Tag Archive | fairy tales

Review: Spindle Fire by Lexa Hillyer

Series: Spindle Fire #1

spindle-fire-lexa-hillyerIt all started with the burning of the spindles.
No.
It all started with a curse…

Half sisters Isabelle and Aurora are polar opposites: Isabelle is the king’s headstrong illegitimate daughter, whose sight was tithed by faeries; Aurora, beautiful and sheltered, was tithed her sense of touch and her voice on the same day. Despite their differences, the sisters have always been extremely close.

And then everything changes, with a single drop of Aurora’s blood–and a sleep so deep it cannot be broken.

As the faerie queen and her army of Vultures prepare to march, Isabelle must race to find a prince who can awaken her sister with the kiss of true love and seal their two kingdoms in an alliance against the queen.

Isabelle crosses land and sea; unearthly, thorny vines rise up the palace walls; and whispers of revolt travel in the ashes on the wind. The kingdom falls to ruin under layers of snow. Meanwhile, Aurora wakes up in a strange and enchanted world, where a mysterious hunter may be the secret to her escape . . . or the reason for her to stay.

Spindle Fire is the first book in a lush fantasy duology set in the dwindling, deliciously corrupt world of the fae and featuring two truly unforgettable heroines.


4 Drink Me Potions


Thank you Edelweiss and HarperCollins for this copy in exchange for an honest review

**Spindle Fire comes out April 11, 2017**

“Light too can be a curse. It can illuminate things no one should ever have to witness.”

Spindle Fire was more than just a re-telling of Sleeping Beauty. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting going into the book as Sleeping Beauty wasn’t ever one of my favourite fairy tales, but I truly enjoyed the imaginative atmosphere that Lexa Hillyer weaved into this story.

The plot and the girls

Moving between POVs from our two main leads, Aurora and Isabelle, made the story seem faster paced. I don’t know, it may just be me on this, but whenever there are multiple POVs and things just seem to kind of hang at the end of one character’s plotline, I seem to hurriedly go through the next character’s so that I get back to the really intense moment we were left with earlier. So this is how I kind of flew through much of Spindle Fire.

That’s not to say that the story wasn’t mostly well-paced. It was slow at the beginning, mostly because we all know the elements of Sleeping Beauty’s story (ie. Aurora falling asleep) would have to occur at some point, but the beginning was captivating with the backstory laid out.

Isabelle is clearly my favourite of the two. She’s blind, with the excerpt above coming from her wise, WISE views on the world. (You will notice as you read that Hillyer’s prose is very descriptive in a “oh, that’s such a nice way of describing this deep concept”.) She doesn’t let her position in court bring her down. Who says the bastard child can’t be just as awesome (if not better) as the “royal” one?

Her love for her younger sister is astonishing. You would think being the legitimate and the bastard child of a king would set them against each other but there was never animosity between them. Only love. It may be easier for Aurora to love her (or pity her for her station in life), but to be the underprivileged one to likewise feel just as protective for the spoiled one, it’s difficult to imagine.

Then again, Aurora was the cliched smart, beautiful, kind and obedient princess that fairy tales kind of like to have (or at least the traditional Disney ones–NOT your scary Brothers Grimm ones). So yes, Aurora wasn’t as interesting of a character, but she too grew a lot throughout her demise (and oh boy is there a lot going on with her even in sleep) which made me like her a bit more.

Oh, and there’s also the interesting fact that fairies tithed away 2 of 5 senses (you’re running out of senses, poor girl) on permission by her royal parents (such parents!) to make her the cliched princess that she is. She can’t speak, but even more interestingly, she can’t touch. I suppose that means no physical feelings, but I never could figure out if that included emotional ones. Maybe they’re all tied up in one another sometimes.

So what I’ve described so far hasn’t really made you feel too excited, has it? Cliched spoiled princess and the underdog who may show her true colours as a hero. And of course, the Sleeping Beauty story arc, with the needle pricking Aurora and evil witches (can’t have a story without those evil witches, can we?).

And then things CHANGE.

Nothing is exactly as you’d think it would be once Aurora goes to sleep. A mad witch queen who may or may not be evil, a whole kingdom hidden from the real world, and….a narwhal hunting expedition??

If I had to use one word to describe this book that made it stand out, it’d be IMAGINATIVE.

The romance (’cause of course that’s an important point to make)

Each princess seems to have a particular boy she sets her sights on. For Aurora, she meets a hunter named Heath who is very difficult to read. Here’s a princess who dreams of finding true love, and a jaded young man who doesn’t want to hope in anything more than the world they’re trapped in. Oh, and doesn’t believe in love. What kind of match would that be?

Unfortunately, the romance part on this couple doesn’t get too far, in my opinion. A potential love triangle pops up here with another girl who’s pining away for Heath, but I don’t honestly think she poses much of a threat (yet).

Then there’s Prince William and Isbe, who insistently calls her by her full name. William isn’t too cliched. He’s not extraordinarily brave or the kind of man you’d see “riding in on a white steed”. He’s supposed to be the answer to all of Isabelle’s problems: her vulnerable kingdom and the fact that Aurora is stuck in some perpetual sleep.

BUT, I always love a good forbidden love story. Their journey together to get to Aurora was one of the things that most delighted me. Things progressed a bit more with this couple, but unfortunately, I can totally see a love triangle looming in the distance with another guy who secretly feels things for Isbe (and whom she liked before William).

So Andge, would you say that this romance sets it up nicely for book 2?

Well, I dunno. I don’t like love triangles, and it doesn’t seem too serious at the moment (nothing happens between the other potential people) but I guess the only thing to do is to wait for the next book to come out….oh, in approximately A YEAR.

Hillyer’s prose

I have to remark on this before I conclude this review (I know, I’ve gone on for far too long already). You can clearly see the author’s poetry background. Small pieces of poetry actually pops in here and there. There’s a little lullaby both the girls know by heart and a very creepy scene where a crazy girl is talking in rhymes. So who says poetry doesn’t have its place in YA literature?

However, it’s also evident everywhere else you look! If you love metaphors strewn all over the place to demonstrate significant “character moments” and deep thoughts, then this is for you (or it may annoy you…I can see that happening too).

From Aurora learning to decide for herself and just GROW a backbone,

[Aurora] is not just swimming toward safety now but away from her former, meeker self. She can almost hear the wail of the old Aurora, weak and scared, carried downstream, far away.

to Isbe pondering on the concept of true love, one she never accepted as much as her sister did,

[Isbe] always thought romance was a cloudy concept, like the steam over a pot of boiling stew–it smells of hearty ingredients, it warms the senses…but ultimately it dissolves.

to grim thoughts.

“You know, I used to love looking at the stars at night. I used to think they were put there to guide us. Now I know they are just watching and winking, mute observed, bemused by our failures and our loss.”


Out of ALL else, this was what sold me on Spindle Fire. It wasn’t ever too over-the-top. The metaphors are strategically placed throughout, and some are more subtle than others. I do hope you enjoy the book when it comes out. I look forward to reading more from Lexa Hillyer.

Overall Recommendation:
Spindle Fire is an imaginative re-telling of Sleeping Beauty with a whole bunch of wild other stuff thrown in there as well. Lexa Hillyer’s prose is both beautiful and poignant, really describing the turmoils of the inner heart of both her main characters. Like a fairy tale, there is both action (fighting evil witches, of course!) and romance in it, but ultimately, this is a story about the love shared between two sisters. I think this story is worthwhile to check out, if at least just to read prose and descriptions.

Note: All quotes are subject to change when published

Review: Beheld by Alex Flinn

Series: Kendra Chronicles #4

beheld-alex-flinn#1 New York Times bestselling YA author Alex Flinn is back with magical twists on four fairy-tale favorites, each featuring a little help from Kendra, the witch from Beastly, as she searches through cities and centuries for her lost love.

Being a powerful witch, Kendra has survived it all. Since she first beheld James over three hundred years ago, Kendra has tangled with witch hunters and wolves, helped a miller’s daughter spin straw into gold, cowered in London as German bombs fell, and lived through who knows how many shipwrecks. But her powers have limits, and immortality can be lonely. Kendra isn’t ready to stop searching for the warlock she had met centuries ago.

With the help of her magic mirror, Kendra will travel the world to reconnect with her lost love—and, of course, she can’t help but play a hand in a few more stories along the way.

Featuring retellings of favorite fairy tales such as Little Red Riding Hood, Rumpelstiltskin, East of the Sun and West of the Moon, and The Ugly Duckling, Alex Flinn’s latest young adult novel, Beheld, is fresh fairy-tale fun from beginning to end.


 

2.5 Drink Me Potions


Rating: 2.5 stars

Thank you Edelweiss and HarperCollins for this copy in exchange for an honest review

**Beheld comes out January 10, 2017**

I read the first fairy tale retelling by Alex Flinn years ago, a title that had blew up to even be optioned as a film. Beastly. I really enjoyed it. Perfect balance of fairy tale, romance, and her own spin of things.

But these last few years?

I’ve been honestly a little disappointed. Oh, a number of fairy tale retellings since Beastly has come out, but none can really compare to Flinn’s best piece of work. Beheld is unfortunately no different.

Kendra is a fan favourite character since the time of Beastly. A teenage witch who accidentally causes mishaps when she tries to help out the humans around her. I was excited at the prospect of a story revolving around her, even when the synopsis said there’d be 4 fairy tales stuffed into this one story with Kendra being the glue holding all of them together as she journeyed through time in search for her lost love.

Sounds good, right? Especially if you liked Kendra.

It wasn’t as great as you may think. Only the first retelling on Little Red Riding Hood actually featured Kendra a lot. That’s where she met her love, James. Granted, it wasn’t even a good romance story. Totally insta-love. It’s like they had to fall for each other because they were the only wizard/witch they met in Salem at the time that were of about the same approximate age (although age can be deceiving when you’re born a witch).

Each story wasn’t even equal length. The 3rd story set in World War II era was short while the following story on the Ugly Duckling was extremely long. I was so irritated with the last one – it’s already near the end of the story and I’ve lasted this long – but Kendra’s not really there at all . She has no POV until like the very last chapter. She’s basically not present except for a scene or two. The others she interacted with the main character of those individual stories more, but even then, Beheld isn’t a story about Kendra.

No. Beheld is a 4-in-1 story of fairy retellings featuring Kendra in order to make sense of the connection between them. With each story as you go along, the less you get of Kendra and the more annoyed I get.

It’s not that I hated the retellings. They were okay, with some better than others. Short stories of love, friendships and going against all odds for a mostly happily ever after.

Due to their SHORT length, it also made it hard for me to connect and really feel for many of these characters either. Kendra would honestly be the only highlight. And she’s not the one you should be coming to these stories for.

If you loved Alex Flinn’s other retellings since Beastly, then you’d probably be okay with this book. It’s like another one of those stories. Otherwise? Don’t waste your time.

Overall Recommendation:
Beheld is an anthology of stories all connected by Kendra’s arc where she lost her love. However, it doesn’t do justice to its promise for more of Kendra with each individual story eclipsing her own. None of the characters really stuck with me for too long due to the short time we have with them so overall, this was a big letdown.

Review: Hunted by Meagan Spooner

Series: Hunted #1

hunted-meagan-spoonerBeauty knows the Beast’s forest in her bones—and in her blood. Though she grew up with the city’s highest aristocrats, far from her father’s old lodge, she knows that the forest holds secrets and that her father is the only hunter who’s ever come close to discovering them.

So when her father loses his fortune and moves Yeva and her sisters back to the outskirts of town, Yeva is secretly relieved. Out in the wilderness, there’s no pressure to make idle chatter with vapid baronessas…or to submit to marrying a wealthy gentleman. But Yeva’s father’s misfortune may have cost him his mind, and when he goes missing in the woods, Yeva sets her sights on one prey: the creature he’d been obsessively tracking just before his disappearance.

Deaf to her sisters’ protests, Yeva hunts this strange Beast back into his own territory—a cursed valley, a ruined castle, and a world of creatures that Yeva’s only heard about in fairy tales. A world that can bring her ruin or salvation. Who will survive: the Beauty, or the Beast?


3 Drink Me Potions


Thank you Edelweiss and HarperCollins for this copy in exchange for an honest review

**Hunted comes out March 14, 2017**

A Beauty that could hunt and take care of herself? That sounds a lot more interesting than Disney’s version.

And honestly? It was. In a way.

Yeva and her 2 sisters found themselves in a dire situation when their father’s business venture failed and they were left in ruin. Always at heart in the forest where her father taught her everything he knew about the hunt, Yeva was half-delighted to be returning to their only home left near the heart of the forest.

Of course, there’s a Beast loose out in the depths of this forest.

I thought it was an interesting premise, but the execution of the story was different from what I expected. It’s not to say it was bad, but it was just…different. I’ve never been a huge fan of Beauty and the Beast. I find it hard to fall in love with such a beastly figure that kept you prisoner. Meagan Spooner did her best to make sure this romance was more believable.

The story takes a while to unfold to where you know it’s heading: when Beauty meets the Beast and becomes his prisoner. I was rather impatient during the beginning 1/4 as these details just didn’t capture my heart as much.

And once we were introduced to the Beast properly (besides the little bits at the end of each chapter that were designated from the Beast’s POV), things did get more exciting. Combining elements from apparently a Russian folklore, this was a very unique twist on the fairy tale.

However, at the end of the day, it just….lacked something. The romance wasn’t as deep and loving as I expected for a fairy tale. There weren’t enough moments between Beauty and the Beast that let me understand how she went from hatred to sympathy to such love.

And that ending? It was so rushed. I was so confused at how things wrapped up, although it does end nicely (as all fairy tales should). I wished the book was a little longer if that’s what it took to let the last 10% flesh out better. It just wasn’t executed in the best way, in my opinion.

For a Beauty and the Beast story, it did its best and it was a good retelling that stood out amongst all the others.

Overall Recommendation:
Hunted was a unique spin on the classic Beauty and the Beast fairy tale, with a bit of Russian folklore. Yeva wasn’t just some damsel in distress, and the way Beauty and Beast balanced each other out without one being always the dominant one was interesting. However, the execution of the story, especially the ending, left a less than satisfactory feeling as it concluded too fast and the romance just couldn’t make me sigh with happiness like fairy tales do.

Review: The Wish Granter by C.J. Redwine

Series: Ravenspire #2

the-wish-granter-cj-redwineAn epic, romantic, and action-packed fantasy inspired by the tale of Rumpelstiltskin, about a bastard princess who must take on an evil fae to save her brother’s soul, from C. J. Redwine, the New York Times bestselling author of The Shadow Queen. Perfect for fans of Graceling and the Lunar Chronicles.

The world has turned upside down for Thad and Ari Glavan, the bastard twins of Súndraille’s king. Their mother was murdered. The royal family died mysteriously. And now Thad sits on the throne of a kingdom whose streets are suddenly overrun with violence he can’t stop.

Growing up ignored by the nobility, Ari never wanted to be a proper princess. And when Thad suddenly starts training Ari to take his place, she realizes that her brother’s ascension to the throne wasn’t fate. It was the work of a Wish Granter named Alistair Teague who tricked Thad into wishing away both the safety of his people and his soul in exchange for the crown.

So Ari recruits the help of Thad’s enigmatic new weapons master, Sebastian Vaughn, to teach her how to fight Teague. With secret ties to Teague’s criminal empire, Sebastian might just hold the key to discovering Alistair’s weaknesses, saving Ari’s brother—and herself.

But Teague is ruthless and more than ready to destroy anyone who dares stand in his way—and now he has his sights set on the princess. And if Ari can’t outwit him, she’ll lose Sebastian, her brother…and her soul.


3 Drink Me Potions


Thank you Edelweiss and HarperColins for this copy in exchange for an honest review

**The Wish Granter comes out February 14, 2017**

The premise of this story was a unique spin on a less common fairy tale that C.J. Redwine opted for, that being Rumpelstiltskin. Let me start off by saying that our protagonist, Ari, was a breath of fresh air. What do I mean by that?

Well, 1) she wasn’t a thin rod to start off with, where time and time again she was described as having “generous curves”. 2) She wasn’t a true princess by birth, but rather a bastard one. Like, how often do you have the main character as the bastard offspring? She and her brother Thad made the story more interesting with this angle of animosity against them by the kingdom they ended up leading. 3) She has this undying love for all things baked – pies, cakes, you name it. I dunno why this point had to be construed so many times to the reader, but I suppose it made Ari different too.

The choice of fairy tale was entertaining as it’s not as overdone as other ones, ahem *Snow White like in The Shadow Queen*. The Wish Granter and his (literally) bloody contracts threatened peace in the kingdom of Sundraille. After reading Redwine’s previous Ravenspire novel not so long ago, it was nice to get to know another kingdom in this world she had created. There was creativity put into spinning this tale in her own way, including Ari’s path of discovery to destroying The Wish Granter, Alistair Teague.

I enjoyed the tense emotions running seeing the ruthless underground network of Teague’s employees in the city of Kosim Thalas. I loved the excitement pumping when reading about the sneaky ways people were ensnared in Teague’s fine print contracts (because of course, I knew they’d be saved somehow – not a fairy tale for no reason). And I loved that there were guest appearances from other sources. For example, near the beginning of the book, some of you may be delighted to see the reference to Lorelai and her dragon prince. I sure was. But I almost fan-girled to see a badass version of Hansel and Gretel pop into the plot as well. I kinda wish there would be a separate story on these twins in the future. Maybe in the story for the fae kingdom of Llorenyae? *Here’s to hoping*.

So why doesn’t this have a higher rating?

Well, for starters, my heart just wasn’t into the romance. Gasp! I know, right? The romance is everything.

Here’s why. The chemistry between Ari and Sebastian was okay, at best. It didn’t light any fires in my heart. It didn’t make me rush through the pages in hopes that they’d get their happily ever after. No, I just felt…indifferent. I may have liked Ari’s fiery personality and quick thinking, but Sebastian felt too clichéd to me.

Now, don’t go hating on me but his broken family situation and physical abuse in childhood made him into a very quiet man with many issues to overcome. That’s to be expected. But sometimes reading from his POV, it just brought down any romantic mood. I liked him enough, I suppose, on his own. He tried to do his best by the princess he thought he didn’t deserve to be friends with, but he’s just a broken hero at the end of the day. Maybe in fairy tales a princess’ love can change a man and overcome any problem, but it just seemed to be a little clichéd. And I just didn’t feel true chemistry beyond falling for each other due to intense circumstances.

Although the plot of the story was unique, it also was a little predictable towards the end. The climax really picked up, but for the most part, it dragged. It took me a while to finish this book. Yes, I was busy, but if it was really exciting, I’d have set time to finish it no matter what. And the conclusion to the big question, how do you destroy the Wish Granter and his binding contracts?, just felt too simple. And predictable. And frankly confusing. I can’t give away any answers without ruining it, but honestly, her final plan in play (that related to the original tale) felt unnecessary in getting rid of Teague.

So I have good points and not-so-good points to make. At the end of the day, it was still an interesting enough read. Would I recommend it? Maybe not. Unless you really enjoyed book 1 in the Ravenspire series, The Wish Granter might just be a pleasant afternoon read that doesn’t quite stir your blood pressure.

Overall Recommendation:
The Wish Granter was a different take on the Rumpelstiltskin story with a leading character that had a fiery personality and might be more relatable to some readers. The story continues as a companion novel to the Ravenspire series by Redwine and it’s up to standard with her previous work. However, lack of true chemistry between the leads, slower pacing throughout and somewhat predictable ending after all that buildup left a bit of disappointment behind. I will probably only recommend it to those who loved The Shadow Queen and to those who aren’t expecting a grand spin on this fairy tale.

Review: Bright Smoke, Cold Fire by Rosamund Hodge

Series: Bright Smoke, Cold Fire #1

bright-smoke-cold-fire-rosamund-hodgeWhen the mysterious fog of the Ruining crept over the world, the living died and the dead rose. Only the walled city of Viyara was left untouched.

The heirs of the city’s most powerful—and warring—families, Mahyanai Romeo and Juliet Catresou share a love deeper than duty, honor, even life itself. But the magic laid on Juliet at birth compels her to punish the enemies of her clan—and Romeo has just killed her cousin Tybalt. Which means he must die.

Paris Catresou has always wanted to serve his family by guarding Juliet. But when his ward tries to escape her fate, magic goes terribly wrong—killing her and leaving Paris bound to Romeo. If he wants to discover the truth of what happened, Paris must delve deep into the city, ally with his worst enemy . . . and perhaps turn against his own clan.

Mahyanai Runajo just wants to protect her city—but she’s the only one who believes it’s in peril. In her desperate hunt for information, she accidentally pulls Juliet from the mouth of death—and finds herself bound to the bitter, angry girl. Runajo quickly discovers Juliet might be the one person who can help her recover the secret to saving Viyara.

Both pairs will find friendship where they least expect it. Both will find that Viyara holds more secrets and dangers than anyone ever expected. And outside the walls, death is waiting. . .


2.5 Drink Me Potions


Thank you Edelweiss and HarperCollins for this copy in exchange for an honest review

**Bright Smoke, Cold Fire comes out September 27, 2016**

Rating: 2.5 stars

Being familiar with Rosamund Hodge’s kinda work and unique plot twists to works that we’re used to, I came in with 2 expectations.

1) This novel would be all dark and twisted up as is her usual style and 2) the themed storyline would be Romeo & Juliet. Well, one of those expectations was met.

Was this really a Romeo & Juliet based story?

For a story that sounded like it was based on a star crossed romance that was absolutely forbidden between 2 clan members in a dying wasteland, oddly enough, Romeo and Juliet weren’t the main characters. Oh no. Their clan relatives were. Paris and Runajo.

Paris was definitely my fav of the 2. He’s the character with the loyal heart and a sense of honour in a city where it seems that kinda trait is running out. He didn’t expect much in life, yet when he landed the responsibility to protect the Juliet, he goes all in. Even after it goes awry and it’s now Romeo he needs to protect, he still doesn’t let him down no matter that they’re rival clans that don’t particularly like or understand each other.

Runajo on the other hand was hard for me to empathize with. A more complex character, her moral compass is a little skewed if you ask me. She’ll do whatever it is that seems right in her eyes but may be seen as wrong in the eyes of her clan or society. Basically, she’s pretty self-centred and being in her head sometimes sucks ’cause she has some really dark thoughts bouncing around in there. On the up side, she’s definitely bold and unafraid of outside opinions.

Now the characterization wasn’t all bad. That’s not why my rating isn’t as high as it could be. It’s the plot.

Why was everything so confusing?

Well, to hand it to Hodge, it was really complex. The world building I mean. There are the undead called revenants popping up, killing the live people, all caused by illegal necromancy occurring in the city by an unknown entity. This is amidst the chaotic information dump that is the ritual of making someone known as the Juliet in the Catresou clan (not including the whole why and religion of this clan for doing so). Not to mention, there’s some other factor known as the Sisterhood with a High Priestess who practices blood sacrifices to appease the gods and keep the city running albeit for only a short while longer.

That’s a whole lot of information that unfortunately doesn’t get dumped onto us in a way that made the reading easy. Jumping back and forth between what the boys are doing and what the girls are doing made it harder to keep track of what was going on in each other’s lives if you don’t read continuously in one sitting.

Oh, and how could I forget about the romance?? Well, that’s ’cause there really wasn’t much of any. Considering Romeo and Juliet weren’t physically together for like, almost the whole book, and Runajo was in the Sisterhood for goodness sakes, that just leaves Paris for romantic entertainment and I think I liked him as he was without being attached to some girl. So if you come romping over here for a nice (albeit dark) romance, you might wanna rethink that plan.

Overall I did enjoy the complexity and creativity put into it. Hodge easily makes a world that’s darkly intriguing, but the pacing was a little slow going. Fortunately, this gives us plenty of time to get to know our 2 – I mean, 4 – protagonists. The growth they each undergo through the events that eventually tie both their storylines together was nice to see, in particular for Runajo who was the hardest character for me to love. There’s plenty of questions left and with a cliffhanger ending like that, I wanna see what happens next to these characters.

Overall Recommendation:
Bright Smoke, Cold Fire was just as dark and complex as I had originally anticipated, especially if you’ve read some of Hodge’s other works. Although this dying world and the intricacies of each clan that’s survived so far was unique, the background history and terminology can get kind of confusing and altogether be too much at times. With a slower pacing than I’m used to in a high fantasy and a whole lot less romance than I would have thought for a Romeo & Juliet story, this novel was more of a mediocre start.

Review: The Shadow Queen by C.J. Redwine

Series: Ravenspire #1

the shadow queen -cj redwineLorelai Diederich, crown princess and fugitive at large, has one mission: kill the wicked queen who took both the Ravenspire throne and the life of her father. To do that, Lorelai needs to use the one weapon she and Queen Irina have in common—magic. She’ll have to be stronger, faster, and more powerful than Irina, the most dangerous sorceress Ravenspire has ever seen.

In the neighboring kingdom of Eldr, when Prince Kol’s father and older brother are killed by an invading army of magic-wielding ogres, the second-born prince is suddenly given the responsibility of saving his kingdom. To do that, Kol needs magic—and the only way to get it is to make a deal with the queen of Ravenspire, promise to become her personal huntsman…and bring her Lorelai’s heart.

But Lorelai is nothing like Kol expected—beautiful, fierce, and unstoppable—and despite dark magic, Lorelai is drawn in by the passionate and troubled king. Fighting to stay one step ahead of the dragon huntsman—who she likes far more than she should—Lorelai does everything in her power to ruin the wicked queen. But Irina isn’t going down without a fight, and her final move may cost the princess the one thing she still has left to lose.


 

3.5 Drink Me Potions


Wrought with magical battles and characters full of heart, The Shadow Queen was a nice addition to the fairy tale re-telling genre, but it just seemed to lack that little extra umph to get my heart kicking.

C.J. Redwine honestly is an amazing author. The different kingdoms she’s created are uniquely her own and the problems her characters face are reminiscent of the Snow White story but it’s not solely following its predictable path (ie. no little dwarves, my dear fellow readers).

It’s true, the story never really lacked action and suspense. Princess Lorelai is constantly in danger from being found out by her evil stepmother, another magical mardushka who would kill her the instant she realizes the girl’s not dead. From one battle to another, magic against magic, family against family, The Shadow Queen is full of interesting battle sequences. It was enjoyable and the pacing was okay, albeit a little slow in some places between fights.

The characters were golden. GOLDEN. Lorelai is fierce as a warrior but a true queen. She loves with her whole heart, to the point that she’s unwilling to hurt people who’ve been bespelled to kill her because it’s not their fault they’re willing to do her harm. She doesn’t even care that it’s to her own expense that she’s sparing them. Like, if it were up to me, I’d be a little okay with torching a few innocents if it meant staying alive to save thousands more. Clearly she’d make a better queen than I would….

She may be a great potential queen, but she’s also a loving sister. Her little brother Leo is almost everything to her. Her best friend, her confidante and someone who could make her smile even in the most serious of times. I can attest to that feeling, being a big sis myself. I adored Leo’s personality and character too. Redwine really makes them jump out of the page at you, like you can see them talking to you and not just at you.

Prince Kol was an interesting character for the role of the huntsman. I liked his dedication to save his people and to live up to his honor even when it came at his own expense. He and Lorelai are a lot alike in that area. So it’s no surprise they kinda start falling for one another.

The main thing that maybe prevented my rating from skyrocketing is that I didn’t feel the chemistry between them all that strongly. Yes, they were friends and allies over time, and they admired each other for their strength of will. It helps that they each tried saving the other. But love? It was a little more difficult to grasp that underlying emotion. For a fairy tale, I’m pretty sure the love aspect of the story should be a strong component of it.

I wish I could say I loved this, but I will at least say that I enjoyed the adventure while it lasted. And I can’t wait to see what other stories Redwine is going to craft from the other kingdoms she’s briefly mentioned in this book. I do suggest you give it a try. My lower-than-expected rating may only be a “picky me” thing.

Overall Recommendation:
With lots of spunk and action galore, The Shadow Queen is a nice re-telling of Snow White with plenty of additional magical creativity and world building. The characters were fierce and brilliant, truly an original personality crafted from Redwine’s imagination. Lorelai in particular is a great protagonist with the heart of a good queen and the spirit of a warrior. I enjoyed her relationship with her younger brother and even with Kol. Their romantic chemistry was a bit lacking in my opinion, but overall, this is one story I would still recommend you read, especially for others like me who adore a good fairy tale re-telling.

Review: Gilded Ashes by Rosamund Hodge

Series: Cruel Beauty Universe #2

gilded ashes -rosamund hodgeA romantic and fantastical reimagining of the classic Cinderella tale, Gilded Ashes is a novella by Rosamund Hodge set in the same world as the author’s debut novel, Cruel Beauty.

Orphan Maia doesn’t see the point of love when it only brings pain: Her dying mother made a bargain with the evil, all-powerful ruler of their world that anyone who hurt her beloved daughter would be punished; her new stepmother went mad with grief when Maia’s father died; and her stepsisters are desperate for their mother’s approval, yet she always spurns them. And though her family has turned her into a despised servant, Maia must always pretend to be happy, or else they’ll all be struck dead by the curse.

Anax, heir to the Duke of Sardis, doesn’t believe in love either—not since he discovered that his childhood sweetheart was only using him for his noble title. What’s the point of pretending to fall in love with a girl just so she’ll pretend to fall in love with him back? But when his father invites all the suitable girls in the kingdom to a masked ball, Anax must finally give in and select a wife.

As fate would have it, the preparations for the masquerade bring him Maia, who was asked by her eldest stepsister to deliver letters to Anax. Despite a prickly first encounter, he is charmed and intrigued by this mysterious girl who doesn’t believe in love. Anax can’t help wishing to see her again—and when he does, he can’t help falling in love with her. Against her will, Maia starts to fall in love with him too. But how can she be with him when every moment his life is in danger from her mother’s deadly bargain?


4 Drink Me Potions


“I’m not mad,” I say. “I’m the only one who’s not, because I don’t want to be loved.”


Now, is that the kind of protagonist you would think of when you imagine Cinderella? I don’t think so. And it’s completely awesome .

Rosamund Hodge has done it again with another reimagining of a famous fairy tale. Except, it’s darker than you would have ever dreamed of, yet it still sounds remotely familiar with the age-old story.

Maia is cursed. Plain, old cursed by – of all people – her mother who unintentionally ruined her life what with demons “helping” and haunting her and anyone she loves. She can never be anything but happy or else Mother Dearest will get upset and cause a great deal of harm to those who are to blame for the littlest bit of Maia’s unhappiness.

Who knew being happy could be a curse?

Her romance with Lord Anax was a little too fast for my liking. It is a novella, so I can’t be truly that picky I suppose, but for its length, I will let it slide. Their chemistry, if given ample time as it would have in a normal-sized book, would have been absolutely charming. These two people who didn’t believe in love, Maia especially.

 

“Love is madness,” I say. “Doesn’t everyone agree that you’d do anything, endure anything, to be with the ones you love? So either you’re willing to let them use you with any sort of cruelty, so long as they keep you – which makes you a fool – or you’re willing to commit any cruelty, so long as you get to keep them – which makes you a monster. Either way, it’s madness.”

 

Anax was hurt by his childhood friend and didn’t think that love was worth more than honesty. And dear Maia has Mother -er, and the demons – to consider if she were to ever love someone else. But against all odds, their unexpected friendship and meetings forged something between them. And since this is a Cinderella re-telling, of course their romance is gonna be sweet, right? But what I loved about Gilded Ashes is that the romance is equal in parts with the darker aspects Hodge added to the classic tale. It’s not too dark for me to make me too squeamish to continue reading, although that’s subjective to the individual reader. I liked that it was different from the other re-tellings which are becoming quite popular.

Not only does this short novella contain some dark qualities and the romance of Cinderella, the family dynamics with the “evil” stepmother and “ugly” stepsisters played major roles in it too. Kore and Thea were not the typical easy to hate stepsisters. What with Maia’s fear of being responsible for her mother’s wrath on those around her, she holds herself at arm’s length from her stepfamily. If it weren’t for that and another problem that comes to light, maybe it wouldn’t have been so bad between the three girls. Either way, these familial relationships were complex and also contributed to the overall plot.

All I can say is, Hodge is a genius with this novella. I do wish it was a full-length novel instead. It would’ve given the story more than what it is now, but I’m not complaining a bit about what has been written here at least. If you love the Cinderella tale, I do suggest you try out this darker version of the classical story. It may just surprise (and delightfully intrigue) you.

Overall Recommendation:
Gilded Ashes was a Cinderella re-telling that I have never imagined before. Plagued with demons and her ghost of a mother, Maia does not have it easy when it comes to protecting those who are around her. So it comes as no surprise that love is not something she wishes to have. It can only end in heartache. Through a chance meeting with Lord Anax, Maia may have to reconsider her opinions on love. Due to its short novella length, their romance was a little fast for my tastes but their chemistry was undeniable. As a fan of fairy tale re-tellings, Rosamund Hodge is a genius for crafting something that’s familiar at the heart of the story yet still creatively flourished with something that sets it apart from all the others. I suggest you give this darker Cinderella story a shot.

Review: Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George

Series: The Princesses of Westfalin Trilogy #1

princess of the midnight ball -jessica day george A tale of twelve princesses doomed to dance until dawn…

Galen is a young soldier returning from war; Rose is one of twelve princesses condemned to dance each night for the King Under Stone. Together Galen and Rose will search for a way to break the curse that forces the princesses to dance at the midnight balls. All they need is one invisibility cloak, a black wool chain knit with enchanted silver needles, and that most critical ingredient of all—true love—to conquer their foes in the dark halls below. But malevolent forces are working against them above ground as well, and as cruel as the King Under Stone has seemed, his wrath is mere irritation compared to the evil that awaits Galen and Rose in the brighter world above.

Captivating from start to finish, Jessica Day George’s take on the Grimms’ tale The Twelve Dancing Princesses demonstrates yet again her mastery at spinning something entirely fresh out of a story you thought you knew.


 

2.5 Drink Me Potions


If you know me well enough, you would know that I absolutely adore fairy tale retellings in general. However, something about Princess of the Midnight Ball just lacked in excitement.

Overall, this novel was a fun enough read while it lasted, but it’s easily forgettable.

The story is based off of one of the Grimm’s brothers fairy tales. This wasn’t one of those famous ones remade by Disney. It did give off a bit of a creepy vibe so I suppose Disney would have to change it up a bit. Anyway, it starts off with the evil villain. Some dude named the King Under Stone. Like, what the heck? I don’t know the fairy tale so it may have made tons of sense but it just seemed like a lame name for such a powerful villain. So what if he lived underground? Doesn’t make it right to give him such a stupid name.

There were 12 girls, all sisters and princesses of the kingdom, who lived under a curse of having to dance a Midnight ball every third night. For the evil villain himself. Of course, no one could know of this except the fact that they kept disappearing to who-knows-where in the middle of the night from their rooms, no matter how hard their father king tried to prevent them.

Enter Galen Werner, just an ordinary soldier boy coming home from a war that was over in the kingdom. He was a likeable character. He seemed to follow some sort of moral code. Maybe it came from seeing the sights he did in war that not many other young people his age did. He wasn’t jaded though, but gave off a trustworthy vibe, a you can count on me kind of feeling.

Of course, turns out that he really was the kind of guy who would sacrifice his own safety to help 12 princesses for their sake.

There’s a bit of romance in it between Galen and the eldest princess, Rose. Not by much for YA standards. It was an innocent first bloom kind of love, with glimpses from afar and the occasional conversation in the garden. It was still nice, I guess. Just…not the kind of thing to get your heart racing for them.

But all these things I mentioned above? Lackluster. That’s the best word I can come up with. There’s not much emotion beyond a slight oh hey, that’s cool, I guess kinda feeling. Things were predictable, it was just a matter of how they got there. Although there wasn’t much, here are the few things that I found unique and somewhat memorable:

1. All the girls were named after flowers. (I know, right? That’s also hard to keep track of with so many of them)
2. The lair of the evil villain reminded me of the Underworld, but described with water instead of fire.
And lastly,
3. Galen’s adventures with his invisibility cloak. (Harry Potter, anyone? Hmm?)

Princess of the Midnight Ball is not a bad fairy tale retelling, but may just be memorable for the younger YA audience. If I had read this a few years earlier, maybe my rating would have changed. Who knows? But as of right now, this story will probably fade from my memory amongst the many, many books I’ve read. It’s just missing that extra umph.

Overall Recommendation:
Princess of the Midnight Ball was a retelling of an unfamiliar fairy tale. This could’ve made it more intriguing and mysterious since I had no prior knowledge of how the story may go, but the story was still fairly predictable from the start. The characters were okay, especially our hero Galen who fits the knight in shining armor stereotype to a T, but no one stuck out as unique. The romance was innocent and cute and that’s not bad, but that doesn’t even give the story a little extra excitement that it clearly needed. Overall, it was decent, but it’s no competition amidst the rather large genre of fairy tale retellings in YA these days.

Review: Cress by Marissa Meyer

Series: The Lunar Chronicles #3

cress -marissa meyer

In this third book in the Lunar Chronicles, Cinder and Captain Thorne are fugitives on the run, now with Scarlet and Wolf in tow. Together, they’re plotting to overthrow Queen Levana and her army.

Their best hope lies with Cress, a girl imprisoned on a satellite since childhood who’s only ever had her netscreens as company. All that screen time has made Cress an excellent hacker. Unfortunately, she’s just received orders from Levana to track down Cinder and her handsome accomplice.

When a daring rescue of Cress goes awry, the group is separated. Cress finally has her freedom, but it comes at a high price. Meanwhile, Queen Levana will let nothing prevent her marriage to Emperor Kai. Cress, Scarlet, and Cinder may not have signed up to save the world, but they may be the only hope the world has.


 

3.5 Drink Me Potions


I wanted to love this as it so clearly thrilled the majority of Meyer’s fans from her previous two novels in the Lunar Chronicles. However, the only feeling I’m left with is mild adoration instead of the OMG, that was the best thing ever.

Let me start off by saying that I did really enjoy it, but it just didn’t meet my extremely high expectations after reading Cinder and Scarlet. I will break down what I loved about it, and what gave me pause from giving it a maximal rating.

LOVED:

1. Cress was different from the two previous protagonists in the series. She’s a little naive (after all, she spent a huge chunk of her life stuck in a floating satellite all on her own) and a whole lot innocent. Her voice stood out from regular heroine-types in YA literature. She wasn’t a fighter; she believed in the best of everyone.

NOT-SO-LOVED:

1. Maybe it was her innocence or whatever, but her huge crush on Thorne even before she met him was a little farfetched for me. She fell for a figment of her imagination, someone she molded Thorne to fit into when she read up on his history. I’m not saying their romance wasn’t great and all – eventually. Just, the strength of her feelings before even truly getting to know him really puzzled me. Honestly, why him? Of all the people she spied on, she picked Thorne and believed the best motives behind all his crazy plots and mishaps.

LOVED:

2. The camaraderie between all the protagonists so far in the series. Cinder was still very much present, for which I’m glad ’cause she’s still my favourite character of all of them and an integral part of everything. Their banter and scenes were very fun to read, and Meyer writes in a way that each person she added to this story wasn’t some generic version of each other. They had a unique personality that definitely shone through their actions and their comments.

For example, Cinder can be quite sarcastic but you know she has a genuine heart. Thorne is hilarious with his wittiness, charm and sometimes the most inappropriate things to say. Add Cress’s innocence and eagerness to help him out, it made for a lot of fun reading this novel, considering the length of it could potentially bore people if it wasn’t kept entertaining.

Knees suddenly weak, Cress reached for [Thorne’s] forearms to stabilize herself. “You came for me.”

He beamed, looking for all the world like a selfless, daring hero.

“Don’t sound so surprised.” Dropping the cane, he pulled her into a crushing embrace. “It turns out you are worth a lot of money on the black market.”

NOT-SO-LOVED:

2. Because of the continual addition of new protagonists with each book, there are more and more POVs separating all the characters. So you’ll be invested into one particular scene with say, Cinder, and then suddenly pop on over to what Cress is up to. It made me impatient to get past one person’s adventures in order to continue with the one I was most invested in. So by the end of Cress, even with 500+ pages, it didn’t seem like as much happened for each character because the length of the novel was split so heavily between so many people. I just didn’t love Cress as much as Cinder because I read so much more about Cinder’s hardships and rise to heroine status.

LOVED:

3. The plot was jam-packed with crazy things that each heroine had to face, along with their potential “Prince Charmings”. It wasn’t boring as there’s always one thing or another happening to someone. The action and adventure were just as fun as you would expect from Meyer, that I can assure you.

NOT-SO-LOVED:

3. But, because of the segmentation of everyone’s POVs, the plot didn’t flow as smoothly. Eventually when most of the gang got back together, it was a little easier to go from Point A to Point B.

The other thing was the lack of romance (or hints of it) for the most part.  Obviously, the grand finale would give us all the closure we needed with each heroine and their love lives, but there just wasn’t much in this department here. Wolf and Scarlet get separated early on, Cinder and Kai still have some unresolved issues since book 1, and Cress has these huge expectations for Thorne that he really didn’t ask for so he obviously doesn’t measure up.

All in all, Cress was a fine novel and continuation in the Lunar Chronicles. It just had a lot of expectations to meet, and these points may have just been things that only bothered me as the majority of fans found it immensely enjoyable.

Agh, but that ending! Now I really want me some Winter.

Overall Recommendation:

Marissa Meyer does it again with this next installment of the Lunar Chronicles. Due to my nitpickiness and extremely high expectations for her work, I didn’t enjoy Cress as much as I had hoped. Switching between too many POVs made the plot seem disconnected in places and there just wasn’t enough resolution in the romance department for a fairy tale retelling. That’s not to say it wasn’t still a good read. I would recommend this to any fans captured by Cinder as the pace picks up heading into the finale.

Review: The Merchant’s Daughter by Melanie Dickerson

Series: Fairy Tales #2

the merchant's daughter -melanie dickersonAn unthinkable danger. An unexpected choice.

Annabel, once the daughter of a wealthy merchant, is trapped in indentured servitude to Lord Ranulf, a recluse who is rumored to be both terrifying and beastly. Her circumstances are made even worse by the proximity of Lord Ranulf s bailiff a revolting man who has made unwelcome advances on Annabel in the past. Believing that life in a nunnery is the best way to escape the escalation of the bailiff’s vile behavior and to preserve the faith that sustains her, Annabel is surprised to discover a sense of security and joy in her encounters with Lord Ranulf.

As Annabel struggles to confront her feelings, she is involved in a situation that could place Ranulf in grave danger. Ranulf’s future, and possibly his heart, may rest in her hands, and Annabel must decide whether to follow the plans she has cherished or the calling God has placed on her heart.


2.5 Drink Me Potions


I don’t even know where to begin this review. And I always have something to say when giving opinions on books. Please. It’s second nature to me. So this isn’t a good sign.

Annabel was a really sweet girl. Too sweet, in fact. Yes, she wanted to learn more and grow spiritually, although the priest back in her time did not think a woman should be doing such things. I want to be nice like her, but it was almost too much. She did what she was told and constantly worried about things. From worrying about not betraying her friend’s trust to working hard as a servant girl now to warding off men who couldn’t take “no” for an answer.

Fine, the last one is a reasonable thing to worry about, but still.

And besides being a really nice girl, she was beautiful. It was obvious from the way men kept coming after her. Or from the snide comments from the other maids employed in Ranulf’s household who were jealous. I mean, that’s great and all. But she was like PERFECTION. And almost seemed to have no backbone. I couldn’t connect with her very well.

As for Ranulf, he fit the ideal of Beast if anyone did. But I just did NOT like him. If it was written well, I would be able to at least sympathize with him and actually like him as the love interest. I just didn’t care for him much.

It may be the time difference (it was the Middle Ages after all) that most of these characteristics can be attributed to. Like, men could get away with doing whatever they wanted with a girl. Who’s gonna believe the word of a woman, huh? It still baffled me quite a bit why Dickerson had so many of the other maids try to seduce Lord Ranulf so they could get his title. I mean, sure, that happens in any century, but it seemed rather random and unnecessary to the plot. They thought he was ugly as crap. He was scorned and had terrible scars, literally, but still.

I’m gonna just cut this review short. Honestly, I don’t feel much for The Merchant’s Daughter. I did not enjoy it, but it wasn’t boring. That’s the distinction. Still readable, but not much feeling towards anything going on. This is apathy at its greatest.

Overall Recommendation:
Having read some of Dickeron’s other novels, The Merchant’s Daughter just didn’t compare. With a Beauty and the Beast theme, Annabel is given the choice to work in Ranulf’s place as punishment. He was definitely a beastly man, but that was all he is. I couldn’t empathize and it made liking him as the love interest hard. Annabel was a little too nice of a girl for my taste. I like my protagonists to have a bit more fight in them, to stand up for their passions, to feel something. How could I feel something for them if they don’t actually have strong feelings? I wouldn’t recommend this on your reading list unless you don’t mind these annoyances that just bugged me endlessly.