Posts Tagged ‘Fairy Tale Retelling’

The past becomes a continuous future, unless you break the Change…No further analysis!

About :

Arienrhod, the Snow Queen, rules over the planet of Tiamat. She won the right to rule during Tiamat’s 150 year winter cycle, and she stays young and immortal on the blood of the dolphin-like mer. No one understands the immortality, but clues point to remnants of the ancient “Old Empire”…

Unable to explain the mystery, Arienrhod embraces eternal life and has decided that her own rule really should extend beyond the planet’s winter cycle and further, into the summer years. Several of her potential plans to that end appear to be bearing fruit.

If only that troublesome police chief, Jerusha, would stay out of her way. If only Arienrhod’s clone, Moon Dawntreader Summer—a Summer native, raised to understand and eventually manipulate the naiveté of Tiamat’s technologically-backward Summer natives—would heed the Winter queen’s call to the great royal city of Carbuncle. If only Moon’s cousin and pledged, Sparks Dawntreader Summer, would love her, or at least both of them…

One way or another, the Queen is determined to rule this planet forever. And the Queen always gets what she wants. The Snow Queen is classic hard sci-fi authored by Joan D. Vinge, originally published in 1980 and republished several times since. First of a series. Won Hugo Award for Best Novel (1981), Nebula Award Nominee for Best Novel (1981), Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel (1981).

Thoughts :

Coming in at 536 pages, The Snow Queen is a monster of ambitious character- and worldbuilding, inspired by Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tale of the same name. While the novel takes time to come into its own, its depth becomes clearer as the clues gradually unfold to reveal the full picture of The Snow Queen Cycle universe. Two of the main narrators—The Winter Queen and her young clone, Moon—have information unknown to the other, and the large cast of characters (including Moon’s lover Sparks and the police chief Jerusha) adds other pieces to the puzzle. With patience, I found myself quite taken with the universe.

Moon and Sparks are cousins, pledged in their Native sort of “marriage.” The young lovers have committed to spending their lives together, no matter what, and to Moon, this means they will both become sibyls of their Native goddess, the Lady of the sea. But to their joint dismay, only Moon is chosen, and Sparks leaves both her and their home for the royal city of Carbuncle, hurt and confused about his own future.

Sparks is not wholly Summer Native. Though he never knew his Offworlder father, he spent his childhood dissecting technology that other Summer Natives of Tiamat reject in favor of simple lifestyles. On Carbuncle, he quickly finds that his naiveté will make life difficult…until he draws the attention of the Winter Queen herself.

Meanwhile, Moon learns the art of the sibyl, connecting with the unearthly reservoir of knowledge that can perfectly answer any question (which she assumes is from her goddess, the Lady…). But when the Queen summons her to visit her cousin and lover, Sparks, on Carbuncle, she determines to make the trip.

Along the way, she is kidnapped and taken Offworld, an act that will banish her from ever returning to Tiamat—by law, and by physics. Soon, the season will change into Summer, when all technologically-savvy Winters will leave their colony and travel back to their homeworlds–and the stargate to Tiamat will close. And anyway, once “Offworld,” sibyls aren’t allowed to return to Tiamat, for reasons that not even the queen knows all about…So now Moon must stay on this colorful new planet of Kharemough, forever, or so say her kidnappers. But Moon won’t give up on Sparks that easily.

As Moon plans her return to Tiamat, the Winter Queen, who mirrors Moon with perfect physical precision, slowly poisons young Sparks with her power-hunger. Eventually, she corrupts him into breaking his pledge to Moon and hunting out the mer blood for her immortality. Reveling in her success, the queen hatches a plot to live forever with her newest consort.

I was able to settle in and get swept away by the vision of the book, although it did take some time for me to feel committed and interested in the plot and characters. Partially, this is due to Vinge’s slow pay out of answers to our many questions. We’re also following quite a large cast of characters, so the desire lines can be difficult to follow and slow to develop in urgency.

Unfortunately, the characters grew on me very slowly, although I loved the awesome police chief, Geia Jerusha. I wish we could have spent more time with her. However, almost every character does have complex, grey-scale morals and motives—even the strong, well-developed secondary characters—so even if it can be hard to like them, they are interesting to read about (and watch tumble into the dark depths of their ambition, muahahahaha!).

The writing itself has little feel or atmosphere, although it does reach literary heights in several places. I found it difficult to connect with, during a lot of the book.

But even with its slow-burn plot, difficult characters and remote writing, The Snow Queen is a hard sci-fi you can get lost in. I’ve been preoccupied by its exploration of colonialism, sexism, feminism, technology and religion in the days since I finishing it; I would certainly be interested in exploring more “Offworld” planets, whose politics and technology I found very interesting. I’m not in a hurry, at the moment, but perhaps in the future.

Overall :

Despite my difficulty in connecting emotionally with this book, The Snow Queen is hard sci-fi you can get lost in.

Recommended To :

The Snow Queen reminded me very much of Julian May‘s Pliocene Exile saga ( The Many-Colored Land ). They read similarly in many ways, although the latter moved slightly more quickly, with its killer premise. I would recommended The Snow Queen to hard sci-fi fans looking for a complex, grey-scale space opera.

****4/5 STARS

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thebearandthenightingale

‘All of my life,’ she said, ‘I have been told ‘go’ and ‘come.’ I am told how I will live, and I am told how I must die. I must be a man’s servant and a mare for his pleasure, or I must hide myself behind walls and surrender myself to a cold, silent god. I would walk into the jaws of hell itself, if it were a path of my own choosing. I would rather die tomorrow that live a hundred years of the life appointed me.”

Vasilisa Petrovna has “the sight.” All around her she sees creatures from Pre-Christian folklore, known as “chyerty” by the villagers and “demons” by the Catholic. But in medieval Catholic “Rus,” having the sight is a dangerous; so she hides her gift and seeks her own way in the world.

Her way does not include marriage. Every other girl may marry or go to a nunnery, but Vasya refuses, preferring to talk with her creature friends and ride horses in the wild woods around her village.

Everything changes when her father remarries to a Catholic stepmother. Vasys’s idyllic—if never easy—life in the woods shifts from difficult to miserable. The oppressive atmosphere over the village bodes ill for Vasya and her chyerty friends. She has no idea that the Winter king watches her, just as his brother, the devourer, watches. But she slowly begins to realize that her village may depend on the very gifts it scorns. The Bear and the Nightingale is Historical Fantasy/Russian Fairytale written by Katherine Arden and published January 10th 2017 by Del Rey.

Thoughts :

I actually requested The Bear and the Nightingale thinking it was adult fiction, but I quickly realized it could easily be considered crossover, with the way the whole narrative revolves around the young heroine. So it was with pleasure that I read about the two girls who see the “demons” and soon become family by marriage. I thought, “Oh, how good Anna will be for Vasya! They can talk about their visions. They can be friends; they’re not so far apart, and Vasya desperately needs a friend.”

Clearly I didn’t read the book description very thoroughly before starting the book! I don’t want to spoil anything, but let’s just say nothing turned out like I hoped. Anna’s marriage into the family begins all the troubles for Vasya and her village. Why?

Because Anna is a fearful, superstitious Catholic. She assumes the harmless house creatures to be demons; and from then on out, the whole village slides into the clutches of the enemy: the one-eyed man, brother of the Winter King. He is,

Appetite…Madness. Terror. He wants to eat the world.”

He gains more and more power, thanks to the fear-mongering, misguided Catholics, whose belief system is entirely based on a misunderstanding of the reality of Pre-Christian Russian folklore. God, Satan and demons? They’re all just misunderstandings. So they misinterpret the the harmless domovoi as demons and the one-eyed man as both God and the devil, at different times, and they lead the village into danger.

‘You are the devil!’ whispered Konstantin, clenching his hands.

All the shadows laughed. ‘As you like. But what difference is there between me and the one you call God? I too revel in deeds done in my name. I can give you glory, if you will do my bidding.’”

Thankfully for the villagers, Vasya understands that fear feeds the one-eyed man and that the domovoi help protect the households against him. She heroically and sacrificially turns the other cheek as everyone gathers against “the witch,” saves the bumbling priests again and again (as they, of course, fall head over heels in love with her), and finally rides out to save the day.

I don’t want to make light of all the things I truly enjoyed about The Bear and the Nightingale, because the story reads beautifully, despite its problems. I loved Vasya, as a truly strong female protagonist, and I sympathized with her plight of making the village see reason. But we spend a lot of time in the head of a Catholic priest who is led astray by powers he misunderstands, to the folly of the entire village. We also spend a lot of time pitying Vasya’s situation as a woman, as she is forced to choose between either the marriage bed or the nunnery. Arden did Vasya a disservice by turning everyone against her, to the point that it felt overdone and melodramatic. When Vasya misses a certain funeral because she’s out slaying the village upyr, this is the response she gets:

Witch-woman. Like her mother.

[Highlight to view SPOILER: Dunya ] loved you like her daughter, Vasya,’ [her father] said, later. ‘Of all the days to play truant.’”

C’mon. She just spent 24 hours nursing this dying woman into her grave. This is just obnoxiously melodramatic, and it happens again and again throughout the book.

I dreaded posting this review, knowing that my opinions would be different from most of my friends; but I just have to say that good Fantasy authors know how to respect the mythology and beliefs they interact with. Jim Butcher and Max Gladstone come to mind- they don’t pick and choose winning and losing faiths, among the devout of their fantasy. There are good guys on every team. Katherine Arden didn’t get the memo on this. Her handling of medieval faith, while sensitive in the way of characterization, is drastically biased in many other ways. I’ll leave it at that.

With less emphasis on the human and religious drama and more on the fairy tale elements—which are, I suspect, why most of us pick up this book—I would have loved The Bear and the Nightingale enough to give it five stars.

This is obviously just my opinion, but I think this could have easily been children’s fiction to rival Elizabeth Enright’s. Which is…amazing! I loved reading about Vasya’s life in the woods and the fairy tale aspects from Russian folklore. Here, she’s breaking in a young horse, after a period of convalescence:

Vasya eyed the stallion’s tall bare back. She tried her limbs, and found them weak as water. The horse stood proudly and expectantly, a horse out of a fairy tale.

‘I think,’ said Vasya, ‘that I am going to need a stump.’

The pricked ears flattened. A stump.

‘A stump,’ said Vasya firmly. She made her way to a convenient one, where a tree had cracked and fallen away. The horse poked along behind. He seemed to be reconsidering his choice of rider.”

This is what people loved about The Bear and the Nightingale! The writing and atmosphere are truly, breathtakingly lovely, and the characters, though dark and often tiresome, are clearly imagined with care and love. But the books’s flaws are big enough that they did largely ruin the book for me.

Overall :

Gorgeously wrought fairy tale with a few major flaws. They won’t be fatal flaws for everyone, although they are for me.

Characters: 3/5 Stars
Worldbuilding: 3/5 Stars
Plot: 2.5/5 Stars
Writing: 5/5 Stars

***3/5 Stars

Recommended To :

A lot of readers enjoyed this story based on the historical detail, the strong characterizations and the perfect atmosphere. And no wonder! I suspect most readers won’t feel the way I do about it, so I say go ahead and try it. You’ll probably like it a lot better than I did. (Which is to say 3+ stars at least!)

Thanks so much to Katherine Arden, Del Rey and Netgalley for my review copy of The Bear and the Nightingale.

winter-final

She froze a few steps into the sitting room. Her gut tightened, her nostrils filling with the iron tang of blood.

It was all around her. On the walls. Dripping from the chandelier. Soaking into the upholstered cushions of the settee.…‘Why does the palace hurt so much, Jacin? Why is it always dying?’”

Princess Winter lives in mad Lunar Queen Levana’s court. Unfortunately, some of the madness has rubbed off on her. Seeing the destruction caused all around her by the Lunar gift, she refuses to use her own, a decision that causes her mind to deteriorate.

Winter’s breakdown is heartbreaking for her guard, Jacin, to watch. He has loved the princess since childhood, and now that he’s back in the Lunar court, it’s harder than ever for him to endure her pain. But there might be hope yet: rumors say that the rebel Lunar princess Selene knows of a cure for the “gift”—a cure that could help his princess. As Princess Winter fights every day to covertly undermine Queen Levana’s bloodshed—a decision that leads her to care for the Queen’s newest “pet,” a tortured earthen rebel named Scarlet Benoit—Jacin determines to find a cure for Princess Winter’s Lunar sickness at all costs.

And helping Princess Selene lead a rebellion against the evil Queen is his best bet. YA Sci-Fi, fairy tale retelling. Published November 10th 2015 by Feiwel & Friends. Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Young Adult Fantasy & Science Fiction (2015).

About:

As with the other reviews of this series, I can’t address much about the overarching plot of the series without spoilers, so I’ll just leave it at this: welcome to Luna. This setting adds all sorts of tension to the plan of revolution, and the plot moves fairly quickly.

There’s so much to like about this fourth installment, and a lot of it has to do with the characters. First of all, the whole crew is finally working together in genuine camaraderie throughout much of the book—even Scarlet, who has been languishing in captivity since book III. I suspect any reader would enjoy spending a few hours with this large, loud group of friends.

I also have to once again praise the pure genius of the audio narrator, Rebecca Soler: she brings all the characters to life, but her portrayal of Winter, with the princess’s growing mental instability, is the most breathtaking of all.

Though Winter’s arc is largely reactive and introspective, instead of proactive, her complex character-building and the portrayal of her madness definitely add layers of intensity to her scenes. I think she, Cress and Cinder are tied three ways for my favorite characters of the series; Cress’s scenes are usually the most entertaining, though, with plenty of action and humor.

And speaking of Cress, she gets some fantastic scenes in this book! She’s been a dynamic character ever since her “official” introduction in book III, my favorite of the four volumes.

One of the best surprises about this book is the friendship between Winter and Scarlet.

‘Hello, crazy,’ said Scarlet. It sounded like an endearment. ‘How are the castle walls today?’”

Throughout book III, Scarlet felt largely like an unnecessary accessory to the arc of her Lunar supersoldier boyfriend. When she starred in book II, she would pop off randomly at times that called for calm, as if that was supposed to convince me of her toughness. But Princess Winter brings out Scarlet’s courage, humor and many capabilities in a way that none of the other characters managed to do.

Alas, just as I’m truly growing fond of the entire cast, it’s time to say goodbye. As the last installment, Winter had a big job to tie off the story. The final showdown with Levana did unfortunately lack much in the way of visible, clever trickery that would have greatly enhanced the battle. Also, the love subplots grew somewhat tired by the end—not because of the individual relationships, but because even Disney princesses don’t always get a prince. Still, Winter ends the series really well with a big decision by Cinder. Good stuff.

Overall :

Awesome heroines (including a fashion-obsessed android), swoonworthy guys, rebellions to infinity and beyond, and, of course, spaceships to fly in the rebels. I’m really glad I listened to it because now I can wholeheartedly recommend it to the many patrons of my library looking for this exact thing: a completely unique YA series with lots of genuine entertainment value.

Recommended To :

Anyone looking for a clever modern twist on the princess fairy tales!

****4/5 Stars

scarlet

“THIS COMMUNICATION IS TO INFORM SCARLET BENOIT OF RIEX, FRANCE, EF, THAT AS OF 15:42 ON 28 AUG 126 THE CASE OF MISSING PERSON(S) MICHELLE BENOIT OF RIEX, FRANCE, EF, HAS BEEN DISMISSED DUE TO LACK OF SUFFICIENT EVIDENCE OF VIOLENCE OR NONSPECIFIC FOUL PLAY. CONJECTURE: PERSON(S) LEFT OF OWN FREE WILL AND/OR SUICIDE. CASE CLOSED.”

A second fairy tale heroine joins the wildly popular Lunar Chronicles: Little Red Riding Hood.

Premise :

Scarlet Benoit doesn’t know much about her grandmother’s past. And she doesn’t care. They’re family and they love each other, and that’s enough.

All she wants is to bring her grandmother back home.

But what Scarlet doesn’t know can hurt her. She doesn’t know about the secret that stole her grandmother away and produced the conflicted, mysterious (and, okay, totally hot) ally Scarlet has come to know as “Wolf.” She doesn’t know about her grandmother’s connection to a certain Lunar princess—and she doesn’t know that the very same Lunar princess is on her trail.

Yes, Cinder returns in this second book of the series. (Check out my review of book I here!)

Scarlet picks up where Cinder leaves off, with our favorite cyborg mechanic in New Beijing Prison, scoring a few handy new cyborg parts. Cinder knows she needs to escape the prison, and along the way, she picks up a young accomplice, his spaceship and a disconcerting habit of controlling people with her newly-discovered mind magic.

And then she’s on her way to discover the secrets that haunt her past. YA Sci-Fi, Fairy tale retelling. Published February 5th 2013 by Feiwel & Friends. More details here.

Thoughts :

I have mixed feelings about the plot of Scarlet. It starts stronger than Cinder, imo—I love that police Comm on page 2. But ultimately, Cinder’s plot with the wily Dr. Erland interested me more than Scarlet’s plot.

Scarlet’s story seems disconnected from Cinder’s for much of the book. Basically, she wants to find her grandmother and she has to convince Wolf to help her do so. But, I kept wondering, what does this have to do with Cinder? It does come together, eventually; and thankfully, in the meanwhile, I did enjoy Scarlet’s romantic arc! Both books have romantic arcs, but I totally got into Scarlet’s. [Highlight to read spoiler: Because Wolf, that sexy literal beast.]

As a character, I find Scarlet more complex but less compelling than Cinder. Although Cinder is a relatively simple character, I always enjoy her pragmatic approach to life and the cyborg traits that make her such a unique being. Scarlet, on the other hand, pops off constantly and isn’t quite as bright as our runaway princess from book 1.

I did, however, enjoy the new setting: France. Sure, Meyer could give a few more details, but this setting beats the heck out of the almost-nonexistent setting of New Beijing in Cinder. The audiobook narrator, Rebecca Soler, does a terrific job with all the accents. She truly brings all of Marissa Meyers’ characters—organic, mechanical and both—to life.

Before I end this review, I have to give a shout-out to Iko the spaceship. I love this development! Touches like this are what make the Lunar Chronicles so fun.

3.5/5 STARS OVERALL

Here’s the breakdown:

Plot: 3.5/5 STARS

Characters: 4/5 STARS

Worldbuilding: 3.5/5 STARS

Writing: 3/5 STARS

Recommended To :

Teens! All of them! It’s really a fun series, for both teens and adults, if you’re in the mood for it. With the romantic arc between Scarlet and Wolf, I would say this is less of a “family read” than Cinder was, but it’s still squeaky clean and the audiobook is a great way to listen.

cinder_cover

Premise :

Cinder is the best mechanic in New Beijing. Unfortunately, she’s also a cyborg, and cyborgs are considered the lowest of the low in Earthen and Lunar societies. Cyborgs are even used as test subjects for plague research. So the last thing Cinder expects is a business call from Crown Prince Kai of the Eastern Commonwealth. But before Cinder gets a chance to fix his droid, her horrible stepmother volunteers her for plague research.

Things aren’t going well for the prince, either. His father, the king of the Eastern Commonwealth, is falling to the plague and the evil, power hungry Lunar Queen Levana is threatening to glamour the prince into political marriage in exchange for the cure. YA Sci-Fi/Fairytale Retelling, published 2012. Pennsylvania Young Readers’ Choice Award Nominee for Young Adults (2014), Abraham Lincoln Award Nominee (2014), Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Best Young Adult Fantasy & Science Fiction (2012).

First Impressions :

I decided to listen to the Cinder audiobook after hearing how popular it still is among my library’s 2016 summer reading teens. For the first quarter of the book, only the technological developments (such as Cinder’s cyborg traits and the little robot droids wandering around everywhere) kept me entertained. The worldbuilding is interesting on the surface, but unfortunately, it remains undeveloped. The characters, while not simplistic themselves, fall into simplistic groups of “good guys” or “bad guys,” until we meet my favorite character later into the book. I was still unsure, at 20-25% percent, what the book was going to be about

What I Liked :

But when Dr. Erland injects Cinder with the plague, I was immediately intrigued—how would she get out of this one? I don’t want to spoil anything for you, but this is where things start to get fun. The plot becomes clearer, as we find out that it hinges on several questions: Will Dr. Erland find a cure to save all of Earth? How can Prince Kai resist the evil Lunar Queen’s powers? Are all Lunars as evil as she is? And—perhaps most important—could there be another Lunar heir?

Even though some of these questions have predictable answers, I still enjoyed the ride, especially once Dr. Erland was introduced. This morally ambiguous doctor is a kind of a trickster—I couldn’t figure out where his loyalties lay until the very end. But his loyalties matter, big time. I also enjoyed the clever nods to the Cinderella story—reimagined, of course.

But my favorite aspect of the book is how the author develops the theme of prejudice by showing how we, as humans, can unintentionally fall into the “ist” traps. The prejudice, particularly surrounding the Lunars and their mental abilities, is complex and interesting, and as I have just started the audio version of Book II, I can tell you that the prejudices continues to be examined there.

Other Stuff :

The only actually irritating thing about this book is that Cinder refuses to tell the prince she’s a cyborg. I mean, seriously. JUST TELL HIM ALREADY! He’s telling you state secrets and you’re like, “What if he finds out I’m 30% metal?”

Overall :

Overall, this is pretty good YA. The plot is very “Cinderella,” but the idea is much more sci-fi than a lot of YA out there, and I enjoyed the themes developed by Meyer. Unfortunately, since the setting is painted almost entirely from Cinder the Cyborg mechanic’s perspective, we don’t get much in the way of cultural examination or character study. But we do get a fun, super clever sci-fi retelling of the Cinderella story and an ending that left me excited for more.

Recommended To :

Teens in general. It’s not too nerdy or too romantic for any particular group, and the story questions will probably keep them entertained. Some adults will enjoy this, as well, if they don’t mind the predictability and general lack of worldbuilding.

The Audiobook :

The audiobook is a perfect, relaxing way to enjoy this book. There’s no real “adult content,” so this would be a fun story to listen to with family.

3.5/5 STARS