Featured this month:
- Beauty Sleep – Cameron Dokey
- Snow – Tracy Lynn
- The Crimson Thread – Suzanne Weyn
- Belle – Cameron Dokey
- Wild Orchid – Cameron Dokey
- Golden – Cameron Dokey
- The Screwtape Letters – C.S. Lewis
May was very much a month for young adult fairy tale retellings, some of which I really enjoyed and others of which I was not very fond. It was a small month reading-wise, mostly because of university assignments and far too many social commitments. Add a little bit of Christian philosophising and you have my month in books! Hope you enjoy this month’s reviews!
When I started this book, I really didn’t like it. Written in first person (something I don’t like at the best of times), with a protagonist who occasionally speaks directly to the reader, I really struggled to get into the story. But I persevered and was pleasantly surprise. This is a really enjoyable retelling of Sleeping Beauty, with some surprises you don’t expect, and others you do. Aurore is an independent, courageous and adventurous character who does the best she can to not be restricted by the spells cast upon her. By the time I finished this book, I didn’t mind that it was written in first person or that Aurore had a tendency to ‘speak’ to the author; I was enjoying myself too much.
I really enjoyed this retelling of ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarves’. Snow takes a different approach; removing the woods, the magic and dwarves and replacing them with the back alleys of London, steampunk and an unusual and mysterious gang of thieves who ‘mine’ the streets for its gold. Here, Snow’s real name is Jessica and she is the daughter of a Welsh duke, forced to flee her home when her stepmother’s vanity turns murderous. I loved the take on the ‘evil’ stepmother – Lynn brought so much to her story, and the historical setting really worked here. Snow was brilliantly done, and while I wasn’t sure of it at first, I loved the setting of it – it really brought an extra layer to the story, and made it that much more enjoyable!
The Crimson Thread takes the tale of Rumpelstiltskin and places it in the 1880s at the peak of immigration to New York City. Bertie is an Irish immigrant, having recently arrived in America with her family. She finds work for wealthy textile merchant J.P. Wellington and everything goes smoothly until her father promises that she can singlehandedly save the business. Bertie turns to the mysterious Ray Stalls, who helps her in return for the promise of her first born child. In The Crimson Thread, the traditional tale is used against the readers – not everything is what you might expect it to be. This provided a twist I really enjoyed, and made up for some small sections I didn’t. Some developments in the novel happen too easily, in ways that don’t suit the setting, but overall I found this to be a really intriguing and interesting retelling.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t really like this retelling of Beauty and the Beast. All of the usual fantastic elements were there, but I just didn’t feel the magic of the story. Belle follows the traditional setting of the tale as the heroine grows up in a wealthy merchant family with her two Beautiful sisters. One aspect I did like was the discussions about beauty and its nature. However, I didn’t like the Beast and felt he was too little of a character to have such an important role. I particularly didn’t feel any of the fantastic true love with the characters were meant to display – overall, I was disappointed by the romance side of this book. Maybe if I hadn’t have recently read Beauty by Robin McKinley I would have enjoyed this more, but I’m not sure. I still think that is the superior book.
It took a while for me to get into Wild Orchid. The novel was slow to take off, and I wasn’t all that interested in the character to begin with. But I did start to really enjoy the novel and Mulan’s character. However, as with some of the other books in this series, some things happened far too quickly. The relationships between Mulan and her father, her step-mother and the prince who is her ‘soul-mate’, all develop too quickly. I didn’t ‘feel’ the truth of the relationship between Mulan and Prince Jian as it progressed far too quickly. I was particularly disappointed by how quickly the action part of the book happened. A large part of ‘The Ballad of Mulan’ is the fact that her bravery saved China, yet this part of the book was over in less than 60 pages. I wanted more. Overall, I was disappointed in this book – I expected it to be so much more than it actually was.
In this retelling of the ‘Rapunzel’ story, Dokey deviates from the traditional tale in quite an astonishing way. Who would have thought that the tale could be told just as effectively when the title character is completely bald?? Dokey, that’s who. But, as always with these more adventurous retellings, not everything is quite as it seems. The sorceress is not evil, but a loving adoptive mother. The magical tower and the plea for the trapped damsel to let down her hair are both included, but the damsel is not who the original tale led us to believe. More accurately it could be said that Golden is the forgotten tale behind ‘Rapunzel’, showing us the people behind the story. I enjoyed the way Dokey adapted this story to say something more than the traditional tale. I think it’s a fantastic and fresh approach to an old tale.
For starters, this book wasn’t what I expected it to be, though that doesn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy it. When I first heard about this book, it was marketed as a humorous series of advisory letters from Screwtape, a higher level administrative demon, to his nephew Wormwood, a ‘Tempter’ out in the field of London during the 1930s and 40s. Now, The Screwtape Letters were entertaining, but they are also largely a discussion about God, Christianity and human nature. And, despite being told from the viewpoint of a demon, Lewis’s intense Christian faith definitely shines through. Everything that Screwtape sees as white, Christians see as black, as this duplicity of sight is encouraged whilst reading the book. It was interesting from that standpoint, but was just a little bit too preachy for me… Nonetheless, for anyone interested in Christianity and its God, or who enjoys a bit of reverence disguised as the utmost irreverence, this just might be the book for you. Very enlightening.