and disappearance of unicorns from the earth. For something so short, this story holds mass of emotion and compelling storytelling. Haven's prose is truly beautiful and gives her story a truly magical quality that I feel fit the subject matter perfectly.

This story contains strong themes of purity, a desire for connection with others, and even death that all have an equally touching impact. The lesson that it contains within these themes is one that I think someone of any age can relate to and understand: man's greed is the downfall of many good and beautiful things in this world.

Overall, I'm giving "Krim Du Shaw" four stars for its beautiful, touching, haunting storytelling. If you just need a little quick something to read, then I highly recommend this story. It's not purely aimed for middle aged readers, but rather I find it be one of those books that transcends age and is a good match for just about anyone.



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Uprooted by Naomi Novik
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Thursday, January 21, 2016

Gilded Ashes by Rosamund Hodge

Gilded Ashes by Rosamund Hodges. HarpetTeen Impulse, 2014. 111 pages. Ebook.

I've read Rosamund Hodge's books Cruel Beauty and Crimson Bound, and although they weren't bad, I wasn't particularly blown away, and I'm sorry to say that I didn't enjoy them all that much. Because of this, I was a little hesitant to delve into Gilded Ashes, but the premise was intriguing, so I decided to give it a shot.

Gilded Ashes is a short, slightly over 100-page novella set in the same world as Cruel Beauty. If you haven't read Cruel Beauty, you can definitely still enjoy Gilded Ashes, but you won't completely know or understand who the Gentle Lord is and why the characters keep making bargains with him, but I promise it's not crucial to understand and should not detract from your enjoyment of this novella. There have been countless Cinderella retellings, so many, in fact, that I get quite tired of them. Gilded Ashes, fortunately, was a wonderfully refreshing take on this plot.


In this particular story, Maia is our orphan living with her stepmother and her two stepsisters who try desperately to please their mother. Maia's birth mother, however, made a deal with the Gentle Lord when she died, promising that anyone who hurt her daughter would be severely punished. In brief, this basically means that Maia must continually keep a smile on her face and pretend that everything and everyone in her life is lovely, otherwise her mother will torture or kill the person who harmed her or caused her any pain and grief. Sounds fun, right? It might not be pleasant, but it makes for a captivating story setup. There is also, of course, an upcoming ball where a not-so-happy Duke of Sardis will choose his bride, which completes our plot setup.

The story is told from Maia's perspective, and it's eerie. Any task she is given or event she encounters, she must then say how happy she is to do it - no matter the outcome - and its slightly creepy. It's sad. It's haunting. She has trained herself so well and so deeply that this feeling of falseness and actual unhappiness has become ingrained within her. Maia has this amazing awareness of her own flaws and her own lack of importance in this world, and Hodge did a great job making her into such a deep, layered character.

I really enjoyed the usage of the two stepsisters element in this retelling, because although they did, of course, have similar stereotypes taken from other Cinderella stories, they were actually rather unique and didn't appear to outright bully or hate Maia, or even really have the desire to. Instead, there was more tension between the daughters and their mother. The sisters desperately want to please their mother, but their mother is still grief-stricken over Maia's father's death, which has subsequently addled her mind. Hodge's world is bleak and hopeless, and the way her characters mesh in with this setting is perfect.

Here's what I didn't like: the romance. I know, this is Cinderella, it is romance - but this romance was all too sudden, and this is actually big problem that I've found throughout Hodge's other works as well. Everything happens too fast. The characters move too quickly from strangers to suddenly not able to live without one another. That's generally something I like to call lust, not love. The other big disappointment with this novella was the ending. It just felt like a big rainbow-colored band-aid was slapped on and smoothed over everything so that it did cover up all the damage and tie up some loose ends, but it's still extremely conspicuous and slightly questionable.

I'm really glad I had the opportunity to read Gilded Ashes, because it has allowed me to really appreciate Hodge's writing style and ability to create such an in-depth and captivating story in only one hundred pages. Overall, I am giving Gilded Ashes four stars for its wonderful storytelling and compelling characters.



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Uprooted by Naomi Novik
A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
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Of Metal and Wishes by Sarah Fine