Silver Birch, Blood Moon (The Snow White, Blood Red Anthology Series #5)

Silver Birch, Blood Moon (The Snow White, Blood Red Anthology Series #5)

23266926 “Silver Birch, Blood Moon” edited by Ellen Datlow, Terri Windling

Synopsis: Twenty-one darker, deeper, more adult takes on some of our favorite childhood fairy tales, from acclaimed contemporary fantasists
Long ago, when we were children, our dreams were inspired by the fairy tales we heard at our mothers’ and grandmothers’ knees—stories of princesses and princes and witches and wondrous enchantments, by the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen, and from the pages of 1001 Arabian Nights. But, as World Fantasy Award–winning editors Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling remind us, these stories were often tamed and sanitized versions. The originals were frequently darker—and in Silver Birch, Blood Moon, they turn darker still.
Twenty-one modern Grimms and Andersens—masterful storytellers including Neil Gaiman, Nancy Kress, and Tanith Lee—now reinvent beloved bedtime stories for our time. The Sea Witch gets her say, relating the story of “The Little Mermaid” from her own point of view. “Thumbelina” becomes a tale of creeping horror, while a delightfully naughty spin is put on “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” Author Caitlin R. Kiernan transports Snow White to a dark, gritty, industrial urban setting, and Patricia Briggs details “The Price” of dealing with a royal and unrepentantly evil Rumpelstiltskin.
Rich, provocative, and unabashedly adult, each of these tales is a modern treasure, reminding us that wishes have consequences and not all genies have our best interests at heart.

*******

4 out of 5 stars

I have expressed my love for Ellen Datlow, my love for short stories, and my love of fairy tales often in this blog and this book combines all three. It’s a definite winner for me!

The book contains twenty-one fairy tales that have been rewritten from another point of view. Whether that’s a more modern viewpoint, a darker one, or a completely original take depends on the story itself. There are some incredible authors in this book, like Neil Gaimen and Tanith Lee and some really phenomenal writing. This book is the fifth in a series which I didn’t realize when I started reading but am thrilled about – more books like this please!

What I liked: There were a couple of stories that really stood out as exceptional.

“Kiss Kiss’ by Tanith Lee – The first story in the book, and in my opinion, the best. This is a retelling of the story of the princess and the frog. The princess in this story loves her frog companion, but is it worth changing him into a handsome prince and risking it all?

“The Price” by Patricia Briggs – A retelling of Rumplestiltskin, this is such a wonderful story. In this version, the miller’s daughter and Rumplestiltskin are both weavers, and when the king comes to claim her as his bride if she can spin straw into gold, he helps her out of love. He does have a price, but it’s one she is more than willing to pay.

What I didn’t like: There will always be a few stories in collections and anthologies that don’t resonate with me, but that’s purely a personal choice. The book itself is wonderful.

There are a few retellings of Sleeping Beauty and the princess and the frog in this collection but they are all different. I also was surprised by several tales I was completely unfamiliar with – a nice surprise indeed!

If you like fairy tales I suggest you pick this up!

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A Court of Thorns and Roses

A Court of Thorns and Roses

16096824 “A Court of Thorns and Roses” by Sarah J. Maas
Synopsis: A thrilling, seductive new series from New York Times bestselling author Sarah J. Maas, blending Beauty and the Beast with faerie lore.
When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.
As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she’s been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow grows over the faerie lands, and Feyre must find a way to stop it . . . or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.
Perfect for fans of Kristin Cashore and George R. R. Martin, this first book in a sexy and action-packed new series is impossible to put down!

*******

4 out of 5 stars

This is a paranormal/ fantasy retelling of the story of Beauty and the Beast- if you don’t like that sort of thing, you won’t like this. I loved it!

The story: Feyre makes a mistake, killing a wolf in the woods in her attempt to feed her starving family, not knowing that the wolf was a Fae in disguise. Tamlin, the Prince of the Summer Courts of Faerie, comes to her families home and demands retribution. Instead of killing her, he instead takes Feyre to live out the rest of her life with him in his land in Faerie.

The characters: Feyre is an amazingly complex character. She had sworn a vow to her dying mother to take care of her family even though they treat her awfully. A huntress and a painter, she takes that vow very seriously and puts aside her own needs for that of her ungrateful sisters and crippled father. When she is taken to live with Tamlin, she is determined to escape to fulfill that vow, not realizing the dangers that wait for her on his estate. She can kick ass when she needs to and is afraid to be vulnerable, especially with Tamlin.

Tamlin, Lucian, and Rhysand and the three main Fae in the story. Tamlin is the Beast, and his chemistry with Feyre is hot! He is the Prince of the Summer Courts and a High Fae, meaning that he is quite powerful in his faerie abilities. Described as golden, he wears a masquerade mask as do all the members of his court due to a powerful spell placed on the Spring Court.

Lucian is his right hand and sidekick. He blames Feyre for the death of the Fae she killed in wolf form, but the two eventually come to an agreement if not a friendship. Sarcastic and witty, he give a great deal of comic relief and much needed tension breaking.

Rhys is a dark prince in the story. Feyre meets him while sneaking into places she’s not supposed to be. Brutally handsome, he is an enemy of Tamlin’s.

What I liked: This is a sweeping fantasy story, with lots of epic world building going on. The writing is spot on and the descriptions of faerie were both lovely and brutal by turns. Feyre’s and Tamlin’s relationship builds slowly, each unwilling and unable to trust the other. The romance is sweet as Tamlin finds ways to show Feyre how much he cares for her and as she begins to take down the walls she has had up for so long. There are a few twists and turns to the story which keeps it interesting, and Feyre finds herself fighting to save both Tamlin and her whole world.

This is the first book in a series but it definitely stands well on its own. I loved the retelling of Beauty and the Beast with the faerie elements added; it made the entire book feel like a brand new story. I also loved the fact that Tamlin, the beast, does have a grand library but Feyre is mostly illiterate. She spends her time in the library learning to read.

What I didn’t like: The world of faerie has an enemy, known for most of the book as HER. I found that a bit tedious as her name could have been revealed much earlier in the story. That is my only complaint and I can’t even call it a complaint!

This is going to be a beautiful series, and I am seriously waiting for the next book.

Huntress

Huntress

9415946 “Huntress” by Malinda Lo
Publisher’s Synopsis: Nature is out of balance in the human world. The sun hasn’t shone in years, and crops are failing. Worse yet, strange and hostile creatures have begun to appear. The people’s survival hangs in the balance.
To solve the crisis, the oracle stones are cast, and Kaede and Taisin, two seventeen-year-old girls, are picked to go on a dangerous and unheard-of journey to Tanlili, the city of the Fairy Queen. Taisin is a sage, thrumming with magic, and Kaede is of the earth, without a speck of the otherworldly. And yet the two girls’ destinies are drawn together during the mission. As members of their party succumb to unearthly attacks and fairy tricks, the two come to rely on each other and even begin to fall in love. But the Kingdom needs only one huntress to save it, and what it takes could tear Kaede and Taisin apart forever.
The exciting adventure prequel to Malinda Lo’s highly acclaimed novel Ash is overflowing with lush Chinese influences and details inspired by the I Ching, and is filled with action and romance.

*****

3 out of 5 stars

Huntress is another YA novel, loosely written as a prequel to Ash in that it’s set in the same world and has a similar feel. This book is also a fairy tale and was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award. Huntress stands on it’s own as a story – you don’t need to have read Ash beforehand.

It’s so nice to read young adult fantasy novels and more so LGBT novels. I really enjoyed the story told in Huntress but I had a few issues with the actual writing. The story is a questing fantasy. Kaede and Taisin are students at the Academy; a school to teach magic and the students to become sages. The Fairy Queen, who has not been heard from for hundreds of years sends an invitation to visit her city and Taisin and Kaede are chosen to go, along with the Prince of the realm.

The journey is filled with danger as they travel through the Woods (the same woods we encountered in Ash, filled with creatures that mean them harm). There are battles along the way and they lose several members of the questing party. The journey also allows for the time to build the love story between Kaede and Taisin. It’s done slowly and sweetly and what I would expect from a YA book.

What I do love about this book is that the fact that our two main characters are both women is of no consequence. It doesn’t matter in this world who you love and who loves you.

My issues with the book don’t stem from the story itself – I really like this sort of fantasy and thought this was an original take on a fantasy quest. I feel like there are things missing, or rather that could have been added to make this a more well rounded book.

We are told at the beginning that sages are celibate, and Taisin’s end goal is to become a sage regardless of her love for Kaede. Along the journey she struggles with this choice and meets a former sage that has refuted all that the sages stood for. It’s hinted at that Taisin was never told the complete truth at the Academy and that she should question the “why” behind some things she took at truths. We never find out more about this though, and I wish I could have learned more about Taisin’s final decision.

Also, I thought the book actually finished when there was still a chapter or two left. I felt tlike this additional quest was just an add-on and the book could have stood on it’s own without it.

Huntress was a quick and easy read and I liked it, I just felt it was a bit rushed in spots.

Ash

Ash

6472451    “Ash” by Malinda Lo

Publisher’s Synopsis: Cinderella retold
In the wake of her father’s death, Ash is left at the mercy of her cruel stepmother. Consumed with grief, her only joy comes by the light of the dying hearth fire, rereading the fairy tales her mother once told her. In her dreams, someday the fairies will steal her away, as they are said to do. When she meets the dark and dangerous fairy Sidhean, she believes that her wish may be granted.
The day that Ash meets Kaisa, the King’s Huntress, her heart begins to change. Instead of chasing fairies, Ash learns to hunt with Kaisa. Though their friendship is as delicate as a new bloom, it reawakens Ash’s capacity for love-and her desire to live. But Sidhean has already claimed Ash for his own, and she must make a choice between fairy tale dreams and true love.
Entrancing, empowering, and romantic, Ash is about the connection between life and love, and solitude and death, where transformation can come from even the deepest grief.

*****

3 out of 5 stars

This is Malinda Lo’s debut novel and once again, I found myself reading YA fiction. This is heralded to be the lesbian Cinderella and you know I love fairy tales so I was prepared to enjoy this book.

This is a very different retelling of the Cinderella story. The writing is lovely and we are able to learn about and mourn along with Ash the death of her mother who we know virtually nothing about in the traditional version. Her mother was a greenwitch, an earth witch that practiced the old magics. The story opens with her death and memories of her are woven into the rest of the book.

Ash’s father remarries the expected stepmother and her two daughters and then mysteriously dies. She is then uprooted from all she knows, moved far away from her home, and forced into a life of servitude. Sound familiar? Here is where the story takes on it’s own life.

Ash wanders the Woods when she can escape from her stepmother, a scary place said to be filled with all sorts of mysterious creatures. She meets Sidhean, a fairy prince who is cursed to love a human girl (no fairy godmother in this book!). Dangerously seductive, he begins a strange friendship with her at the same time he her warns her away again and again. He grants Ash’s wishes, but all wishes come with a price.

She also meets Kaisa, the Huntress, while wandering the Woods. Kaisa is the King’s Huntress and becomes Ash’s reason to love again. Their friendship develops slowly, and slowly blooms into love. Very well done for a YA novel.

The Prince is almost a non-character in this retelling and I get the impression that he is there just enough to stay true to the original tale. The two step sisters are more than just plain evil. Not the nicest of people but they are indeed people and we are able to see them as such, filled with hopes and insecurities. I do wish Sidhean as a character was more fleshed out; that he was more than just the fairy prince that granted Ash’s wishes. He loves her but just kind of disappears at the end of the book.

A well written YA novel, it has some flaws, but it’s worth a read.