Monday, September 16, 2019

Girl in the Red Hood (Classical Kingdoms)

Title: Girl in the Red Hood

Series: Classical Kingdoms (Book #4)

Year: 2015

Author: Brittany Fichter

Summary: After her father moves the family to a village deep in a sunless forest, Liesel is bitten by a wolf, and unbeknownst to her, marked for a terrifying destiny. Befriended by a mysterious boy in the woods soon after, however, Liesel finds herself falling in love with the one person in the world who can save her from that awful end or doom her to it. In this retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, Liesel must decide whether to accept her fate for the sake of those she loves, or fight for the freedom to choose her own way.

Review: I was pretty excited to get into this book since this was my very first "other Fichter" novel. I've published two books now under my maiden name "Fichter" and -- lo and behold -- there's another Fichter out there publishing stories, too. What's even more uncanny is that we both focus a lot on fairytale retellings. Most people can't even pronounce "Fichter" properly, let alone know someone by that name, so finding another author who shares that name was just the bomb diggity. However, I should probably call her the "first Fichter" since she's been at this publishing game (and fairytale retelling) a lot longer than I have.

Anyway, this book impressed me. Little Red Riding Hood is a tough fairytale to retell, mainly because it's so short. There isn't a ton of material to work with. But Brittany has fleshed it out into a fabulous story that's sure to keep you up late into the night!

Liesel wants nothing more than to stay with her grandparents and parents on her beloved mountain. However, when a mysterious sleeping illness strikes her mother, her father will stop at nothing to cure her. His passion overcomes common sense with the promise of a new healer in a small forest village. He moves his family immediately there, no matter Liesel's pleas and her grandmother's warnings.

Once there, however, tragedy begins to strike in more ways than one, and Liesel finds herself an outcast. Her only friend is the mysterious boy in the woods, a boy named Kurt who is as interested in the stories of magic and adventure from her grandmother's book as she is.

Brittany did an amazing job keeping a lot of the original fairytale elements intact. Throughout most of the novel, Liesel wants nothing more than to go back through the woods to her grandmother's house. She does indeed deliver a pie to a shut-in at one point. There are lots of wolves. LOTS. There's the signature red cape -- which I must park on for a moment. A lot of times, authors just fling the red cape out there because that's the signature look for Red Riding Hood (plus, it's in her name). But they really don't ever give her a reason to wear red. As Kurt points out, red is pretty much an impractical color to wear in the woods since it stands out so much. However, Liesel's cape is something she values from her mother, and the vibrant color becomes almost a running joke throughout the book. Which I greatly appreciated. There was definitely thought put into that red cape. I approve.

The relationship between Liesel and Kurt was fun. I really liked how they built a solid friendship together while they were young, a foundation that was what really got them through the tough times as they got older. They are not without their bumps and thumps, but I never once thought the drama got out of hand. It was believable. Liesel learned how to trust Kurt, yet at the same time, she was hurt when she realized he was keeping secrets from her.

And Johan. I wanted so much more of Johan. He was fun, but his story really touched me. I won't spoil it.

Advisory: Fantasy violence/scariness. Obviously, this tale has a lot of wolves in it. Brittany doesn't outright call them "werewolves" but they're very much in that vein. While in human form, they understand their curse and the implications, but fear transforms them into their wolf forms. While in the wolf form, not many are able to control what they do (some, like the epic Johan, can); however, they are not the gory, bloodthirsty werewolves of legend. They will kill, but only when prompted to attack. There are some intense moments in the book, some wolf attacks, but nothing is terribly graphic or violently out of hand. I thought Brittany handled the scary element well for the tone of the book. Just enough to give you some shivers, but not enough for a nightmare.

Light romance. I really appreciate how real the relationship between Liesel and Kurt felt. Brittany was extremely careful in creating them as a couple, and the description of their relationship is very clean. A few times, some darker things/married couple issues are hinted at, but they fit well into the tone of the book. I was impressed with how it was all handled.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars


Fun Note: September is Little Red Riding Hood Month over at Fairy Tale Central! Pop on over to check out more reviews of LRRH retellings and other cool posts!

Monday, September 2, 2019

Strands of Bronze and Gold (Strands)

Title: Strands of Bronze and Gold

Series: Strands (Book #1)

Year: 2013

Author: Jane Nickerson

Summary: The Bluebeard fairy tale retold. . . .

When seventeen-year-old Sophia Petheram’s beloved father dies, she receives an unexpected letter. An invitation—on fine ivory paper, in bold black handwriting—from the mysterious Monsieur Bernard de Cressac, her godfather. With no money and fewer options, Sophie accepts, leaving her humble childhood home for the astonishingly lavish Wyndriven Abbey, in the heart of Mississippi.

Sophie has always longed for a comfortable life, and she finds herself both attracted to and shocked by the charm and easy manners of her overgenerous guardian. But as she begins to piece together the mystery of his past, it’s as if, thread by thread, a silken net is tightening around her. And as she gathers stories and catches whispers of his former wives—all with hair as red as her own—in the forgotten corners of the abbey, Sophie knows she’s trapped in the passion and danger of de Cressac’s intoxicating world.

Glowing strands of romance, mystery, and suspense are woven into this breathtaking debut—a thrilling retelling of the “Bluebeard” fairy tale.

Review: To be honest, I'm not as familiar with the original Bluebeard tale as I'd like to be. Bluebeard's always been one that just didn't speak to me. *shrugs* However, from what I know of the tale, Nickerson turned out a really cool retelling with plenty of the original elements intact.

Sophie Petheram with the beautiful red hair is now the ward of one of the richest men in Mississippi. She's always loved fine things, and now she's getting to live her dreams of luxury in the extravagant Wyndriven Abbey, a building that was originally built and furnished in Europe, but her godfather paid to bring over and rebuild in America. Bernard de Cressac, at first glance, is all kindness and generosity, paying for new wardrobes and finery -- whatever Sophie wants. Even though he's older, she quickly fancies herself as being able to think of him more than just her godfather. On top of that, it appears that de Cressac himself may be thinking more of her than just his ward.

But all too soon she begins to learn the secrets of the abbey, and the red-headed ghosts haunting the halls may have more purpose there than she originally thought.

I liked how real Sophie was. She had realistic, everyday struggles, particularly in trying to figure out what she thought about things. She has a Jane Bennet-esque innocence where she wants to believe the best of people. I loved that she was well-read, and made quite a few references to famous literary works -- including several fairytales.

I really loved Gideon. It was so refreshing to see a pastor in this kind of book who wasn't portrayed as a selfish or inconsiderate man. He was thoughtful and kind, and it was really neat to see his behavior and beliefs on courtship so starkly contrast de Cressac's.

Advisory: Although this book is written as a type of horror/gothic style, it isn't overly scary. It reminded me a lot of Northanger Abbey and Catherine Morland's romantic and gothic tendencies. Sophie does see ghosts and speaks to them, but they don't appear hugely haunting and terrifying.

Some violence/blood. Different characters are injured or killed, and dead bodies show up at one point. Again, I didn't find it all overly scary.

The big caution for this novel is its romantic/sexual content. As de Cressac makes his intentions of passion known, he is not always clean in his advances. That leads to much touching and several kisses, but Sophie is appropriately disgusted by his behavior as they are not married. She does manage to discourage his passion so it doesn't go all the way. For some readers, it may be too much, so I would advise a good deal of discretion. Although it is portrayed as evil/not appropriate, it's still a big part of the novel.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Monday, August 26, 2019

Cinderella Ninja Warrior

Title: Cinderella Ninja Warrior

Series: Twisted Tales (Book #1)

Year: 2011

Author: Maureen McGowan

Summary: In this fast-paced story full of adventure and romance, Cinderella is more than just a servant girl waiting for her prince—she's a tough, fearless girl who is capable of taking charge of a dangerous situation. Seeking to escape the clutches of her evil stepmother, Cinderella perfects her ninja skills and magic talents in secret, waiting for the day when she can break free and live happily ever after. In a special twist, readers have the opportunity to make key decisions for Cinderella and decide where she goes next—but no matter the choice; the result is a story unlike any fairy tale you've ever read!

Review: If you went into this book with little to no expectations, it was a fun, easy read with some new twists to a favorite fairytale.

If you went into this book with any expectations regarding the title and cover image... well, prepare to be greatly disappointed.

Ninja Warrior... No Way. This Cinderella is a self-taught wizard and ninja in training, and nowhere near a ninja warrior. Additionally, she never once wields a sword or any sharp weapon of any kind (or a candle, come to think of it), and her two fights (outside of magic fights) are with wolves and a band of thieves and last for about a minute each. She has a few ninja-type scenes that require some cool acrobatics, but it's more like reading about a gymnast in a cop-off ninja warrior game show. Personally, I think they could have done a whole lot better titling this book and creating a cover for it.

Don't get me wrong. It's an awesome title and cover -- they just doesn't belong with this book.

The other big thing wrong with this book was the "choose your own path" adventure. First off, there were basically only three choices you as the reader got to make for Cinderella. And they all end the same way -- with the exact same ending. So, you're really not making any choices for her; you're just choosing how long it takes you to get to the ending scene. Second, the choices aren't varied at all. One choice should lead to drastically different results than another, but the choices are simple things that only take the reader to the next plot point in the story. What really got me was the first choice you made for Cinderella, where you have to choose whether or not to accept the invitation to the ball. If you're one of those daring people to choose "no ball," the book laughs at you a few pages later. "JK! She's going to the ball anyway, loser!" The choices you make really don't affect Cinderella at all.

Getting on my writer's soap box here: those kinds of choices say nothing more than "lazy author." It's as if the author couldn't decide to do this scene en route to the ball, or this scene en route to the ball, so what gives? Let's put both of them in, up the word count, and save some time! La.Zy.

Personally, I would have loved to see the whole choose your own path thing obliterated completely, and gotten those pages back to see more of Cinderella's adventure. More ninja stuffs. More sword action, rather than people fighting over wands.

The narrative style, honestly, was painful to read at first. There is a lot of information given in the first couple of pages, and the author's throwing it all at you without warning you to put on protective headgear. I realize she had to get into the story fast (given how much space later in the book she wastes on the no-true-choice adventure paths), but it was still painful.

The characters came across as very 2D. Cinderella was pretty stuck on rescuing herself, being a strong female, and all of that; ironically, she owes her whole rescue to her cat. Yes, she has some magical abilities and ninja moves, but both of those are developed thanks to the cat. Ty was such a flat character. He was flirty and full of himself while still wanting to help Cinderella out. The stepmother goes most of the book without a name; actually, quite a few characters remain nameless, as if the author didn't want to be bothered with naming them.

I apologize if I seem harsh. I just had so many emotions spilling over with this book, and I had to get them all out somewhere.

HOWEVER, I do think there are some redeeming qualities to this book. Imagine that. While a lot of the fairytale elements of Cinderella are watered down, a few of them were unique. For example, I liked how the author actually gave the stepmother a reason to keep Cinderella around, more than just, "Oh, I need an extra servant to boss around."

So, if you're wanting an easy read with some fun acrobatic scenes and magic sparkles, this is a Cinderella book to add to your list. Just don't have too many expectations getting into it.

Advisory: Some fantasy violence/fighting. Most of the fights are with wands, so characters are just throwing sparkles around, so it's never very scary.

Cinderella is training to be a wizard, as are several other characters in the book. At one point, she goes to a magic competition where wizards in training compete with and without wands. Magic here seems to be an ability that one is born with and must hone to actually use it with any luck. Wands are helpful to some spells, but magic appears to be mainly developed and used by sheer confidence and believing in one's self. (I may or may not have drowned in how many "believe in yourself" statements I read.)

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

The Dragon's Flower

Title: The Dragon's Flower

Series: None (published as part of the Golden Braids collection)

Year: 2019

Author: Wyn Estelle Owens

Summary: In the wilds of the mountainous country of Akiyama, there stands a pagoda. When Shichiro, an exiled, honorless samurai stumbles across it one rainy morning, he expects to find it empty and abandoned. He was not expecting to find a lonely princess with near-mythical blue eyes dwelling in the top floors. 

Hanako has dwelt alone for all her life, with only her two silent handmaidens and the countless dragon effigies on her walls to keep her company; her only knowledge of the outside world gained from the books and scrolls she reads. When the wandering ronin stumbles onto her haven, she gains her first friend, never knowing how deeply this chance meeting would affect her. 

The threads of fate have tied these two together, and all the while turmoil boils in the midst of the Seven Countries of Azuma-no-Kuni. Rumors of alliances and armies sprout up, and whispers of the long-lost Imperial Line returning at last. Old prophecies ripen at last, and old myths prepare to show themselves once again in the hour of need. Amongst it all stand two new allies—an isolated princess and a near-friendless ronin, as the wheels of fate and destiny circle them and draw ever closer. Will peace at last return to the fractured realms, or will remnants of the once great Empire splinter beyond all redemption?

Review: If you've ever wanted a full-fledged, packed-to-the-brim Rapunzel story that didn't leave anything of the original fairytale elements out, this is your story. Buckle in for a long and wild ride, and get ready to be swept away.

Hanako has lived all her life on top of a pagoda. She's sheltered and protected, but she can't help wondering about the outside world. And the outside world gets a whole lot closer and more real when a tired ronin appears at her door.

Shichiro has lost his name and his honor. By doing what he knew was right, he's now condemned to wander wherever he will and keep himself alive by the skill of his blade. Seeking refuge in a seemingly abandoned pagoda and getting attacked with a bowl of rice to the face.

There was just so much to love about this story. First, it's chock-full of everything Rapunzel you could ever want. It's been a while since I've seen a Rapunzel retelling so closely follow the original fairytale yet feel like a completely unique story. This one does exactly that. All the thumbs up.

If I were to be nitpicky, the *only* thing from the original fairytale that's left out is the long hair. It's touched on briefly and does have a hair-ladder at one point, but hair really isn't a big deal. But you almost don't miss it in the overwhelming Rapunzel-ness of the rest of the story.

It is purely Japanese/Asian culture. For me, since I'm not super familiar with the "-chan" and "-hime" and "-sama" name meanings, I got a little lost while reading. This story doesn't waste time explaining the nuances of the culture and backgrounds. It just plunges you straight into the stories, and you're so wrapped up in the the characters and what's going on before you even realize that it's not the twenty-first century in America anymore. I believe if you're familiar with that type of culture, you'll jump into the book without any difficulty, but for someone like me, it takes a bit to get used to the new culture. Not that it's bad; Wyn does an amazing job fitting the Rapunzel story into the culture and you couldn't tell where the seam was.

Hanako and Shichiro were also a super cute couple. I was a little worried that Shichiro, being a ronin, would turn out as a Flynn Rider knock-off, but he wasn't. Shichiro was so much his own person. I loved the banter he had with Hanako and his siblings! I'm especially always down for a good sibling relationship in a book. This one did not disappoint.

Hanako, too, was an amazing heroine. Her story worked so perfectly with the Rapunzel tale. One of the things that really impressed me was how she was both feminine and strong. She's still dependent on Shichiro for some things, but she's able to function and get things done while he's not there. Brave, beautiful, and all the things. However, I was a little confused when Hanako was described as a healer; she has some knowledge of the body and medicine to help people (which is great), but *highlight for spoiler* she was completely in the dark when it came to how her body worked in pregnancy. *end spoiler* I know she was sheltered, but as a healer, she should have some kind of knowledge in how that works.

Ichiro, I think, was just the best. His plot twist.... DID NOT SEE THAT COMING. Also, huge shout-out to Aika, Isao's wife. She was so sweet and perfect for Isao; she was so supportive and loving to him when he had tough decisions to make, and balanced him out so wonderfully.

The writing style was fun and fairly easy to read and get sucked into. As I said above, a lot of the book relies heavily on the Japanese culture, and several characters behave and speak as if they were from that specific medieval-esque time period. However, other characters were very modern in their speech and behavior, which kinda threw me out of the culture; some of the dialogue just seemed too twenty-first century America.

Additionally, the scenes jump POV a lot. I realize that the book is meant to be told as by an omniscient narrator, but it got a little confusing to be in one character's head and then suddenly another's. I noticed that happened a lot in scenes with just two characters.

The pace in the first half of the book was intriguing and really good. Once you got into it, the pages just kept turning. However, the second half of the book after the BIG MOMENT (sorry, no spoilers) read kinda slow. I felt as if everything were trying to build up to a war that ultimately never happened. There's months and months of negotiations and alliance-building, and the whole time, the enemy doesn't do anything. Given how clever the enemy was described to be, I thought that a bit odd. Maybe, though, that's just my personal preference. It would have been cool to see more action in the second half.

I know that was just a good amount of negative-sounding criticism, but overall, I was super impressed by this book. It's definitely something you want on your shelf if you're any kind of fairytale retelling enthusiast. I loved getting to see so much of the original tale unfold smoothly and seamlessly with the Japanese culture. All I can say is, "Wow."

Advisory: Some hints at intimacy between husbands and wives, but I thought it all pretty clean. Two characters in the story are pregnant and give birth, but nothing is graphic or over-described.

Some fantasy violence and fighting. Some characters are injured or killed and there are some descriptions of blood/injuries, but nothing is overly graphic.

There are celestial spirits/gods that watch over and interfere/help out from time to time. In the culture, they reminded me a lot of the family guardians from Disney's Mulan or the Greek gods. However, they work with fate to guard over the royal family and fight for a happy ending.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Rebekah's Refuge

Title: Rebekah's Refuge

Series: None (published as part of the Golden Braids collection)

Year: 2019

Author: Meredith Leigh Burton

Summary: Never allow a stranger to buy you anything. Never reveal what you truly are. Above all, never, ever allow your hair to be cut.

In a plague-ravaged world, people will stop at nothing to find a cure. Rebekah is a young norn who on the run for her life. Charles, a man desperate to heal his ailing wife, wants the life-giving magic contained in Rebekah's hair.

When Rebekah’s path crosses with Martha’s, a mother who has lost her daughter to the same man, secrets will be revealed. Buried fears will be resurrected, and the conflict between norns and humans may cause devastating havoc. Will Rebekah and Martha find a way to help both human and nornkind, or will Rebekah’s pursuer capture her? Will the plague be eradicated, or is a more sinister plan at work?

Things are not how they appear in this story of finding a place to belong. Rebekah’s Refuge is a tale of sacrifice, love and courage. You will meet many individuals, human and norn alike, who bear scars, scars that cannot be seen. A tenuous thread binds their destinies together, but threads, like hair, can easily be cut. Only those who listen can find the courage to fight. Rebekah’s Refuge is a tale of desperation and hope, a story of turmoil and healing. 

Review: It's difficult to pin any one genre/subgenre on it because it draws from multiple. For one, it's a clever Rapunzel retelling with unexpected twists on all the usual elements. But it's also slightly dystopian given that it's a tale of a world ravished by illness, and some people are desperate enough to try anything to get the cure. Additionally, it's also fantasy, since we have a culture of humans living beside (although not always peacefully) another race of beings called norns.

Rebekah is a young norn, a special race of beings that have special powers through nature. One of the defining characteristics of norns is their hair. Although it may look like regular human hair, it contains power and, once cut, fades into a lettuce-type of consistency and can be eaten as medicine for the dreadful Bind Weed plague. However, since the hair has power, a norn can physically feel it being cut off, and once cut it grows back weaker.

I can guarantee you've never read a Rapunzel retelling like this before. The author incorporated so many of the elements from the original fairytale, but all in super unexpected ways. For once, hair is key. And for that, I'm excited about. Too many times, I think Rapunzel stories give Rapunzel long hair, but don't ever give her a reason to HAVE long hair. This Rapunzel has both the long hair and a compelling reason for it.

You know what else this story does? It follows the tale of what happened to the wife after eating the (forbidden) vegetable from the witch's garden. This tale is so Rapunzel, but so not because everything is turned on its head.

My complaint for this tale would be the shifting POV. I realize that the story is complicated and requires many people to tell it, but scenes would cut from one character's narration to another without warning, and sometimes it was difficult to tell who you were supposed to be following. In the beginning, especially, I had to read a few scenes twice to understand what was going on. Also, while the end was super sweet, I felt that the climatic scenes were just a little bogged down by so much having to be wrapped up in such a short amount of time. I think stretching it out a little to breathe could have made it slightly easier to follow.

But overall, this is one Rapunzel tale that doesn't follow the normal retelling rules. And thus, it should be one you need to add to your fairytale retellings shelf.

Advisory: Some violence/pain/illness. Since the norns have special powers (particularly medicinally), some of them are forced into helping try to find a cure for the plague. Several norns have their hair cut off, and the story hints at possible rape to help conceive babies.

One passionate kiss between a man and his wife.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Molly Storm

Title: Molly Storm

Series: None (published as part of the Golden Braids collection)

Year: 2019

Author: Annie Louise Twitchell

Summary: A witch, a pirate, a lighthouse, and... seaweed? Molly Storm is a short story inspired by the tale of Rapunzel. 

“You and I, lass, we’re both sides of the same coin. We’re both the heart of the ocean, but you’re more the kindness and goodness. I’m the storms that crush ships. Don’t cross me, Molly. I’ll crush all the sweetness out of you.”

Review: What if Rapunzel lived in a lighthouse? This short story explores the favorite fairytale with some nautical twists and mystical turns. And all from the perspective of the witch, Gothel -- or in this case, Molly Storm.

Molly's content to live alone in her lighthouse, mixing potions as needed, but an annoying visitor at her door forces her to make a life-altering choice. The Pirate King wants a special potion, something that has power unlike Molly's ever seen before. But its effects may last longer and darker than she's bargained for.

This short story reads very quickly, easily consumed in a single sitting; it's well-paced and stuffed with just enough intrigue to keep you turning pages. At first, I was a little concerned at how the Rapunzel elements would fit in, given that the beginning of the story is so different from the original fairytale. HOWEVER, the answers soon became clear, and I was very impressed by how roped I got into Gothel's/Molly's tale. The true element explored here is WHY Molly took that child.

This is a very sweet retelling, focusing on the power of love. Not so much a romantic love, but pure love between people and the power that love has to change for the better. The style reads as a fairytale, so this would almost seem like the perfect tale to read aloud.

Advisory: Some violence. The Pirate King doesn't like to be crossed, and one character suffers physically from his wrath. However, nothing is graphic, and all is handled very well.

Also, since Molly is a witch, she creates potions and spells through her big cauldron. While I was a little bothered by the fact that she's a witch (just because that's really not my thing), her craft is almost portrayed as a talent; she makes her potions through herbs and lots of mixing, not necessarily through another power source. Given the very fairytale-esque setting of the story, I'd say it wasn't too big of a deal.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Snow White and Rose Red

Title: Snow White and Rose Red

Series: The Fairy Tale Series created by Terri Windling

Year: 1989

Author: Patricia Wrede

Summary: Wrede's romantic and charming retelling of the Brothers Grimm tale is the fourth in this series. In the village of Mortlak, near the river Thames, during the reign of Elizabeth I, live the Widow Arden and her two daughters, Blanche and Rosamund. The widow, who supports her family by selling herbs and making healing potions, lives in fear of being accused of witchcraft. Her daughters gather the herbs she needs, sometimes crossing into the realm of Faerie, one of whose borders lies in the forest nearby. 

Also residing in Mortlak is the real-life Doctor Dee, astrologer to the Queen, who with his friend Edward Kelly seeks to harness the magic of Faerie. Their efforts turn Hugh, one of the half-human sons of the queen of Faerie, into a bear. With the aid of the widow and her daughters, John, the elder Faerie prince, tries to disenchant his brother, who has crossed over to the mortal world. John is initially thwarted in his efforts by Madini, head of a faction in Faerie that seeks complete separation from the mortal domain. In putting her twist on the classic tale, Wrede uses language appropriate to the period and nicely evokes both medieval England and a magic land. 

Review: This review was written originally for publication on Fairy Tale Central. Click here to read the full review.

The tale of Snow White and Rose Red, I fear, does not have nearly the fanbase that it should. As one of the lesser-known fairytales, it has far fewer retellings than the popular tales of Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, etc. Even the similarly-named Snow White and the Seven Dwarves is more popular — a fact I consider completely unfair. This tale focuses much on the bond between sisters, and has a good bit of adventure and mystery to boot.

Overall, I really enjoyed Wrede’s retelling. Rosamund and Blanche are two very likable heroines, each with a distinct personality. Blanche, the elder, is quiet and thoughtful, while her younger sister is more apt to jump into action or lose her temper. They are super close, do a lot together, and would do anything for each other. I think, because I am one of five sisters, the predominant theme of sisterhood in this book really came out strongly for me. (I’m always up for a good sibling book; the more, the better.) Yes, Rose and Blanche aren’t perfect, but there’s so much in them that you immediately fall in love with and can’t help rooting for them.

Advisory: Most of the caution I have to say on this book concerns the magical/witchcrafts aspects of the tale. There is also one scene in which a man is described as naked and quickly is given a blanket, but it’s not dwelt on or described at all. Other than that, I found it very clean.

The Widow, Dee, and Kelly all practice elements of witchcraft. It is not super clear why the Widow knows what she knows, other than that she’s familiar with Faerie and how to use herbs and chants to accomplish things. She doesn’t practice this sort of thing very often, and usually only because she must. Dee and Kelly, on the other hand, are intent on capturing the power of Faerie to make their own gold. With all three, though (and later as other characters begin to join them), practice within scenes of the books, and their spells are sometimes very specific. In addition to the Latin phrasing, we are given the names of herbs and other things that they use in their spells. This magic mimics some of what I’ve read in Jessica Day George novels (after the fashion of how the time period viewed supernatural activity), but it’s more than just using a silver cross or holy water. Typically, this wouldn’t bother too many people, but I was bothered by how repeatable some of the spells would have been in the real world (with the exception discussed below). For this reason, I must mention it.

The Faerie realm is clearly fantasy and of Wrede’s own making. The power that the Faerie creatures use is completely their own, and in the line of the magic or talent that Tolkien describes his race of elves using. It is compatible with the mortals’ magic, though, which makes some of the sorcerers’ spells completely fantastical.

Again, click here to read the full review. (And be sure to check out all the other cool fairytale stuff on Fairy Tale Central!)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars