“It feels like music, like a heartbeat, like magic… Like Beauty.” // Review of “Hunted” by Meagan Spooner

Title: Hunted
Author:  Meagan Spooner
Audio book narrator: Will Damron, Saskia Maarleveld
Genre:
  historical fantasy/fairytale retelling
Dates read: 28/01/18 – 03/02/18
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

Anyone who has followed this blog for a while knows that I am a fan of fairytale retellings. This book has been on my TBR ever since it was released, so when I saw the audio book available through my library’s digital borrowing app, I snapped it up.

With her father’s fortune in ruin, Yeva and her family return to the forest where her father used to hunt. When her father claims a beast is tracking him through the wood and then goes missing, Yeva sets out to find him. When she discovers he is dead, she tries to kill the beast she believes is responsible, but ends up a prisoner in his castle instead, told only that he needs a hunter to kill a quarry for him and break his curse.

The thing I loved about this book was the writing, and I think it was enhanced by two narrators with very soothing voices to carry the rhythm. For a while it bothered me that I wasn’t excited or invested about the characters, but after a while, I sunk into the story itself despite that. The characters are well-written, but not in such a way to get really invested in.

will admit I’m not an expert on Medieval Russia but the historical setting seemed very well formed to me. I loved the wintery atmosphere – all that snow! The descriptions are beautiful. I also really enjoyed the way this was not only a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, but also drew on the Russian story The Firebird. I spotted a few indications of the ties between the two stories early on in the book and was rewarded with the pay-off at the end.

If you like fairytale retellings, or atmospheric, character-driven fantasies, I definitely recommend checking this one out.


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Book Review: A Wicked Thing by Rhiannon Thomas

Title: A Wicked Thing (A Wicked Thing #1)
Author: Rhiannon Thomas
Genre:
YA/fairytale retelling
Date Read: 01/04/2015 – 03/04/2015
Rating: ★★★☆

Review: 

wickedthingcoverRhiannon Thomas is clearly a woman after my own heart, as A Wicked Thing asks many of the questions I often tend to ask about fairytales (love them though I do). If we believe Disney, sleeping for 100 years has no effect on Princess Aurora, her family, or her kingdom, but don’t you think that seems just a little unlikely? (Don’t get me wrong, I love Disney, but I ask the questions anyway).

A Wicked Thing opens as Aurora/Sleeping Beauty is awoken from her 100 year slumber by a kiss from Prince Rodric, a shy, awkward young man who never really expected this would work. During the time she’s been asleep, she’s become a legend, expected to make right everything that has fallen apart in the kingdom and live happily ever after with the prince who woke her. But the prince is a stranger, his father is bordering on evil (not that many people can see it) and various other political factions all want her to help their causes. All the while, no one actually asks Aurora how she feels about any of this.

I really loved this book as an exploration of the actual implications of the events depicted in the fairytale. Not only that, but it also addresses the all-too-real pressures real women face to be seen and not heard, to not make a fuss, to always look beautiful and be on their best behaviour. It is a little slow-going, but a lot of that is due to the internal, character-driven nature of so much of the story. Judging by how this installment ends, I think future books in the series will have a lot more room for action.

One thing I had hoped to see more of in this book was Aurora’s emerging magic. While for most of the book, Aurora is convinced that the legend is wrong and that she is not meant to bring back magic, her own power does start developing later on. While we know it exists, and that uncontrolled, it seems to set fire to things, we know little else. There was one reference to her as a “little dragon”, but I think that was metaphorical, though there are dragons in one of the neighbouring kingdoms, so who knows… Book Two is due out in 2016; I guess much more will be revealed then!

Book Review: Fairytales for Wilde Girls by Alysse Near

Title: Fairytales for Wilde Girls
Author: Alysse Near
Genre: Dark, gothic YA/fantasy
Date Read:
15/07/2014 – 31/07/2014
Rating: ★★★★★

Review:

wildegirlscoverThis book. This book. I have a lot of feelings. At times I’m not sure why I loved it so much, and there were times while I was reading that I wasn’t planning on giving it more than 3 stars. But I was still thinking about it days after finishing it, so it clearly made an impression.

Isola Wilde, named for Oscar Wilde’s sister who died at the age of nine, can see things that aren’t really there. She has six “brother-princes” in the form of two ghosts, a fairy, a Fury and a mermaid (not all her princes are men) and she knows there is a unicorn herd in Vivien’s Wood, the forest near her house. One day she comes across the dead body of a girl in a bird cage, hanging from one of the trees in the woods, and soon after the same dead girl turns up at her window, telling her to turn down the volume of her heart and stay out of the damn woods. This sets off a chain of events that lead to Isola discovering that there is more to her life and to the magical world around her, than she realised.

On the surface, this book is a modern-day gothic fairytale, but it’s also so much more than that. It’s about life and death, love and loss, mothers and daughters, and living with mental illness. There were times when I got confused and wondered if I’d missed something, and there were other times when I felt like nothing was happening and the stakes weren’t as high as I was being told they were (actually there was a decent-sized chunk in the middle where that was the case), but I found myself compelled to read on anyway. It became clearer the more I read that it want really about what was happening on the surface, it was about what that symbolised. Usually I don’t go in for that sort of thing, but it was being symbolised with ghosts and fey and deconstructed fairytales, so how could I not? Everything fell into place in the last 50 or so pages and made far more sense than I had thought it was going to.

The cover, while lovely, is a little misleading; after seeing it, I was surprised that the book was set in the present day, and there were times when I felt the writing style clashed with the setting. But the illustrations in the book are beautiful, and exactly how I imagined the brother-princes to look. There were other things that bugged me, too, like Alejandro’s constant use of the endearment “querida” (he seemed to say it every time he addressed Isola, and I’m complaining about that as someone who swooned over Jesse in Meg Cabot’s Mediator series as a teenager). The character of Isola, and by extension, the book itself, did take a turn for the darker in about the third quarter of the book, which made me a little uncomfortable, but I think that was the point and she did come out of this eventually.

This is the debut novel from Alysse Near, and I certainly look forward to more from her, particularly if they are in the same dark, gothic, magical vein as this one.