Tag Archives: Fantasy

” Eat some more tarts and go pet your horse Feyre, this is as good as it’s going to get for you”

urlOk so I warned you that I’d be reviewing about fifty Beauty and the Beast knockoffs.  I mean that in a loving way, Sarah J Maas–I’ve been looking forward to your novel–A Court of Thorns and Roses.

Feyre lives in a cottage in the woods with her pretty useless dad and 2 older useless sisters.  Because of a promise to her (dead) useless mother, and a crippling sense of duty, Feyre spends most of her time Katniss-style, shooting stuff in the woods with arrows.

Not too far from her home looms the wall separating the humans and the fairies.  Fairies around these parts are nasty, scary, magical beings that you do not want to play with.  When Feyre shoots a wolf in the woods that evening, she tries to tell herself it’s just a wolf, not a fairy in disguise, even though she purposefully uses an ash arrow (their only weakness).

Unsurprisingly for plot purposes, the wolf was a fairy.  When a frightening beast creature comes to claim her life, Feyre must choose between her death or living forever with him on his estate.  Grudgingly she chooses to leave her life of drudgery with her horrible, ungrateful family and follow the beastie into the woods.

When they arrive at his estate Feyre’s beastie turns into a beautiful dude wearing a mask.  His name is Tamlin, and he and the rest of his court were cursed at a party that has left them all wearing their masks permanently.  Feyre’s only role in her new home apparently is to eat a lot of food and dress nicely.

I can understand not wanting to live forever in a magical world where everything can kill you, your host is prone to fits of rage, and you’re bored out of your mind–but I don’t understand Feyre’s longing to return to her family.  They really sucked.  Eat some more tarts and go pet your horse Feyre, this is as good as it’s going to get for you.

Tamlin is determinedly close-mouthed about what’s wrong with the fairies, why he is wearing a mask all the time, and why Feyre can never return home.  Despite the fact that Feyre is there for murdering one of his buddies, he’s pretty pleasant to her.  We all know where this is headed but I feel like the author rushes it.  One moment Feyre is raging about being trapped with rude horrible fairies and the next she’s skinnydipping with one.  Nothing really happens in the interim that makes that feel natural.  For instance, no one builds Feyre a gorgeous library because she’s illiterate (FINALLY FINALLY an illiterate character, I was literally just pining for one two posts ago).

However, even if the transition is worked a bit awkwardly, Tamlin and Feyre are coyly flirting all over the place before you know it.  But the bad fairies keep encroaching on Tamlin’s territories and something bad is clearly going on–though no one will explain it to Feyre.  After a particularly bad event, Tamlin decides to ship Feyre back to human-land.

When Tamlin took her, he brainwashed her family into thinking she was caring for their aunt, and also reinstated all their former wealth.  Despite all her earlier bitching about missing her family, Feyre is only back a day before she’s complaining about being with them.

Finally getting wise to the overarching plot of her storyline, Feyre realizes that by leaving Tamlin she left him in danger.  She finds her way back to his estate only to find it abandoned.  One of the servants explains to her the fairy curse, why Tamlin brought her there, and where he is now.

Let me take a moment to tell you HOW specific this fairy curse is.  Like, if someone put a curse on my husband that only a stretch-marked thirty-year old with hip dysplasia, a dachshund, and a dinosaur tattoo could break.

Anyway, despite being told it’s hopeless, Feyre finds the Queen of Bad Fairies (not her real name) and makes a deal to rescue Tamlin. He’ll be freed if she can complete 3 trials set before her OR by answering a riddle the Queen gives her.  I don’t want to spoil the ending but I will just say–the riddle is pretty obvious.  Like even for me and I suck at riddles.

Despite some plot pain points I’ve mentioned above, I really enjoyed this twist on Beauty and the Beast. Supposedly it’s going to be a series, but it is able to stand on it’s own as well.


Demon Princes Get All the Girls

51kLYnddfHL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Lately I’ve been reading a lot of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ type YA. I don’t know if it’s a coincidence, or I’m subconsciously picking out bestiality fanfic, but expect to see several B&B reviews.

In Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge, Nyx was raised from birth knowing that one day she’d have to marry a Demon Prince. Her father had made a bad deal–in exchange for having children, one of the kids would have to be given back in to the Prince. I mean, those kind of wagers really never end in happiness right? and this is no different, as his wife dies after childbirth.

So after that happy beginning…Nyx is not really the happy-go-lucky twin, knowing that she’s going to be a virgin sacrifice. She resents her too sweet and loving twin sister, her harpy aunt, her vengeful father who has been training her to kill her new husband. I particularly enjoy that irony–we’re going to sacrifice you, but also we expect you to save us by killing this dude and freeing us forever.

Arcadia, Nyx’s hometown, is set in the world of Greek Mythology, but has been cut off from the rest of the world since the Demon Prince came to town. There’s a pretty complicated explanation on what happened to the monarchy and why their world’s in danger, and the sky looks like paper, etc. but I’m not going to try to explain that. Basically, there’s some magic that the humans have learned that Nyx is supposed to use to destroy the Demon Prince’s house, and that will bring down his empire too.

SO, Nyx rolls up to the DP’s (I’m tired of typing Demon Prince) crib, and it is like the Department of Mysteries in there, rooms rearrange themselves, doorways change, and most of the doors are locked, courtesy of the hundreds of keys the DP wears.

Oh and of course the DP is smoking hot. Also hot? His shadow Shade, who immediately starts macking on Nyx and making out with her on the sly and trying to help her solve the mystery of destroying DP. Then there’s a weird love triangle going on between Nyx, Shade, and the DP.

I am totally team DP because Shade is kind of drippy, and DP has some great sarcastic lines, plus in general demons have that whole bad boy vibe going on. Nyx is torn because she’s promised Shade she’d help him escape, but also she feels like she’s a Not Very Nice Person, and DP has all the best one-liners and is good in bed.

The pendulum on who she’s into keeps swinging back and forth. DP locks her in a room with all his former dead wives (point for Shade). Shade almost kills her trying to show her a magic room that will help her in her quest to destroy the house and free Arcadia and DP saves her (point DP).

Finally Nyx figures out the secret of the house and how to save Shade and DP, but it’s too late. Then shit gets weird and mad confusing. I understand basically what Hodge is trying to do here, but the ending was very convoluted, and not very satisfying.

So while it was an enjoyable read, I’m taking off ten points for the rushed ending.

Furries and Killer Unicorns–What I’m Looking for in YA Fiction

Jacob Reckless is pretty pissed that his father has abandoned him, his mother, and younger brother.  Understandably so, since his mother is sick, and his brother is kind of a wuss and follows him around all the time.  Jacob is sure that he can find a clue in his father’s study that will help him understand—but finding a mirror that leads to another world wasn’t what he expected.

Paperback cover

We aren’t privy to the details of the next several years, but it’s safe to say that Jacob spends more time in the mirror than in his actual reality.  So it should come as no surprise to him when Will follows him through the mirror and into the fairytale world.  We haven’t learned much about either one of the characters at this point, but even so it’s pretty apparent that Will is a drip.   True to character, he gets seriously injured in about ten seconds.  And it’s not a good, normal injury, where you could just use some ace bandages.  Nope, Will has been fatally scratched by a Goyle—a race of men made out of stone.  Now, unless Jacob finds a cure (hint, there isn’t one) his brother will become a Goyle himself, forgetting his former life and living only to kill humans and mine precious rocks.

Meanwhile, the Goyle’s king, Kami’en, instructs his number one soldier, Hentzau, to find Will (obvi he doesn’t call him by his name).  Kami’en’s mistress, the Dark Fairy, dreamed that there was a human turning into a jade Goyle, who would make the king immortal.

Events are further complicated by the arrival of Will’s girlfriend, Clara, who somehow finds her way through the mirror.  Saddled with his useless-turning-to-stone brother, said bro’s gf, and his best friend, Fox (she is literally a fox, except for sometimes when she is a girl.  I picture her as sort of a Furry) Jacob leads a quest to find a cure for Will.  The best part of this book is the assortment of fairytale paraphernalia that creeps up.  In this world, Jacob is a treasure hunter, and he regularly goes on quests to find things like glass slippers or magic keys.  Funke embraces all that is macabre and disturbing about fairytales—the witches that eat children, the trees that will grab you if you get too close, or most terrifying, the Tailor, who’s hands are made of scissors and needles, and who makes his clothes from his victims skin.   The world beyond the mirror, is a magic world where everything can kill you (there are even killer unicorns, which I know my fellow bloggers here at Rampant are particularly fond of).

Hardcover edition: I'm glad they changed the cover--I would have never picked this up.

Jacob is single-minded in his task to reclaim his brother, even after Will turns completely Goyle and starts beating him up, or after Jacob is attacked by snakes or tortured by scorpions.  That kind of devotion is hard to find, especially when you are jonesing after your brother’s girl (I don’t understand why Jacob would choose a nurse over a shape-shifting fox, but then again, the fox might be thirteen, and Jacob might be thirty, the ages are never mentioned and the details in that department are a little too vague for me to decipher).  Regardless, Jacob manages to turn his brother back, and return him and Clara back to the mirror.  Unfortunately, in the next book, he better find a cure for himself, or he’ll die within the year.  Exciting!  Also, we find out that his father taught the Goyle most of what they know about engineering, weaponry, etc.    So I’m guessing that his father is still alive somewhere in this land and Jacob will meet him again.   Funke hasn’t revealed the sequel date or any info yet, so I’ll just have to wait.  And probably read a lot of Boxcar Children in the interim.

You Can Solve Mysteries Without Boxcars (Bet You Didn’t Know That)

Several months ago, when I was at NCTE I had a break and made my rounds of the booths in my normal covert way.  Here’s the deal:  I feel like some publishers frown on giving away galleys to their rivals.  Maybe they don’t understand that I’m just a much a fan of The Mortal Instruments as the next English teacher.  Anyway, I have a complex system that involves stealth, and holding things in front of my badge.  But either way, I always feel guilty picking up galleys.

That’s why I enjoyed Tor Publishing house so much.  Even after I introduced myself and my company, their rep not only talked at length to me about our blog, my favorite books, but also plied me with galleys, and got Bill Willingham to sign me a copy of his new book Down the Mysterly River.

When Bill asked who I wanted to have my book autographed for–I said myself, of course!  I wish I hadn’t packed all my books so you could see the inscription.  Apparently I am very ‘selfish.’

I like to set the stage of my book review by warming you up with pointless, boring anecdotes.  Ready for the real thing?!

Down the Mysterly River begins by introducing us to Max ‘the Wolf,’ a boy scout slash master sleuth.  His mystery of the day is ‘Where Am I and How Did I Get Here?”  Being that he’s a boy scout, and they’re always prepared and such, he isn’t too concerned about how he ended up in a large forest with a talking badger.  Banderbrock (the badger), is pretty certain that he died, and that this is the afterlife, but he’s none too sure, and McTavish the nasty-tempered barn cat and Walden the black bear are iffy on their details as well.  But Max is an experienced detective, and he slowly puts together the pieces of 1) why he’s in an afterlife surrounded by talking animals 2) and why hunters wielding magical blue swords want to destroy him (and his friends).  Their group sets out to reach a wizard’s sanctuary–down the Mysterly River, natuarally–misnamed by McTavish, who is more brawn than brains I’m afraid.  The book isn’t shy about violence, more than you’d expect for most middle grade lit—the Blue Cutters purpose is to remake or ‘cut’ the creatures of this world into ‘better’ or ‘more pleasing’ forms of themselves, and they aren’t above a little torture or murder to do so.  I would like to make a judgement call that it’s no worse than Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter–but I’m also not acquainted with any children, so I’m not certain what’s considered appropriate these days.  I can tell you with certainty that it wouldn’t have bothered me at ten.  Most importantly though, this is definitely a book for people that enjoy talking animals, drawings, and some fantasy elements in their children’s books (and luckily I do).  The story is quick-paced and the main characters are all lovable and vaguely familiar (you’ll see why at the end, don’t make me spoil it for you).  Overall, a very enjoyable read–and if I knew any children, I would definitely recommend it to them.

Gypsies, Tramps, & Thieves

I quite like this cover. And you can see her face!

In Touch of Frost (Kensington 2011), Gwen Frost is not having a good year.  First her mother is killed in a horrible car accident and then she’s shipped off to a fancy boarding school that turns out to be a training ground for the descendants of ancient, mythical warriors to learn how to fight the evil forces that plot to free Loki, the Norse god of chaos, and unleash hell on earth.  Although, who’s high school wasn’t like that.  But Gwen Is Different.  You can tell, because unlike the rich Valkyrie and Amazon bitches at her new school, she likes comic books and wears graphic tees and hoodies.  (Hey Rhymenocerous, does this make her alternative?) She’s also the only Gypsy of the bunch.  And in this mythology, a Gypsy (Gypsies!) is someone who has been gifted magic by the gods, not the ethnic group that cursed Angelus with that pesky soul or the famed burlesque stripper.  Gwen’s special power is psychometry, the ability to know an object’s history just by touching it.  I actually had a French teacher in high school who claimed to have this ability.  He took my ring and said that he saw the letter “S.”  Gee, that’s specific.  Y’all will be shocked to find out that I did not learn a whole lot of French in that class.  I did get an A though, so yay for the American public educational system.

ANYWAY. Gwen is flying under the radar, using her ability to find people’s stuff for a little extra cash, when she’s attacked while an important magical artifact is stolen (Thieves!) and the mean Queen Bee is murdered.  Upset that nobody seems to care that a girl was murdered right on campus (the girl’s best friend and boyfriend are even already hooking up which gives us the Tramps! in order to complete our post title trifecta), Gwen resolves to find out what happened to Jasmine, the aforementioned Queen Bee and enlists (well blackmails is probably the more appropriate term) the help of Daphne, Mean Girl and closet computer nerd.  She also attracts the attention of bad-boy Logan, a Spartan who has the ability to pick up anything and turn it into a deadly weapon.  Even like a twizzler.  And along the way, Gwen discovers that not only is she different, but she might just have a destiny.

I picked up this book because I’m a fan of author Jennifer Estep’s Bigtime superhero series.  Estep can sometimes be a bit clunky with the emotional lives of her characters, but I think she has a real knack for building the interesting alternative realities that her characters inhabit.  She peppers these worlds with a lot of little details that make them seem real.  Now this is the first book in a YA fantasy series so there is a LOT of exposition, but the plot moves along at a fairly brisk pace and there’s some good action and twists along the way.  It’s kind of impossible not to compare the book to Rick Riordan’s superior middle-grade Percy Jackson series (and we’ll get to those books later), but the mythology subject is a relatively fresh angle in the YA market,  particularly for those of us who are sick of vampires and dystopias already.

For the most part, I enjoyed Gwen as a character, although sometimes Estep pushes the geeky outsider thing a little too much.  She’s feisty and direct and I liked how, for the most part, she wasn’t all angsty about her psychic power.  Though her gift has consequences, she likes knowing peoples secrets and uses it for monetary gain.  I think I’d probably be the same way.  However, the thing that annoyed me the most about the character is Gwen’s refusal to believe that the mythological gods are real.  I know the disbeliever is a trope, but I’m sorry, YOU HAVE A MAGICAL POWER!  You know your mother and grandmother also have magical powers!  Every single person at that freaking school has some kind of supernatural ability!  You accept all this, no problem.  But the idea that the gods were real and myths are actually history?  Why that’s just crazy talk. Ugh.

I don’t think Touch of Frost is an instant classic, but it’s a good choice if you’re looking for a fast and fun read.  And I’ll definitely be checking out the sequel when it comes out.  Cause did I mention that there’s a talking sword named Vic?  Yeah, and he’s awesome.