Review of “Uprooted” by Naomi Novik

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Rating: 3/5 Stars

Pub: May 19th 2015 by Del Rey

“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.”

Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.

But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.” -Summary from Goodreads.com

This book has a few instances of violence against women. Dragon grabs her arms and quite literally drags her, to the point of bruising, and early on a prince tries to rape her. Dragon calls her useless among many other things. These things didn’t sit well with me. The Dragon was almost too mean in the beginning. That being said I am a romantic, and I still liked the buildup of them getting to know each other. I won’t spoil it but I loved loved learning his real name and the magic she felt with it.

I am aware that this book draws quite a bit from Eastern European folklore of which I’m not too familiar with (except vampires) so I don’t feel a great authority to speak on that. I’d also be interested to learn more about the language used for the magic spells!

Dragon and Agnieszka spend a good chunk of the story apart, rendering it not really/completely about them, as the sorely lacking synopsis alludes to. (Seriously that synopsis is bad). There was also a lot of uninteresting court politics in this book. It was very long and had a few different pieces to it, I think this whole world and story could have been told in more than one book (and I am not usually the person to say this).

I did like the ending, even if it did feel a little abrupt. The best part of it for me was what Agnieszka was doing, that felt real to her character. It wasn’t all about the love story and she didn’t just blindly follow Dragon, she did what she knew was true to her. I liked that.

With all that said I don’t think this is exactly my type of fairy tale retelling, there was a good amount of pieces I didn’t really enjoy. But the story is there and quite detailed, so still 3 stars for me.

Review of “Cruel Beauty” by Rosamund Hodge

Cruel Beauty

Rosamund Hodge

Pub: Balzer + Bray Jan 2014
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Rating: 5/5 Stars

Graceling meets Beauty and the Beast in this sweeping fantasy about one girl’s journey to fulfill her destiny and the monster who gets in her way-by stealing her heart.

Based on the classic fairy tale Beauty and the Beast, Cruel Beauty is a dazzling love story about our deepest desires and their power to change our destiny.

Since birth, Nyx has been betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom-all because of a foolish bargain struck by her father. And since birth, she has been in training to kill him.

With no choice but to fulfill her duty, Nyx resents her family for never trying to save her and hates herself for wanting to escape her fate. Still, on her seventeenth birthday, Nyx abandons everything she’s ever known to marry the all-powerful, immortal Ignifex. Her plan? Seduce him, destroy his enchanted castle, and break the nine-hundred-year-old curse he put on her people.

But Ignifex is not at all what Nyx expected. The strangely charming lord beguiles her, and his castle—a shifting maze of magical rooms—enthralls her.

As Nyx searches for a way to free her homeland by uncovering Ignifex’s secrets, she finds herself unwillingly drawn to him. Even if she could bring herself to love her sworn enemy, how can she refuse her duty to kill him? With time running out, Nyx must decide what is more important: the future of her kingdom, or the man she was never supposed to love.” -Goodreads Summary

God, was this book beautiful. Beauty and the Beast has always been my favorite fairy tale, albeit the Stockholm Syndrome-esque and feminist issues…god I love it. Maybe this is why I like vampire novels so much…but I digress. I included a photo of my book jacket and the hardcover underneath it which I was enamored by the embossed rose on the front. Both covers are absolutely gorgeous. I apologzie for the longer review than normal but I believe this is one of my best.

I honestly don’t have any complaints about this book, and I’m sure that’s hard to believe. I guess it kind of fulfills everything I’ve ever liked about a book since I was a little girl. I even feel as though I wasn’t able to fully appreciate it. Hodge draws so much from Greek mythology as well as she lists inspiration from T.S. Eliot Four Quartets and C.S. Lewis Till We Have Faces, and embarrassingly enough I am not familiar with any of the latter.  (I also love that her name is Nyx, which of course is the goddess of Night personified. This is something we see in House of Night novels.

On top of the traditional Beauty and the Beast story-line it also reminds of “Once Upon a Time’s” Belle and Rumpelstiltskin. Ignifex is commander of demons and shadows and also the deal maker. He makes deceiving deals with those desperate enough to call upon him.  However, I found this really interesting as he remarks that humanity as a whole is very selfish and believes that what they want is so important and that they deserve it so much, they believe they can afford the price and that it’s their right. Is that not true? Are we not a highly individualistic society who is told that whatever we want is attainable? Ignifex is less a demon and more the bearer of the truth.

Hodge does some beautiful world-building, as the castle is this labyrinth of magical and twisting rooms and hallways. Not to mention that the world they live in, Arcadia, has been sundered and has a parchment sky. It’s Beauty and the Beast in a fantastical realm.

There are some great themes coursing through such as duty vs. destiny, family and honor, you are more than your duty and what others have made you out to be. Although repetitive, I enjoyed the idea that her and her sister just smiled at each other and pretended to fit into their role of dutiful, loving/sheltered sister and duty-bound, strong, fearless sister.  I didn’t have many feelings towards her father or her aunt. They were background pieces and he was fool enough to wager away his daughter and wife. (Although the idea that he chose the daughter who looks more like him to atone for his sins was an expert move on Hodge’s part).

It was beautiful that Ignifex loved her for her wickedness and the parts of her she couldn’t control. Overall, an enchanting, richly told novel. My only gripe, honestly, was that they were always falling and tumbling over. Somewhat comical at some point. But anyway, Hodge certainly has skill and this book can be enjoyed by an older audience with an appreciation for Greek mythology.  I completely recommend this one and I can’t wait to read her others, though I think this one will hold a special place in my heart because Beauty and the Beast ❤

Any thoughts?

Review “Enchanted” by Alethea Kontis

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Rating 3/5

 

Enchanted is really a fairytale mashup. It’s a bit of 12 dancing princesses, Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, etc. There’s faeries, enchanted frog princes, and evil kings. It centers around the youngest Woodcutter daughter, Sunday, who is part fae. She meets an enchanted frog in the woods and falls for him. Their family and their village has many secrets and enchantments and we follow the Woodcutter’s as they try to break through these.

This book is OK. My main problem with it is that there isn’t much depth. It’s a YA/midgrade book (ages 7 and up) so of course I wasn’t expecting a literary masterpiece. But, the author doesn’t spend much time giving the characters depth or explaining each new element. All of a sudden there’s this concept of “sewing shadows” or this whole piece that’s similar to Jack and the Beanstalk, but it isn’t explained. It seemed like a lot of concepts and fairytales thrown in just for the sake of being there. However, this book did win the Gelett Burgess Children’s Book Award in 2012, and was nominated for the Audie Award in 2013 so there is something to be said about it. I think it’s a light-hearted story and if you’re really into the fairytale genre you should check it out. If you’re buying this as a gift for your child there was some subtle sex/drinking jokes thrown in but it may go over their heads. This is the first in the series, there are a few other books that center around Sunday’s sisters. I don’t think I will be checking them out anytime soon because I want to read some other books on my shelf first.

Overall, if you aren’t into the fairytale genre I would skip out on this one. There isn’t much there in terms of an in-depth or touching storyline. If you’re looking for something similar I would read Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier which is a retelling of 12 dancing princesses and also involves an enchanted frog, but the writing is much more beautiful and she creates these gorgeous, haunting worlds.

Any thoughts?