Showing posts with label fairytale retelling. Show all posts
Showing posts with label fairytale retelling. Show all posts

Saturday, February 11, 2017

[Review] The Seafarers Kiss - Julia Ember: Bisexuality and Mermaids

In THE SEAFARER'S KISS, mermaid Ersel falls in love with shieldmaiden Ragna and causes lots of trouble back home at the ice castle.

What intrigued me: I absolutely loved her debut UNICORN TRACKS.

Action-filled intricate world

I knew I'd love THE SEAFARER'S KISS after about five pages. Just like with her fantastic debut UNICORN TRACKS, Ember writes fast-paced and action-oriented - just what I like.

It's absolutely amazing how Ember painted this intricate world with its own customs and little sayings - THE SEAFARER'S KISS doesn't read like paranormal romance or mythology - it truly reads like a contemporary set in a mermaid kingdom. And you guys, this is the best.

I absolutely fell in love with the characters. Especially Ersel's best friend and now king's guard Havamal - the swoon is real. Even though this isn't really a book with a love triangle, I found myself rooting a bit for him and Ersel. You'll ship everyone while reading this book, that's the beauty of everyone being bisexual! The characters are all just so lovely, you'll find yourself wishing that they'd all just get along. It might also be relevant to your interests to know that Loki is genderfluid with they/them pronouns in this and that there is an amputee. The marginalized identities representation is fabulously refreshing and fun to read about. 

The Little Mermaid gone dark


THE SEAFARER'S KISS is a roller coaster of emotions. The first half of the book presents you with super cute contemporary romance fluff and all the feels, and towards the end it gets so dark that you'll find yourself wanting to turn the lights on. The two halves that THE SEAFARER'S KISS is divided into are without a doubt my favorite thing about this book - it manages to flawlessly combine a cute bisexual romance with an exciting fantasy adventure.

Filled with plot twists, THE SEAFARER'S KISS explores the moral shades of gray between good and evil while being an absolute page-turner. Ember managed to get me with every single twist. I saw none of them coming and am thoroughly impressed with the way she magnificently managed to make this The Little Mermaid retelling absolutely 100% her own.

THE SEAFARER'S KISS stuns with intricately developed character relationships, a fantastic world, and an action-filled plot that'll probably tempt you to binge-read this in one sitting.


5/22/17 Note:
Rating suspended until the book is revised.

There are discussions about the representation in this going on right now, specifically related to the trans rep. I know it's in the process of being changed, and up until then I'll leave the rating blank. Should the revision still show issues, I'll change the review, but right now I don't feel like I'm an authority on the rep, so I won't comment on it.

Read this review for more info on the issues.


Rating:

pending

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

THE SEAFARER'S KISS is the bisexual Norse Little Mermaid retelling you've been waiting for. Trust me, you want this. I think I have a very strong contender for new favorite LGBT+ writer. Julia Ember's one to watch.

See note above.


Additional Info

Published: May 4th 2017
Pages: 230
Publisher: Duet Books
Genre: YA / Mythology / Norse Mythology
ISBN: 9781945053207

Synopsis:
"Having long-wondered what lives beyond the ice shelf, nineteen-year-old mermaid Ersel learns of the life she wants when she rescues and befriends Ragna, a shield-maiden stranded on the mermen’s glacier. But when Ersel’s childhood friend and suitor catches them together, he gives Ersel a choice: say goodbye to Ragna or face justice at the hands of the glacier’s brutal king.

Determined to forge a different fate, Ersel seeks help from Loki. But such deals are never as one expects, and the outcome sees her exiled from the only home and protection she’s known. To save herself from perishing in the barren, underwater wasteland and be reunited with the human she’s come to love, Ersel must try to outsmart the God of Lies."
(Source: Goodreads)



What's your favorite mermaid book?

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Thursday, January 5, 2017

[Review] Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles #1) - Marissa Meyer: Cyborgs and Cultural Appropriation





In CINDER, cyborg Cinder gets mixed up in royal business and a conspiracy when her stepsister catches the Plague.


What intrigued me: I'm the last person on this planet that hasn't read this.

A horrific lack of... well, everything?

Bland is probably the most fitting word to describe the world of CINDER. What initially got me interested in this novel was the so highly-acclaimed and praised imaginative world. I was expecting top-notch world building and a lot of creativity. I was surprised to find neither in this novel. 

Meyer applies a very amateurish technique when it comes to establishing her world - throwing around words with no meaning and expecting the reader to buy this. Nod and smile. The Lunar people who are barely in this book yet make up a huge chunk of the blurb, aren't explained at all. Why are cyborgs outcasts? How do Lunars get their power? How did humanity colonize the Moon? CINDER fails at even establishing the most basic questions about this world.

Following this trend, the plot isn't even worth mentioning, neither are the characters. Instead of a retelling, I'd simply call this a reproduction of the original, throwing in the cyborg thing. It's predictable, and the characters have an astonishing lack of personality. The only character that I found remotely interesting is Queen Levana, who is basically the YA equivalent of a Disney villain that's evil for evil's sake. Yawn.

People of color are NOT your aesthetic

Aside from the sheer boringness of the plot the one thing that upsets me, offends me, and makes me quite sad that people don't talk about more is the fact that CINDER simply uses Chinese characters, imagery, and culture for aesthetics.

You can absolutely tell that there went no thought and no research into developing New Beijing, aside from creating a generic Chinese town. The characters have Chinese names, there are bits and bobs you've probably recognized from every Hollywood movie set in China ever, but not a hint of Chinese culture. The characters aren't Chinese, they are white people dressing up. Meyer's characters are wearing a POC costume, just for the sake of being able to say that this is a diverse book. This is not a diverse book. 

This is not the kind of representation people of color want, care for, or appreciate. This is cultural appropriation actually. Of course there are always people who'll say "hey, it's fiction, let her do what she wants", which I consider absolutely irrelevant to the point. Had Meyer bothered to add an ounce of actual Chinese customs and culture in this, even tried instead of just throwing Chinese names around thinking that's enough for world building, I wouldn't have been so harsh.



Rating:

☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

CINDER is an absolute disappointment. The blatant use of a "foreign" culture for aesthetics is simply appalling, only surpassed by the boring characters and lack of world building.

Link to a review by an Asian reviewer who basically said the same thing.


Additional Info

Published: January 3rd 2012
Pages: 390
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Genre: YA / Dystopian
ISBN: 9780312641894

Synopsis:
"Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl.

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.
 "(Source: Goodreads)

Have you read CINDER?

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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

[Review] Cruel Beauty - Rosamund Hodge: Insta-Love and A Shadow As A Love Interest


In CRUEL BEAUTY, Nyx is sacrificed as a bride to the evil demon prince Ignifex, and intends on killing him to end his reign of terror over their kingdom.

What intrigued me: Was in the mood for a swoony high fantasy romance thingy.

Very awkward writing and world building

The first thing that struck me and kind of lowered my enthusiasm for this is writing. It does read like Hodge is trying to write archaic and ancient-sounding, but isn't quite able to deliver. The result are awkward sentences that are unintentionally hilarious. Generally this does read like a corny historical fiction romance-type of story. It took a lot of getting used to the way she writes and it definitely does not compliment the premise.

The story itself is promising, the premise is interesting (despite being only a retelling), and Hodge does manage to put her own spin on the story. However, I'm not a fan of her approach. The whole idea of getting Nyx into the Ignifex's castle absolutely reads like a mere set up for a love triangle. I was absolutely disappointed to see the novel take this direction, because it has quite the interesting world, with hermiticism, an element of Greek mythology, being the main influence on it. As in, just a side element to fill up the story and give the illusion of actual world building.

I do love a good Greek myth-inspired story and was excited for this, but it just doesn't feel right. The entire "world building" feels like an easy excuse to write about the romance, and I'm not a fan of this.

Insta-love, a love triangle, and zero appeal

I knew what I was signing up for when I started CRUEL BEAUTY. What I didn't sign up for is having this story play into every cliche ever that you've seen in YA. Literally everything. From guys consisting just of eye colors and snark, to the inevitable love triangle, to instant love. 

I have seldom encountered such an unfortunate way of starting a love triangle - it takes two pages between Nyx meeting the second love interest and kissing him. Even more unusual is that the love triangle is between the demon Ignifex and his shadow. It sure reads a little awkwardly and weird, and the plot twist is extremely predictable. I was rooting for Nyx to be a cold-blooded hate-driven killer, I knew she was going to fall in love with the beast, but not easy like that! It took about 3 pages for her plan to vanish into nothingness because of a pretty boy... eh... shadow...cursed human...thing...ish. 

Like this, CRUEL BEAUTY unfortunately lost all its appeal to me and paired with awkward writing and clumsy world building this is not my kind of story.


Rating:

☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

My expectations were too high (mainly because of the hype). CRUEL BEAUTY tries to create the illusion that it's different and new, when it's just your average romantic retelling.

There are better Beauty and Beast retellings out there, and there certainly is better high fantasy out there that doesn't feel as awkward as this. 



Additional Info

Published: January 28th 2014
Pages: 352
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Genre: YA / Fantasy / High Fantasy
ISBN: 9780062224736

Synopsis:
"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."(Source: Goodreads)


What's your favorite fairytale retelling?

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Wednesday, June 1, 2016

[Review] The Neverland Wars - Audrey Greathouse: Peter Pan and Storytelling





In THE NEVERLAND WARS, Gwen realizes magic is real when her little sister gets abducted by the infamous Peter Pan and taken to Neverland.

What intrigued me: I have never read a Peter Pan retelling!

Yes to all the magic!

THE NEVERLAND WARS isn't your average Peter Pan retelling. There are lots of retellings that paint him as the bad guy, but here it's sort of not a matter of black and white - I love that about this novel. In THE NEVERLAND WARS, magic is real and an important part of modern-day society, for example technology works through magic instead of engineering, which I found quite neat and interesting to read about. 

Generally, there is a very magical feel about this, not because it's a fairy tale retelling, but because Greathouse has such an interesting writing style. I'd say this is definitely the biggest strength of THE NEVERLAND WARS. The writing instantly transports you into a world where magic is real and I 100% believed this and thought it fits nicely. However, I have to say that the writing probably won't be for everyone. It's very lyrical and flowery. It reads like a work of literary fiction with a younger target audience. Interesting though!

Off-pace and too little "Wars"

I think THE NEVERLAND WARS has a nice idea, but I don't think the execution of the story necessarily compliments that.
The blurb suggests that this is a typical YA love story with a dash of magic, while the title suggests that this is a straight up showdown in which the adults take revenge on Peter Pan. And boy would I have loved it if THE NEVERLAND WARS was just that. I think this novel isn't daring enough. It's too much retelling and exploring and too little fight, fight, fight. The pacing is off, the structure barely there - it's a pity because I really loved the idea!

A thing that I struggled a lot with is the pace. THE NEVERLAND WARS takes an insane amount of time until it actually takes off. Instead of starting with the abduction of Gwen's sister, we get a whopping 50-ish pages of backstory, mundane everyday high school life, that bored me so much that I thought about DNF-ing this if I wouldn't give every book 100 pages before doing so.


Rating:

★★☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

THE NEVERLAND WARS wasn't my thing, I was hoping for more action. But this doesn't mean that you won't maybe like it, the writing is so nice that it's definitely worth a try.



Additional Info

Published: May 9th 2016
Pages: 302
Publisher: Clean Teen Publishing
Genre: YA / Magical Realism
ISBN: 9781634221719

Synopsis:
"Magic can do a lot—give you flight, show you mermaids, help you taste the stars, and… solve the budget crisis? That's what the grown-ups will do with it if they ever make it to Neverland to steal its magic and bring their children home.

However, Gwen doesn't know this. She's just a sixteen-year-old girl with a place on the debate team and a powerful crush on Jay, the soon-to-be homecoming king. She doesn't know her little sister could actually run away with Peter Pan, or that she might have to chase after her to bring her home safe. Gwen will find out though—and when she does, she'll discover she's in the middle of a looming war between Neverland and reality.

She'll be out of place as a teenager in Neverland, but she won't be the only one. Peter Pan's constant treks back to the mainland have slowly aged him into adolescence as well. Soon, Gwen will have to decide whether she's going to join impish, playful Peter in his fight for eternal youth… or if she's going to scramble back to reality in time for the homecoming dance."(Source: Goodreads)


Have you read Peter Pan retellings?

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