The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden is not released until January 2017, but I already know that it will be amongst my top ten list of next year. I adore immersive, dark, and atmospheric folklore retelling. This book dishes all of these elements up and more, here’s a sneak peek as to why you should pre-order this beautiful book.
Summary: In a village at the edge of the wilderness of northern Russia, where the winds blow cold and the snow falls many months of the year, a stranger with piercing blue eyes presents a new father with a gift – a precious jewel on a delicate chain, intended for his young daughter. Uncertain of its meaning, Pytor hides the gift away and Vasya grows up a wild, willful girl, to the chagrin of her family. But when mysterious forces threaten the happiness of their village, Vasya discovers that, armed only with the necklace, she may be the only one who can keep the darkness at bay.
Confession Time: I’ve been obsessed with this book ever since I heard of its premise – it promised to weave Persephone/Hades with the Indian epic Mahabharat. I did all the illogical fangirling thing: stalking the author’s twitter, making an excess amount of graphics, pouring over the internet for reviews and quotes, anxiously waiting by my mailbox for my preorder.
When I learned that Roshani Chokshi considers Catherynne Valente (my favourite author, ever, as you might have heard me mentioned repeatedly) my expectations only skyrocketed. For someone who’s left largely skeptical by hype, I was uncharacteristically 100% committed this particular bandwagon.
“I wanted a love thick with time, as inscrutable as if a lathe had carved it from night and as familiar as the marrow in my bones. I wanted the impossible.”
In short, I cannot be trusted to be completely fair in this review. The book largely met my absurdly high expectations, which is a marvel in itself. The world is richly imagined, each description absolutely arresting and evocative.Read More »
I love doing Top Ten Tuesdays, I just wish I could be more consistent about it. This week’s theme is a semi-freebie, you’re meant to give your recommendation to a particular subset of people. I decided to target those who, like myself, adore fairy tales. I won’t be covering fairy tale retellings, because I’ve done that before. Instead, I want to recommend stories which follows fairy-tale narratives and possess the same timeless quality.
1. In The Night Garden by Catherynne Valente:Regulars of this blog will know that I mention this book in basically 80% of my recommendation posts. It’s my favourite of all time – and I plan to reread and review it on the blog this year to hassle you all into reading it (again). This is very loosely based on 1001 nights. Valente accomplishes the extraordinary feat of writing an expansive and immersive tale – spanning several lives and a multitude of stories. It’s multifaceted, subversive, and powerful.Read More »
If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you already know I go a bit gaga over fairy tale retelling – having composed two lists of all the ones I could find here & here. Beauty and the Beast is one of my favourite tales to see retold, so let me compare Cruel Beauty to the original tale in this review today!
Blending Greek myth & fairy tale, Cruel Beauty is a dark, intense take on the classic tale.
I was raised to marry a monster.
When the novel begins, we learn that Nyx Triskellion has been betrothed to a monster. Her fate is bound to a bargain her father made before she was born – a bargain that killed her mother during childbirth, leaving her father bitter and hungry for vengeance. Nyx knew growing up that though she has a twin sister, she’s the one her father chose to sacrifice. Not only is she to marry this demon lord, she’s to kill him – burdened with the responsibility of saving the whole of Arcadia.
“I was not born to be saved.”
Nyx is a unique protagonist and I loved her narration. She’s been stewing in bitterness since birth – little wonder, as she’s been watching her sister showered with familial love while she is taught the value of heroic sacrifice and the weight of responsibility. Though she loves her family, she also resents them – I was frustrated and angry on her behalf.
In addition to the great narrative voice and complex emotions, Nyx also has smarts, she’s feisty, and she’s got a helluva lot of agency in the story. I dislike watching protagonist just bumble along and somehow end up the saviour of the day by blind chance. It was so refreshing to see a heroine who’s a doer, watching Nyx proactively control her own story was delightful.
Gilded Ashes by Rosamund Hodge: A dark novella from the author of Cruel Beauty. Neither the Cinderella or her prince believes in love. Maia had to pretend to be happy her whole life, as her dead mother made a terrible bargain with the kingdom’s most evil force: any who hurts Maia will be punished by this curse.
I’ve always been a great fan of fairy tales, whether it be in told through books or Disney movies or comics. These stories have always been ubiquitous, inspiring generations of writers time and again. I love a well-done retelling as it refreshes the classic theme to capture a modern audience. However, 2015 is particularly swept up with this fairy tale retelling charm, I can barely keep track of my to-be-read/to-be-watched list. Below is a list of all the books I have read or hope to read, sorted by tales for your perusal! I hope someone else also finds this helpful.
Note: I was inspired to make this post after reading Mishma’s post on book trends on Chasing Faerytales. I thought that fairy tales, like other trends, aren’t just a passing phase. They’ve always been around, but it’s our luck that they’re extra prolific on this year’s catalogue of books!
EDIT: This turned out a longer post than I anticipated, so I will use my authority as blogmistress to declare this Part One of Many. Featured today are the tales of Snow White, Beauty and the Beast, Red Riding Hood and The Little Mermaid.
I’ve always been a little bit creeped out by the tale of Snow White. I blame this primarily on the dwarves in the Disney version. It’s also due to the idea of a prince falling in love with a corpse he sees in the forest. The way the evil queen hounds her in the original version was also dark and twisted – what with poisoned comb and suffocating ribbons.
Nameless by Lili St. Crow: An urban fantasy revolving around Cami, the adopted daughter of a mafia lord in a magic-ridden world. Not sure how this is related to Snow White, but it’s been marketed as such. Plus, bonus pretty cover!
Fairest & Winter by Marissa Meyer: The Lunar Chronicles series is one big fairy tale story, connecting many beloved princesses. Fairest is a novella that zones in on Queen Levana, whereas we will see Winter feature our dark-skinned Snow White.
The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman: This one mixes Snow White and Sleeping Beauty. I want it because i) Neil Gaiman! ii) promises of princesses who rescue themselves and iii) the illustrations (by Chris Riddell) that have been floating around the internet are drop dead gorgeous.
The Glass Casket by McCormick Templeman: Nag’s End, Rowan’s tranquil village, is thrown into chaos and confusion when five horsemen rides off into the forest and are later found dead. The book has very polarising reviews, but I’m still interested in checking it out as it seems like a creepy, dark fantasy.
Six-Gun Snow White by Catherynne Valente: The protagonist is labelled ‘Snow White’ by her stepmother as an insult, she’s half-native American, so her skin will never be the colour of snow. This is a mix between Western + fantasy, I do not like Westerns but I do love Catherynne Valente, so I’m very interested in this title.
Mirrored by Alex Flinn: Tbh I was not impressed by Alex Flinn’s take on Beauty & the Beast. Nonetheless, this version of Snow White focus on the protege of the witch – I love baddies as protagonist so I might have to give this a whirl.
Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi: This book is narrated by the stepmother, her stepdaughter, and her biological daughter. It’s set in a world without magic and brings up questions about race and identity using the familiar mirror as a symbol. Again, it has mixed reviews, but it sounds very intriguing!
Mirror, Mirror by Gregory Macguire: I confess to never having read any of his books, but I thought he should be included as he’s such a prolific writer of these retellings. It appears to be a cross between historical fiction starring the Borgias & Snow White.