The Seafarer’s Kiss

32890474by Julia Ember
YA Fantasy
4 of 5 stars

This gorgeous cover caught my eye and since I love fairy tales I knew I had to check out this Little Mermaid retelling. It’s definitely the most interesting one I’ve found! I love all the Norse mythology and setting it in a completely different part of the world–and having the mermaid trying to win the heart of a fierce shield-maiden was refreshing. Fairy tales fascinate me because you can change so many components and yet still see the bones of the myth underneath.

Ersel has always wondered what adventures she could have on land, but she doesn’t meet a living human until she finds a scared girl named Ragna trapped on the ice after a shipwreck. Ragna is determined to have revenge on the men who kidnapped her and burned her village. Ersel wants to escape the oppressive rule of an isolationist king who insists that a mermaid’s value is linked to her fertility.

The two girls form a tentative friendship that hints at something more–until Ersel’s suitor catches them together and threatens to tell the king. Desperate to find Ragna and be with her on land, Ersel makes a bargain with the treacherous god of lies, Loki. Her wish threatens to destroy not only her hope of reuniting with Ragna, but her entire underwater community if she doesn’t discover a way to outwit the god.

This short book is so fast-paced! This world was so interesting to explore, especially Ersel’s life under the icebergs. The way the mermaids had to survive such intense cold was thought out! I wouldn’t have minded more time with these characters, but I still felt like they were all so fleshed out. Each of them had such intense desires and were so ruthless in going after what they wanted. Despite knowing the fairy tale, the game with the trickster god and the horrifyingly imaginative results had me wondering what would happen next.

Ersel and Ragna don’t have a lot of time to develop their relationship, yet there was a spark there that I’ve found true to life–when you find someone completely driven to achieve their dreams, it’s so attractive! That spark can grow quickly, and I wanted them to be together just to see what adventures they could have. They’re not “nice” girls but I wanted them to win!

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, The Seafarer’s Kiss is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst – Denna’s betrothal has stretched on for years, but it’s finally time for her to meet and marry her husband. She just has to keep her affinity for fire magic a secret–and try not to fall for her fiance’s sister. See my review here.
  • The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie – Cas has spent her whole life training Reckoner beasts to fight pirates in the NeoPacific, but her first solo trip goes horribly wrong. Pirate Queen Santa Elena captures Cas and orders her to train a stolen Reckoner for the pirates, under the watchful eye of Swift, a girl who seems to understand the darkest parts of Cas. See my review here.
  • When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore – Lush prose that draws you into a small town filled with magic, secrets, and romance. Sam and Miel have been best friends their whole lives, but when the Bonner sisters decide they want the roses that grow from Miel’s wrists, protecting Miel could reveal all the secrets Sam and Miel have kept from each other and themselves. See my review here.
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The Brothers Grimm Vol 2: 110 Grimmer Fairy Tales

16000356by Jacob & Wilhelm Grimm
Fantasy
4 of 5 stars

Over a year later, I finally finished this volume! It’s organized just like the other one, with similar tales grouped together, but this one had fewer famous stories and a lot more obscure tales of morality and violence. I would agree that these are “grimmer” because there were more chilling stories than I recall from the first volume!

However, I have to admit that some of my favorite stories were simply hilarious! “Donkey Cabbages” in particular had me cracking up (just read it—it should be a film). This volume also featured more stories with tricksters. Peasants, women, and nobles pull hilarious (and at times vindictive) pranks on each other for the strangest reasons! Like the other anthology, I enjoyed poring over this for a few months, just reading a few tales at a time.

These volumes are pretty and they’re very small, so I’d recommend these for anyone wanting to build their fairy tale collection with limited space. If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, The Brothers Grimm is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • Rags & Bones: Timeless Twists on Classic Fairy Tales by Melissa Marr – Takes these fairy tales and give them a modern spin from a host of talented authors! Creepy and compelling, just like the best of the Grimm stories. See my review here.
  • Cinder by Marissa Meyer – One of the more interesting fairy tale retellings, this follows Cinder the cyborg in New Beijing as the prince prepares to host a ball to find his queen. See my review here.
  • Uprooted by Naomi Novik – If you like your fantasy dark enjoy this story about a girl apprenticed to a wizard to fight off a sentient, creepy forest. See my review here.

Heartless

18584855by Marissa Meyer
YA Fantasy
4 of 5 stars

I’ve read Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass many times, and I can tell Meyer has too. This is a superb, well-written origin story for a beloved/feared villain! Fairy tales have been popular for a couple of years now, but this is one of the most seamless integrations of old and new world-building I’ve encountered. I wouldn’t have thought it possible to take the most famous nonsensical world and create rules behind the madness–this subtlety is probably the best surprise.

Cath is a marquess’ daughter who wants nothing more than to open a bakery in Hearts with her best friend, her maid Mary Ann. She knows it would be the best in the land, and she wants everyone in the kingdom to sample her delicious sweets. But her parents know the King of Hearts wants to make Cath his queen, and they will not be satisfied until that happens. The night that Cath is supposed to accept the king’s proposal, she meets Jest–the new court joker who is mysterious, charming, clever, and handsome. Cath has never been in love before, but she can’t imagine giving up her feelings for the weak and foolish king, even if it comes with a crown. And on top of all this, the fearsome Jabberwock is terrorizing the kingdom unchallenged!

Cath is a perfect balance of admirable and awful. She is our protagonist, but she is far from perfect. Too deferential to her parents, too judgmental of others. Like so many of us, she feels caught in situations that never go as planned because she can’t challenge etiquette or her peers. She is just risk-adverse enough to aggravate herself and those around her. I loved following her journey that felt equally chosen and fated.

Cath is great, but the side characters of Hatta, Cheshire, and Jest make this impossibly magical! Hatta and Cheshire in particular capture the dark whimsy and unpredictable nature of life in Wonderland. Magic is inextricable from life in Hearts, yet there’s also the sense that it can continue evolving outside of the people’s control. This story gives you characters to love and a world that fascinates you at every turn!

Warning: will cause Emotions and hunger pains. Pick this up if you’re ready to be transported!

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Heartless is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • Cinder by Marissa Meyer – If you enjoyed this retelling, check out this quartet of sci-fi fairy tale adventures! Cinder is a cyborg mechanic in New Beijing just trying to break free from her abusive stepmother’s control. A chance encounter with Prince Kai pulls her into the web of politics between Earth and Luna, and Cinder’s mysterious past might hold the key to Earth’s future. See my review here.
  • A Long, Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan – Rose awakens from her statis tube to learn that 62 years have passed, everyone she has ever known is dead, and she is the sole heir to her parents’ business empire. The current head of the company is not pleased that she was found, and will do anything to keep her from reclaiming her life.
  • Chalice by Robin McKinley – A retelling of Beauty and the Beast with a girl whose gifts lie with honey and the new ruler of the land, a former priest of fire whose touch can reduce anything to ash. See my review here.
  • Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake – Triplet sisters with different abilities are raised in separate realms as they prepare for their 16th birthday, and the duel to the death for the throne. See my review here.
  • The Young Elites by Marie Lu – Adelina is a marked survivor of the blood fever with the ability to weave extraordinary illusions. Determined to avenge herself on those who made her life miserable, she joins other elites like her in the Dagger Society. See my review here.
  • Queen of Hearts by Colleen Oakes – If you want a trilogy based on this famed character, look no further! Dinah is the Princess of Hearts eagerly awaiting her crown, but violent events in her kingdom threaten to destroy her dreams.
  • Alice in Wonderland / Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll – If you haven’t read the source material, I highly recommend it! It is utterly strange and entertaining, and despite its age the prose is easy to read. There are many more bizarre events and eccentric characters that are left out of films and re-tellings, and the wordplay is clever!

Winter

Winterby Marissa Meyer
YA Fantasy / Science Fiction
5 of 5 stars
Fourth in a quartet

This came out months ago and it took me so long to get to it because of the holidays, and then my insistence on re-reading the series first (which I am so glad I did!). This was worth waiting for! The perfect ending to this fantastic series of fairy tales told with a few science fiction twists.

To be honest, I worried about the size of this book. Once you start creeping over 600 pages I start to wonder if all those words *need* to be there. We’ve all encountered the stories that didn’t need to be that long, right? (Looking at you, Charles Dickens). Cress meandered a bit for me, so I had some anxiety, but it turns out those fears were unfounded! The writing is direct, compelling, and the characters kept surprising me! The pacing and points of view are perfectly balanced. Zero complaints.

Winter becomes one of our POV characters and she is fantastic! Unique from the other three girls and with her own demons to overcome. Through her we see the Lunar court and the damage done by Queen Levana’s regime, while through Cinder and Scarlet we see what life is like on Luna for the average citizen (spoiler: not good). As Cinder and her friends infiltrate the moon right before Levana and Kai’s wedding ceremony, Levana becomes more and more paranoid. When she attempts to have Winter killed for her beauty, all hell breaks loose on the moon. Winter is running out of places to hide, and Cinder is running out of time to claim her throne!

This had so much action and so many deeply emotional scenes–probably the most emotive in the series. Yet there’s still humor mixed in with the continued exploration of what makes us human. I highly recommend this series to anyone who loves fairy tale re-tellings!

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Winter is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • A Long, Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan – Rose wakes up after 62 years in stasis to find out everyone she knew is dead and she is the missing heiress to the largest company in the world. And not everyone is happy she’s alive.
  • Uprooted by Naomi Novik – A dark and compelling fantasy novel (with humor too!) about a girl taken by the local sorcerer to be his assistant for ten years. This wasn’t her plan at all–and neither is the discovery that she may have her own powers. See my review here.
  • Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas – Aelin returns to Adarlan to dismantle the web of corruption controlling the country, starting with her old master, the King of the Assassins, and ending with the King of Adarlan himself. See my review here.
  • Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo – A band of criminals unites to retrieve a prisoner with the knowledge of how to enhance a person’s magic (with fatal results). They all plan to betray each other eventually, and it’s a question of who will crack first. See my review here.
  • The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey – Echo is a common thief (who happens to be friends with the Avicen, a bird-like race) who decides to steal the Firebird, the only thing that can stop the perpetual war between the Avicen and their dragon enemies. See my review here.

What to read again:

Ever since Harry Potter I’ve enjoyed re-reading the previous books in a series before the next one comes out. You get to soak up all the nuances and speculate about what’s going to happen next—it just makes the whole experience richer and more fun! What am I going to start re-reading?

 

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

Wrath and the Dawn

I was a little unsure about because The Arabian Nights is a classic collection of tales that has defeated me several times. I’ve never made it all the way through an edition of it, and setting a YA novel in that world seemed…well it seemed like a short story idea, not a novel. And definitely not two novels. But I was wrong! (Thanks, Erin!)

Shazi and Khalid’s story was spellbinding – I couldn’t put this book down, and although a few things could have been smoother or explored better, this was an amazing interpretation of the legend! (See my review here). The second book comes out next month and you do not want to miss it!

Rose and the Dagger

What else should you revisit?

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

ACOTARI was already hooked on her Throne of Glass series when she announced she was doing a faery trilogy – at the same time! TWO Maas books a year?! YES. I still don’t understand how she’s doing it (the schedule? the work? the revisions? the deadlines? the tours?) but she’s either superwoman or a robot.

Feyre’s story is a wonderful interpretation of two old legends, Tam Lin and East of the Sun, West of the Moon. I love those fairy tales and the elements she wove into her own story are lovely. Feyre’s life is forfeit when she accidentally kills a faery in the forest, but her captivity by the mysterious Tam Lin is not at all what she expected. (See my review here). As with her other series, I imagine details and minor characters could become important at any time, so definitely pick this up before next month’s release of book two!

ACOMAF

Scarlet

13206760by Marissa Meyer
YA Fantasy / Science Fiction
4 of 5 stars      
Second in a quartet

We left Cinder with the startling realization of her identity and we pick up with Scarlet, an ordinary girl living on her grandmother’s farm in rural France. Scarlet’s grandmother disappeared three weeks earlier, and Scarlet is worried sick about her. But the police have no leads and no interest, and she doesn’t know what to do—until a mysterious street-fighter named Wolf shows up. He is both charmingly naïve and ruthlessly tough, and he has the only lead to her grandmother, if Scarlet can trust him.

I love Scarlet—I know her temper and trusting nature might not endear her to everyone, but I actually felt given the stress of her situation she was pretty grounded. As a follow-up to Cinder’s practical expertise (and snark), Scarlet was an interesting protagonist with her own goals and opinions. There’s a lot of fast-paced adventure and betrayal in this book and although there are still visible nods to the original fairy tale of Red Riding Hood, that doesn’t make the story predictable.

Most of this book takes place over a 48-hour period! While Cinder is escaping prison with the help of fellow fugitive Carswell Thorne, Scarlet is trekking across the French countryside by ship, train, and foot. Of course they are going to meet up—but the journey there provides a surprising amount of time for character development in between shootouts and frenetic chases. When you finish, all you want is the next book!

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Scarlet is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • A Long, Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan – A sci-fi retelling of Sleeping Beauty. Rose wakes up after 62 years in suspended animation to find that everyone she loved is dead and she is the heiress to the largest company in the world. But not everyone is excited about her return, and she has to find out who her real allies are before someone makes her disappear again.
  • The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey – This feels similar to me in a weird way, just with the combination of magic and intrigue in the real world. It’s a very fun story about Echo the thief who decides to steal something the world wants: the firebird. See my review here.
  • Crystal Singer by Anne McCaffrey – Killashandra isn’t talented enough to be an opera singer, but when the opportunity for a lucrative mining position opens up, she takes it immediately. Mining the valuable crystals requires tuning the tools with her own voice, and Killa may have found something more satisfying than being on stage after all. This is an older sci-fi story that is rather unique.
  • Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo – The second book in this YA fantasy trilogy follows Alina and Mal as they try to escape the Darkling. But Alina’s powers are hard to hide, and she begins to realize that beating the Darkling to the legendary living amplifiers of Grisha power might be the best way to stop him.

Soundless

SoundlessBy Richelle Mead
YA Fantasy
3 of 5 stars

I wanted to read this book for months before it finally came in at my library. The cover art! The setting! The protagonist! It seemed like a real winner. I wasn’t previously a fan of Mead’s books (think Vampire Academy) but a story based on Chinese folklore instantly grabbed my attention. Turns out that much like old fairy tales, it’s hard to connect with these characters emotionally, which isn’t a problem when a story is 10 pages long, but becomes a little more awkward when it’s 250 pages. Although Fei undergoes an incredible amount of changes and adventure, I felt distant from it all, as if I was watching her through a paper screen.

Fei lives in a small village at the top of a mountain. A long time ago the passes were blocked by an avalanche, so her people depend on a zipline system with a town below to receive supplies. They get a meager amount of food in exchange for the precious metals they mine. Everyone in her village is born deaf—their ancestors lost their hearing centuries ago—but now they are starting to go blind as well. As fewer people can mine, they receive less food. Fei and Li Wei decide enough is enough: they are going down the mountain to get more food and find a way to help their village. This is only possible because Fei has mysteriously regained her hearing.

I loved the setting and Fei’s descriptions as she tries to describe what it’s like to hear for the first time. This is probably the strength of the book. Characters rarely have a sensorial disability, and the depiction of the village’s sign language and Fei’s subsequent ingenious ways to communicate throughout the book are interesting. Prejudice comes into play, as well as caste hierarchy. The culture is  vibrant and the pacing is good—I just wish I felt closer to the characters while everything was happening. It’s hard to say more without spoilers, but pick this up with you want something different.

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Soundless is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • The Brothers Grimm 101 Fairy Tales by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm – This has a close match in tone and plenty of magical tales that wrap up in a similar manner. Although these come from Europe, the gist remains the same. If you like the interesting but distant tone of Soundless, you’ll like these. See my review here.
  • Eon: Dragoneye Reborn by Alison Goodman – A combination of traditional Chinese culture and the Avatar: The Last Airbender universe. Eon is struggling to be chosen as a Dragoneye apprentice—bonding with one of the twelve zodiacal dragons to keep order in the empire. But Eon is secretly Eona, hiding her true gender because women are prohibited to be Dragoneyes. If her secret is discovered, she’ll be killed. See my review here.
  • Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch – Meira just wants to help restore the fallen kingdom of Winter, but she has no idea what her true destiny is. Fast-paced, interesting world-building, and a traditional character arc, but still fun. See my review here.
  • The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh – A rich tapestry of culture and characters, this re-telling of the 1001 Arabian Nights is fantastic! If you love visiting less common settings in fantasy or you love fairy tale retellings, add this to your list. See my review here.
  • The Young Elites by Marie Lu – An Italian-inspired fantasy world of powerful children given markings and powers if they survive a deadly blood fever. Addictive and engrossing with amazing characters. This is a bigger departure from Soundless but deals with the same theme of understanding new gifts and how it changes your life and world. See my review here.
  • Risuko by David Kudler – Risuko is a young peasant girl in feudal Japan who just wants to climb. But when a noblewoman notices her talents, she is recruited into an organization because she could become “a very special kind of woman.” One that can save her country. See my review here.

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