Thursday, October 28, 2010

Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George

I have to admit, the only true exposure I have to the story of the twelve dancing princesses is the Barbie movie. Not being an expert on this story, I do not know how closely this story resembles the original nor how far it may actually swerve. I did find it very interesting and am eagerly awaiting another of Ms. Day George's books.

A mother who desperately wants children makes a deal with a diabolical underworld king. Little does she know that she is a pawn and will never produce the heir for which she longs. Instead she will produce 12 beautiful princesses. With each daughter, she returns to the villanous king and asks again for his help. Each time he "helps" her, she finds herself further indebted to him. She is forced to dance for the king at his midnight balls to repay her debt. Eventually, she wastes away from the constant strain on her body and the lack of sleep. She leaves behind her loving husband and her 12 daughters mourning her loss. As her debt was unfulfilled, her daughters are forced to continue dancing for the evil king. His intention is to never let them go, but to marry them off to his 12 half-breed sons. The evil king is unable to leave his underground lair, but his sons are able to enter the earthly realm at night. The children of his sons and human women would result in underworld children that could live on the earthly realm with no restraints.

Some interesting twists and turns occur during the story and I can only say I will not ruin the ending. Read the book, it's a good one.

Midnight Pearls by Debbie Viguie

A retelling of the little mermaid. The story starts with a prelude of Pearl's sorrowful wedding day. The first chapter, however, takes you back to her discovery by a fisherman. Each chapter starts with a new glimpse of her wedding day and then proceeds to show you more of her childhood as a fisherman's daughter.

I think the oddest change for me was the lack of presence of the sea witch in this story. She definintely plays a role, but it is very subdued and her actual exposure time in this novel is very limited. Ms. Viguie includes an interesting twist by uping the ante and placing more lives at risk with the sea witch's curses.

One of the most important things for me, a happy ending. Ms. Viguie definitely delivers a happy ending. Not the one I had thought the story was leading to, but happy never the less.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Fire by Kristin Cashore

This was another winner by Cashore. Her second book is a prequel to Graceling. Here we meet beautiful, mind-numbing monsters. When a human looks upon these creatures, the human becomes so enraptured that it often allows itself to be eaten. Monsters also are drawn to other monsters and there is often a kill or be killed consequence.

The heroine in this story is called Fire. She is named for her hair, which contains all the hues of her namesake and is so brilliant that she must keep it covered to help protect her identity. She is the last human monster. She begins her story at her estate in the countryside. Her friend and sometimes protector, Archer, lives on the neighboring estate. There have been increasing occurences of trespassing on her land and, in the opening pages, she is injured by someone they think to be a poacher. The poacher is mysteriously blank and Fire begins a journey to discover who is sending these men to her property.

There is a reintroduction of Leck. He is the antagonist of her first book. You know the outcome of his story, if you have read Graceling. It is even more interesting to read of his beginnings, especially when you know how powerful he becomes in his later years.

This was a wonderful story and I am intrigued to read her next book in the series, Bitterblue.

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

This is a story with which I have fallen in love. Cashore has a unique concept that really drew me in to the story of Katsa. Born with eyes of two different colors meant that you were graced with a unique ability. No two gracelings were exactly alike. You could be graced with a special ability to swim, a special ability to learn, a special ability to fight, or a special ability to ... It's in part the plausibility of this special mutation that makes the fantasy exciting. The other part of the equation is Katsa, herself. She is a strong young woman who faces depressing expectations and must decide to allow herself to be pigeon holed or to break free and discover her full potential. A good story that was difficult to put down.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Beauty Sleep by Cameron Dokey

I love a good fairy tale about a girl who finds herself in trouble and ends the story with the prince and the crown. One of my favorites is Sleeping Beauty. This may be why I didn't fall in love with this retelling. The story is good and I can understand wanting to put a unique twist on it. However, I prefer the Disney version. This version is one part Sleeping Beauty, one part yellow brick road and one part Quantum Leap.

My favorite version of Sleeping Beauty begins with the infant princess receiving a curse. This version is no different. It diverges from the ordinary by taking you through Aurore's childhood, instead of jumping to her life right before the curse falls. I had some trouble as the author seemed inconsistent on the age difference between her heroine and her cousin. At one point he is 10 years older than Aurore, at another 8 years separate them and again she starts a flashback as a 10 year old, only to switch in the middle to an 8 year old. Maybe it was part of the time traveling aspect of the story or maybe not.

Instead of a beautiful, perfect princess, I found a young girl who didn't quite fit and was allowed to behave as a working class girl. This caused a schism with the nobles of her kingdom, who preferred her male cousin. The 16 year-old Aurore decided to take a journey of self-sacrifice to save her kingdom. She travels to a forest that has a mind of its own and often reminded me of the craziness of Oz. Here she meets a young man who seems to be telling her about herself and yet he keeps telling her that the princess has already met her curse and slept for 100 years.

The end of the story, which was a little too easy for me to predict, involves my Quantum Leap comparison. Without ruining the conclusion, I found it difficult to embrace the author's time traveling solution and outcome. I didn't think I was difficult to please when it came to the fairy tale genre, but I no longer can say that all I want is a happy ending. I think I will stick with the Disney version for now.

Once Upon A Time...

as all good fairy tales begin, there was a girl who loved to read. She loved to share her favorite stories almost as much as she loved to enjoy them herself. She decided that she should stop pestering her loved ones with the details of these adventures and start a list. A list that could be read if one so chose or could equally be ignored.