Tag Archives: fairytale

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

The Wrath and the Dawn (The Wrath and the Dawn #1) by Renee Ahdieh
Published in 2015 by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: purchased for Kindle.

Genre: YA fairytale retelling.

My rating:

In a land ruled by a murderous boy-king, each dawn brings heartache to a new family. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, is a monster. Each night he takes a new bride only to have a silk cord wrapped around her throat come morning. When sixteen-year-old Shahrzad’s dearest friend falls victim to Khalid, Shahrzad vows vengeance and volunteers to be his next bride. Shahrzad is determined not only to stay alive, but to end the caliph’s reign of terror once and for all.

Night after night, Shahrzad beguiles Khalid, weaving stories that enchant, ensuring her survival, though she knows each dawn could be her last. But something she never expected begins to happen: Khalid is nothing like what she’d imagined him to be. This monster is a boy with a tormented heart. Incredibly, Shahrzad finds herself falling in love. How is this possible? It’s an unforgivable betrayal. Still, Shahrzad has come to understand all is not as it seems in this palace of marble and stone. She resolves to uncover whatever secrets lurk and, despite her love, be ready to take Khalid’s life as retribution for the many lives he’s stolen. Can their love survive this world of stories and secrets?

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Lovely people, please be aware that this review will contain SPOILERS (like major spoilers, not just tiny unimportant ones), so if you haven’t read this book, you should probably stay away. Just sayin’. I wanted to write a normal review but then I decided that I wanted to rant a bit and I can’t do that without discussing some plot points that happen later in the book. Also, if you’re feeling very protective about this novel, you should probably skip this as well. I won’t be posting this to any of the usual sites like Goodreads, I don’t want to spread misery around, but this is my place and I think I can safely express my opinion here.

This was actually the first book I read after my son was born earlier this month, so I was a hormonal mess at the time, which – if you think about it – should make me more lenient in my criticism. But I just didn’t like this story that much. I know I’m a black sheep in this case, the majority of the reviews I’ve seen around the blogosphere were very favourable, so I’m guessing I had the misfortune of encountering a huge number of my pet peeves in a single book. Eh.

I tend to dislike a novel when I dislike the characters. And I just didn’t connect with Shahrzad like I was supposed to. The girl was forever crumbling to the floor, worrying about her dresses and makeup while in mortal danger, and making silly decisions. Let me just ask you something: if you found out you had a latent magical ability, would you calmly go about your business like nothing had happened? NO. You’d demand someone teach you how to use it, for fuck’s sake. Ditto with the magic carpet. How can you own a flying carpet and not give it a spin? The fact that she volunteered to become Khalid’s next wife and went in with the half-assed plan of telling him a story and killing him without a weapon also made me roll my eyes. As did the teensy problem that she fell in love with her would-be killer (Stockholm Syndrome, anyone?). See, it pushes my buttons, this story.

Then there’s the love triangle. The boys of this story, the Caliph (= king) Khalid and Tariq, Shazi’s childhood fancy/fiancé, were… bland. I was rooting for Tariq up until the moment when he decided that Shazi certainly couldn’t know her own damn mind and decided to remove her from the palace against her will. Khalid was so unsure about his decision to keep her alive that she nearly got choked to death before he changed his mind yet again and beat the guard who was charged with killing her – even though the guy was just doing his job. *sigh* Add the sexy girl from Khalid’s past and a heavy dose of jealousy on Shazi’s part and you get a nice picture of the romantic situation in that palace. Ugh.

I didn’t even like the writing. I’m sure it’s accomplished and all but it just seemed like too much. Okay, so I enjoyed reading about the food, especially since I was eating hospital food at the time (as I said, this was just after my kid was born), but the flowery language just didn’t do it for me.

Nevertheless, I’m still debating reading the sequel. First of all, it’s a duology, so I’m in no danger of tackling a six-part series, which is good. I also want to see if Shazi will step up and own her power – she might redeem herself yet. I don’t know. I wanted to like this story so badly, it has everything I usually want in a book, but the execution was just not for me. I’m in no rush to go and buy The Rose and the Dagger but I might pick it up at some point.

srcek

Have you read The Wrath and the Dawn? What did you think?

Will I have to defend myself against a hail of stones for my crappy review? 

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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Son of the Shadows by Juliet Mariller

Son of the Shadows (Sevenwaters #2) by Juliet Marillier
Published in 2000 (this edition 2011) by HarperCollins.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: purchased (paperback).

Genre: historical fantasy.

My rating:

Son of the Shadows takes up the story of the children of Sorcha, who saved her enchanted brothers, and Hugh, the Briton she married. Sorcha’s daughter Liadan is a gifted seer and healer who thinks, in spite of her visions, that she knows what the future has in store for her–caring for her dying mother and then an alliance marriage to Eamonn. A chance meeting on the road carries her off to care for a dying man–one of the mercenaries of the sinister Painted Man, Eamonn’s archenemy and a killer for hire. Liadan discovers that she cannot choose whom she loves and that she and the Painted Man are as bound up in destiny as her mother and father were before her.

zmaj-desnoThis is the review for the second part of the Sevenwaters trilogy, so there are sure to be SERIOUS SPOILERS for book one. If you’re new to this series, I highly recommend clicking over to my review of Daughter of the Forest, then going out and buying the damn book, because it’s beautiful. And then we’ll chat! :) For those of you who’ve already read the first book, this review should be quite safe.

Well, I’ve been waiting to write this review for two weeks now – because I can’t exactly put my words into order. I’ll try my best but if I gush excessively, please be gentle. ;)

I LOVED Son of the Shadows. Marillier is absolutely the best author I’ve discovered in the last six months and it doesn’t even bother me that her books are pretty long. I chewed through this one in about four days, which is incredible for my current reading schedule, which consists of stolen moments here and there because my life is crazy.

Daughter of the Forest was a wonderful tale but it was also tragical – so it was interesting to see that Son of the Shadows had a different tone. I liked Sorcha as a narrator a lot, her story was moving and heartbreaking and I rooted for her from the beginning. But Liadan was maybe more to my taste in that she is such a decisive young woman. She makes no apologies for her actions, she stands her ground even against the rules of patriarchy, and is very good at what she does.

I did feel like maybe she was too mature at times for a seventeen-year-old, but then the times were different and girls got married at that age and had babies and everything, so it’s not surprising Marillier chose to make her protagonist as young as her mother was when her story began in the first book.

The love story in this book was as gripping as the romance between Red and Sorcha – and I fell for this guy (I’m not saying who he is because it would spoil everything) along with Liadan. But I loved seeing Red as well, he is such a fantastic character – loyal and loving but also flawed. Ahh.

I like that Marillier isn’t afraid to touch on the dark side of the era – the wars, the mistreatment of women, the treachery, and political intrigue. Of course there is some romanticizing of the past but she really brings the setting to life. And now I want to travel to Ireland as soon as possible.

The mythology – and the magic – is very interesting, too. The old Irish druidic lore is nature based, which I love, and I like the fact that Marillier treats gifted individuals much like she does the “ordinary” folk: they make mistakes, they’re flawed, they’re never all-knowing or all-seeing. Their gifts are unpredictable and though there are prophecies and lots of talk about fate, people get to choose their own path (this is another reason I loved Liadan – she just follows her own gut!).

In any case, you should really give this series a try if you can. I will be reading the last part of the original trilogy, Child of the Prophecy, very soon, I think. I want to know what happens! And Marillier has gained a place among my favourite authors for sure. I really want to give her other series a try.

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Have you read Son of the Shadows? What did you think?

Do you have any good historical fantasy recommendations for me? 

I’d love to hear from you! :)

Let’s be friends: emailbloglovin’twitterinstagramgoodreads.

An Ode to The Accident Season

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I know some of you will remember my review of Moïra Fowley-Doyle’s The Accident Season from last year. I read the ARC during a summer heat wave, while we were spending an unreasonably hot day by this little river in the forest. It seemed to me at the time that I must have found the perfect moment to read it because I felt it pull me in and hook its claws.

But now I won a paperback in a giveaway and decided to give it a re-read before lending it to a friend, despite the fact that I rarely re-read books so soon (especially if I’m not re-reading because there’s a sequel coming up). And you know what?

It’s still one of the best books I’ve read in the last couple of years.

I don’t even know why I rated it with 4.5 instead of 5 stars (hearts) when I read it, I just know it’s one of the books I’ve been recommending to everyone and if you haven’t read it yet, do yourself a favour and get a copy because it’s fantastic. It made my “best of” list of 2015 and I’ve been thinking about it ever since I read it, which is always a good sign for me. As some of you are well aware, I have terrible book amnesia and forget some books almost instantly. This one stuck with me and it won’t let go.

On the surface (or rather in the beginning), The Accident Season sounds like a teenage paranormal romance but it’s much more complex than that. I love that it’s a standalone and yet manages to have well-developed characters, a heart-breaking plot, and stunning language.

Have I mentioned that it’s also Moïra Fowley-Doyle’s debut novel? I think I have only read one other debut novel that I liked this much – The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab. It was the first book of hers that I read and I can only hope that I’ll continue falling in love with Fowley-Doyle’s books like I did with Schwab’s.

Anyway. I can now safely say that my mood (though otherwise very important when it comes to book choices) had little to do with my loving this book. It’s just a very good young adult novel and I am very glad that I got to read the ARC. I’m also happy I decided on this re-read because I like returning to characters and stories that speak to me.

Moïra’s next novel, which now has a title (!!!!!), Spellbook of the Lost and Found, is supposed to be similar in vibe but completely different in other aspects. I can’t wait to read it! You can find Moïra here: websitetwitterinstagramtumblr.

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Have you read The Accident Season? What did you think?

What was the last book that stayed with you like this?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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A Batch of YA Mini Reviews

I’ve had these written up and sitting around for a while and I really think it’s time for me to publish them. It may look like I’ve had the two ARCs for years because of their publication dates but I only received them last year, so I’m not that horrible.

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
Published in 2011 by Walker Books.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: purchased (Slovenian hardback).

Genre: MG urban fantasy/magical realism?.

My rating:

I enjoyed Patrick Ness’s Chaos Walking trilogy a lot. I even saw him when he visited a book festival in Ljubljana – he’s one of the few authors who did. I read both that trilogy and A Monster Calls in Slovenian translations, which are very good. But while I liked A Monster Calls, I didn’t love it like I expected to. Maybe my expectations were too high?

In any case, this is a good story about a boy dealing with grief, it’s an important story to have if you need to offer it to a child/young person dealing with a similar situation. I guess we all deal with loss in our lives, in one way or another; hopefully not too often, but such is the way of life. I thought Ness did a credible job of working through the issues of denial, anger, and helplessness that come with such a life situation. I know a lot of people absolutely adore this book, so I urge you to give it a try, especially if you’ve already read Ness’s other stories and liked them.

The artwork is also absolutely brilliant, I think the story wouldn’t be half as good without it. Jim Kay is the man who’s working on the illustrated versions of Harry Potter, but his style is completely different here, it’s dark and scary.

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Thorn by Intisar Khanani
Published in 2012 by Intisar Khanani.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: author via NetGalley. Thank you Intisar Khanani for providing me with an e-copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Genre: YA fantasy/fairytale retelling.

My rating:

Uh, this is one of my old ARC debts… I read Thorn last year as a part of the Fairytale Retelling Challenge, though I never got around to reviewing it. *sigh* I find it hard to write about books I neither actively liked nor disliked, I never know what exactly to write about them. I did enjoy Thorn, it’s a retelling of “The Goose Girl”, where a princess is unlawfully replaced by an evil impostor and has to prove her worth even though she’s now stripped of her royal status. I liked the story, it doesn’t rely on privilege and birthright to show a character’s strength, but I felt like the author didn’t really add anything important to the original story. The plot is essentially the same, only the decor is different. I liked the slightly Oriental vibe, but I found the princess’s reliance on God to be overwhelming, I prefer it if characters primarily believe in themselves and other people. It’s just one of those personal pet peeves, what can I say. I also missed more fantasy elements – I know fairy tales don’t necessarily feature them but this story did, to an extent. So I wished for a more pronounced world-building and/or magic system. This wasn’t a bad story but I wish it was executed more thoughtfully.

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Shadows (The Rephaim #1) by Paula Weston
by Text Publishing.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: publisher via NetGalley. Thank you Text Publishing for providing me with an e-copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Genre: YA paranormal fantasy.

My rating:

Well, what can I say, I’m a sucker for YA paranormals. Ever since I read Twilight, I’ve been searching for good stories (YES, I know, it’s horrible of me to say that but it’s true. I refuse to feel ashamed.) that would break the mold. And… Shadows doesn’t, really. I mean, it’s always nice to read a story where angels aren’t the good guys, though I think Laini Taylor took excellent care of that with her Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy. Shadows is decidedly darker, more violent and kind of mysterious, but it has the requisite hot guy who knows too much about the heroine, the jealous ex-boyfriend (who is also gorgeous, hello, he’s an angel!) and a heroine who kicks ass even though she can’t remember where she’s learned it all. I liked the twin angle – she’s grieving/missing her twin brother, I think that if the story will develop that part, it might get really good. I’ll probably pick up the sequel one day, I’m just not in a huge rush to do so.

zmaj-desno

Have you read any of these? What did you think?

Do you have any fairytale retelling of paranormal fantasy recs for me?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier

Daughter of the Forest (Sevenwaters #1) by Juliet Marillier
Published in 2002 by Tor Books.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: purchased (paperback).

Genre: historical fantasy/retelling.

My rating:

Lovely Sorcha is the seventh child and only daughter of Lord Colum of Sevenwaters. Bereft of a mother, she is comforted by her six brothers who love and protect her. Sorcha is the light in their lives, they are determined that she know only contentment.

But Sorcha’s joy is shattered when her father is bewitched by his new wife, an evil enchantress who binds her brothers with a terrible spell, a spell which only Sorcha can lift – by staying silent. If she speaks before she completes the quest set to her by the Fair Folk and their queen, the Lady of the Forest, she will lose her brothers forever.

When Sorcha is kidnapped by the enemies of Sevenwaters and taken to a foreign land, she is torn between the desire to save her beloved brothers, and a love that comes only once. Sorcha despairs at ever being able to complete her task, but the magic of the Fair Folk knows no boundaries, and love is the strongest magic of them all…

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Daughter of the Forest is one of those books that comes highly recommended and doesn’t disappoint. The recommendations I got (from at least three people) were enthusiastic and insistent but different from your usual sort of hype – Marillier isn’t an author that has received as much hype as Neil Gaiman or Patrick Rothfuss, for example, but she does seem to have very devoted readers. So if you ever recommended this book to me: thank you. I’m glad I listened!

The story has a very Old World feel to it. It’s set in medieval Ireland, where the people of Sevenwaters still cling to the old druidic traditions while Ireland is slowly being Christianised. But it goes beyond that. The plot itself is a retelling of The Six Swans fairy tale, but I’ve read retellings that have a very modern style, for example. Daughter of the Forest is OLD in the sense that it felt like I was reading an old text, or was listening to a storyteller from ages past. It’s really hard to explain, but I loved it.

The writing was denser than usual, perhaps, and more difficult to follow (the tiny print of the mass market paperback did not help), but it dragged me in and hooked its claws into my heart and took a chunk of it when it was finished. Am I being overly dramatic? Perhaps. But I loved the form of this story, its language, and mood (I have to add a trigger warning here, but I’m putting it in white because it is a spoiler, a rather big one but still – you’ve been warned: *spoiler in white* Sorcha gets raped and it’s pretty graphic but this does not overwhelm the story. I dislike it when authors use rape as a plot device to add drama but I felt this was well done. *end spoiler*.

I also have to mention the characters. Since this is a Six Swans retelling, we have the usual players: one sister – Sorcha, who tells the story – and six brothers (she’s the youngest), an evil stepmother, and a bewitched father. But while I loved these Sevenwaters people (Finbar especially, his story … hurts), it was Red, a Saxon man who saves her life (and is saved by her in return), who made this story for me. Look, I won’t go into details because I’m bound to spoil something for you, but he was pretty damn amazing.

I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the series though I’m confused – I thought this was a trilogy, but Goodreads lists 6 titles or more? Anyway, I already made my husband read this and he liked it as well, so it’s man-tested, too (this came out horrible, but you know what I mean). I highly recommend this series to fantasy lovers, especially if you’re looking for something deeper, by which I mean there aren’t many loud bangs or epic fights here (though Sorcha can usually hold her own!), but there are lots of wonderful people.

zmaj-levo

Have you read Daughter of the Forest? What did you think?

Do you like “old” books or do you prefer a more transparent, modern style?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

Top Ten Tuesday: Fairytale Retellings

top ten tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a hugely popular weekly meme hosted by the lovely people of The Broke and the Bookish. Go check out the crazy number of other bloggers joining in the fun! :) I sometimes participate in this wonderful list-making (you know me, I can hardly resist making new lists!) and this week’s topic (FAIRYTALE RETELLINGS) is especially cool since I’m participating in the Fairytale Retelling Challenge!

I’ve written about my love of fairytales before so I’m not going to repeat myself except to add that I’m still amazed by all the great retellings I’ve read and seen around the blogosphere. I decided to split my list into two fives – the first for the retellings I’ve read and would recommend to anyone, not just fairytale lovers; and the second for the retellings I want to get to soon (both as part of my challenge and for myself).

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My Top Five Fairytale Retellings:

  1. uprooted-naomi-novikUprooted by Naomi Novik. This is a recent title (I reviewed it here) and definitely my favourite from this week’s list. It’s a very loose retelling of Beauty and the Beast intertwined with some cool Polish folklore but it’s a great fantasy novel in its own right.
  2. Scarlet by A. C. Gaughen. This is more of a legend than fairytale – the story of Robin Hood and his Merry Men (or women!). I reviewed it here if you want a closer look!
  3. Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge. Nyx was a really nice change from the swooning heroines of Disney films, so I liked her a lot, naturally! :)
  4. The Accident Season by Moïra Fowley-Doyle. I can’t seem to stop recommending this book. It’s not a fairytale retelling per se but it’s full of folklore and mystery and has this old vibe going on (my review here).
  5. The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab. Again, it’s not a retelling but definitely a fairytale! It’s the first book I ever read by Schwab and the reason I fell in love with her writing.

Honorable mention goes to Laini Taylor’s novella collection, Lips Touch, which features three really gorgeously written fairytales or fairytale-inspired stories.

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The Top Five Fairytale Retellings I Want to Read Soon:

  1. thorn-intisar-khananiDaughter of the Forest (and other retellings) by Juliet Marillier. By all accounts it’s a wonderful story, albeit a tough one. Marillier has re-written a number of fairytales, apparently, which makes my reluctance to start her books completely irrational.
  2. Thorn by Intisar Khanani. I already have a copy of this one and I need to get around to reading it soon! It was recommended by Becky.
  3. Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge. It’s not a sequel to Cruel Beauty as such but it seems to have a similar vibe.
  4. Beauty by Robin McKinley. Her books are fantasy classics and I want to read them soon!
  5. Wicked Lovely by Marissa Marr. I came across this one a while ago on some other lists and it looks really interesting! Several bloggers I like appear to have enjoyed it, too.

See also: these two posts (1 and 2) by Read at Midnight for more inspiration!

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What are your favourite fairytale retellings? Which ones do you want to read next?

Do you prefer the retelling to stick to the story or veer off into the unknown?

I’d love to hear from you! :)