Goodreads: The Grimm Chronicles, Vol. 2
Series: The Grimm Chronicles, Vol. 2
Source: ARC received from the authors in exchange for an honest review
Summary: Alice Goodenough is a hero, selected to wield a magic pen and hunt down the Corrupted characters from the Brothers’ Grimm fairytales. She is also, however, a high school student and must also navigate the trials of senior year, including maintaining her grades, facing a bully, dealing with crushes, and competing in the upcoming fencing tournament.
Volume 2 includes Books 4, 5, and 6 of The Grimm Chronicles, as well as “The Lost Journal of Eugene Washington,” and the original Grimm fairytales that inspired the stories.
Review: Since readers can buy each book of The Grimm Chronicles separately for their e-readers, I reviewed Book 4: “The Orphanage of Doom” alone last week, to get the experience. It was exciting, but it’s great that readers get all three books in this one volume, or that it’s so easy to purchase the next in the series online because I wanted to read more, and a few of the books end on cliffhangers!
I really enjoyed Volume 1 of The Grimm Chronicles, and Volume 2 lived up to my expectations. Alice is still a spunky heroine who can exhibit her courage, her intelligence, and her limitations as a teenager and human in turn. Briar also continues to be fantastic—cute, funny, and heroic, as well. I am already adopting his habit of referring to a certain search engine as “The Google” in his honor because it’s hilarious. Now I just need to convince more of my friends to read these books so they’re in on the joke and stop staring at me oddly.
Romance fans will find Volume 2 “better” than the first. The authors introduce Chase, a spirited and athletic boy Alice is definitely interested in, even if she can’t see it herself at first. Their feelings grow naturally, adding to the action of the book but not stealing from the spotlight—the Corrupted, who are back creepier and more powerful than ever. Alice has her work cut out for her, but her hero skills are increasing with her challenges, and she is ready for action. Even more beautifully, she finds a way to apply her heroics to a real-world situation at her school, and it is arguably the most moving scene yet.
I have only one complaint: the history lessons are a little heavy-handed. Readers unfamiliar with some aspects of the Underground Railroad, the American Civil War, and the following period of segregation will undoubtedly find the characters’ explanations useful and, of course, fascinating. I think, however, Fontaine’s and Brosky’s audience are probably an intelligent bunch, and these stories will be a bit obvious and repetitive to many. Finding a good balance in explaining historical aspects without turning a novel into a textbook is always a difficult task, however, and of course there will also be some history buff reader who thinks any explanation is too much, so this is not at all a major flaw.
The Grimm Chronicles, Volume 2 is an exciting and fast-paced story that proposes knowledge can lead to adventures and solutions to problems. I can’t think of any reader who would argue with that.
Published: February 13, 2012
You Might Also Like
Series: The Lunar Chronicles #2
The fates of Cinder and Scarlet collide as a Lunar threat spreads across the Earth…
Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns in the second thrilling installment of the bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She’s trying to break out of prison—even though if she succeeds, she’ll be the Commonwealth’s most wanted fugitive.
Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit’s grandmother is missing. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn’t know about her grandmother or the grave danger she has lived in her whole life. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother’s whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her. As Scarlet and Wolf unravel one mystery, they encounter another when they meet Cinder. Now, all of them must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen Levana, who will do anything for the handsome Prince Kai to become her husband, her king, her prisoner.
Review: Scarlet is a fast-paced and exciting read written with the same fresh writing and characterization as Cinder. Meyer expertly keeps the series new by blending Cinder’s story in with newcomers’ Scarlet and Wolf, and it will be interesting to see if she does the same with books three and four, gradually building from a base of one main character to four (and their love interests?).
Scarlet and Wolf are both as engaging to read about as Cinder and Kai. Scarlet has a fantastic survivalist attitude and is endearingly dedicated to her grandmother. Wolf is a bit rough around the edges, but is not a stereotyped bad boy. He is fantastically complex, and will repeatedly surprise readers with his actions and motivations.
The overarching plot, in contrast, is about as predictable as that of Cinder. Yet in the same way, this is not a big enough flaw to deter anyone from reading. The way Meyer tells her stories and the characters with which she populates them always manage to support them—and this is truly the mark of a skilled writer. Readers do learn new and surprising facts about Lunars, however.
Scarlet is a strong addition to the Lunar Chronicles series, blending the best aspects of Cinder with new characters and plot lines.
Published: February 2013
Goodreads: The Crimson Thread: A Retelling of Rumpelstiltskin
Series: Once Upon a Time
Summary: In 1880, Bridget and her family move from Ireland to New York in search of a better life. They are unprepared for the squalid conditions of their new home and the widespread prejudice they face, but Bridget’s father always makes the most of every situation. His optimism and imagination look as though they might lead his family into trouble, however, when he promises his wealthy employer, head of a giant textile company, that Bridget can create the world’s most beautiful dresses. Bridget will have to deliver, or she and her father will both be fired. Fortunately, a mysterious man from her neighborhood seems willing to help her—but for a price.
Review: Weyn creates a unique fairytale retelling in The Crimson Thread by utilizing the genre of historical fiction. Readers get the benefit of the interesting, slightly foreign setting of 1880s New York while seeing how “magic” might happen in real life. In fact, the only times true magic enters the book—the opening and closing statements by a mysterious fairy historian—are its weakest moments. It is much more interesting to see Weyn translate fairytale moments like “spinning straw into gold” into a real world setting.
The historical accuracy might not be all that it can be; some of the details seem off. Yet Weyn does hit many of the major issues of the era, including xenophobia, crowded tenements, sweatshops, child labor laws, and more. Readers experience the big picture of the time period, which is probably what will stick with them, rather than details about the prices of food. Also, the point in a book like this is most often the characters and the plot. The setting is important, but often as the backdrop to the actions or as the machinery that influences their lives. Bridget’s concerns about working conditions matter because they lead her to make certain life decisions. And these are the types of facts that Weyn gets right.
The story itself will lead readers through a maze of emotions as they sympathize with Bridget and her family upon their arrival in New York, hope for their success, and cheer for what triumphs they earn. The characters Bridget encounters during her journey are similarly diverse, hailing from all nations and walks of life. Even more interestingly, there are two love interests—but this is not the average love triangle. Both men seem like attractive and viable options, and readers will stress over Bridget’s decisions before finding satisfaction in her fairytale ending.
The Crimson Thread is a creative addition to the Once Upon a Time series. Weyn introduces her readers to the magic of the ordinary and to the good in every bad situation. Her book is about hard work and hope, and readers will love learning along with her spunky heroine Bridget.
You Might Also Like
Goodreads: The Grimm Chronicles Vol. 1
Series: The Grimm Chronicles #1-3
Source: ARC from the authors in exchange for an honest review
Goodreads Summary: 200 years ago, the Brothers Grimm unleashed their stories upon the world. Literally. Now the characters of the Grimms’ stories walk among us. With every day that passes, they grow more evil. They are the Corrupted, and only a hero can stop them.
For 18-year-old Alice Goodenough, that means taking precious time off from her summer vacation. In addition to volunteering at the local library, Alice must stop the Corrupted who are now actively hunting her down. With the help of her magic pen and her trusty rabbit friend, the world has suddenly gotten a lot more complex. The Corrupted are everywhere, and only Alice can see them for what they truly are.
This book contains the first 3 episodes of the critically acclaimed series: Episode 1: Prince Charming Must Die!
Episode 2: Happily Never After
Episode 3: Revenge of the Castle Cats
Review: The Grimm Chronicles, as a book that draws its inspiration from the Grimm Brothers’ fairy tales, has a lot to say on the subject of stories. But Fontaine and Brosky are not just all theoretical talk. They tell an amazing story themselves.
Alice is the perfect heroine to star in this book. She is smart, confident, and strong—a great role model for readers and a believable hero to take on the Corrupted running amok in our world. A bit of a snarky attitude, as well as a keen interest in her appearance, even while preparing to take on monsters, also make her human and teen. Alice is someone readers can root for, admire, and believe in all at once. Fontaine and Brosky have clearly been observing real people.
Her partner, Briar, is an equally fantastic addition to the story. He is a bit ridiculous—a giant talking rabbit is helping to save the day?—but it suits him. Briar adds heart and humor to a story that could have been too focused on episodically taking down a series of villains. Yet his intelligence, too, should not be underrated. Fontaine and Brosky knows that their audience is not simply teens, it is readers, and that as thoughtful people themselves, they can appreciate characters who know saving the day takes brains in addition to brawn.
Plot-wise, things remain fast-paced and exciting. The authors keep each installment the proper length and make sure to vary the stakes each time, so that nothing is ever repetitive or stagnant. Alice meets a variety of Corrupted (lots of fun can be had guessing which fairy tale character each is!), but she does not simply stalk, kill, and repeat. She interacts with each Corrupted differently, and learns more about her role in her own story each time. Occasionally, things do get a little unbelievable. In the third episode, for instance, a character solves a problem he does not appear to have the qualifications for. Yet by the end of the tale, none of this ever seems to matter. Fontaine and Brosky want to tell a good story—and they do. Readers will be willing to suspend some disbelief for its sake.
Original. Creative. Exciting. Smart. Fontaine and Brosky weave a brilliant modern day fairy tale focused on taking the old ones down.
Published: August 3, 2012
Goodreads: In a Glass Grimmly
Series: A Tale Dark and Grimm #2
Summary: When a strange woman offers Jack and Jill the chance to gain their deepest desires, the two rashly accept her bargain: they will seek one of the world’s most powerful magical objects in exchange for the chance to be admired. The two face giants, goblins, and dangerous beasts on their quest, but discover that what they want they possessed all along. A companion book to A Tale Dark and Grimm.
Review: Gidwitz’s second novel works on the same premise as the first: that children can handle and even deserve the horrible, bloody versions of the original fairytales recorded by the Grimm brothers and others. In a Glass Grimmly masterfully blends texts including “The Frog Prince,” “Jack and Jill,” “Jack and the Beanstalk,” “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” and Christina Rossetti’s “Goblin Market,” always choosing to follow the more violent version (for example, Gidwitz notes that the princess in “The Frog Prince” originally threw the frog against the wall—she did not kiss him). Gidwitz seems to understand that children encounter the difficult and disturbing facts of life every day—bullying, negligent guardians, death—and need a literature that deals with these themes directly. The result is more likely to shock adults than children.
Gidwitz tempers the violence of his text through the insertion of a sarcastic narrative voice. The narrator frequently interrupts to comment on the story, to offer moral guidance, and, occasionally, to warn of impending bloodiness. The narrator serves to remind readers that this is ultimately a work of art, it is not really happening, and they can walk away if they feel the need. The narrator does poke fun at those unable to “handle” the story, egging children to continue reading on, but Gidwitz’s artistic choices suggest he really does acknowledge the sensitivity of some of his audience.
The structure, for example, prevents the story ever from becoming too over-the-top bloody, even for a book based largely on the shock factor of the Grimm brothers. The plot is episodic in nature and Gidwitz takes care to end each section on a fairly positive note. This imparts to the book a rhythmic feeling, in which the narrator approaches gory violence, then backs off when he feels he may be about to lose a traumatized audience.
Though the clever interweaving of old tales will prove a pleasurable experience for the devoted fairy tale fan, Gidwitz truly writes an original tale, one that can stand on its own even if one has never heard of most of his source material. (Interested fans can find a list of these sources at the end of the book.) Suspense and danger combine to form an exciting story that will keep readers up long after bedtime.
Published: September 2012
Source: Giveaway at Debz Bookshelf
Goodreads Summary: It isn’t easy being the rather overlooked and unhappy youngest sibling to sisters named for the other six days of the week. Sunday’s only comfort is writing stories, although what she writes has a terrible tendency to come true.
When Sunday meets an enchanted frog who asks about her stories, the two become friends. Soon that friendship deepens into something magical. One night Sunday kisses her frog goodbye and leaves, not realizing that her love has transformed him back into Rumbold, the crown prince of Arilland—and a man Sunday’s family despises.
The prince returns to his castle, intent on making Sunday fall in love with him as the man he is, not the frog he was. But Sunday is not so easy to woo. How can she feel such a strange, strong attraction for this prince she barely knows? And what twisted secrets lie hidden in his past – and hers?
Review: Enchanted is an absolutely delightful and adorable book that kept me reading way past the time I should have put it down and done some homework. Although it is YA, and one has the feeling it must be a happily ever after sort of book, Kontis includes enough darkness to suggest that things could go very terribly wrong for Sunday and her sisters. They certainly have before.
Enchanted is formally based on the “The Frog Prince,” but Kontis weaves in just about every other fairytale she can get her hands on and puts Sunday’s family smack in the middle of most of them. Not all of them end happily. What stories do not make a prolonged appearance in the book get subtle nods, such as an old woman selling Sunday an apple.
In general, this fairytale free-for-all is exciting, and the reader can have tons of fun matching events with tales. At times, however, it adds confusion to the book—for I found Enchanted, particularly in the beginning, very confusing. One of my overwhelming and repeated thoughts was, “I have no idea what she is talking about.” (I always like to think this is a failing on the book’s part and not my own because I flatter myself as an English major that I ought to be able to follow the plot of a YA novel.) Some of these instances I was ultimately able to brush off as references to fairytales I am unfamiliar with, and then I moved on. But sometimes my confusion came from the way Sunday explains things, or from Kontis’s writing style, which occasionally gives the impression important transitional paragraphs or even chapters are missing. It is a bit jumpy.
So why did I love Enchanted so much? Ultimately, I found my bewilderment did not matter. I may not have followed some of the specifics of the story, particularly background information, but the main attraction is obviously Sunday and her prince. And they are just so cute! Rumbold has so many romantic lines and does so many romantic things it is impossible not to fall in love with him. Sunday is equally lovable, with a true heart and lots of spirit. She is a fantastic protagonist, loyal to friends and family and skilled at writing. (Every reader loves a character who writes.) Briefly, their love story is beautiful, and that is generally the point of fairytale retellings.
Enchanted is creative, imaginative, and a true treasure chest of fairytales. A perfect read for hopeless romantics and those who like their fairytales with just a bit of edge.
Published: May 2012
Series: Tales of Beauty and Madness #1
NOTE: I would like to apologize for reviewing this so far ahead of the release date, both to readers because they cannot read it yet, and to the author, for building buzz at a perhaps unhelpful time. However, it is the only fairytale retelling I currently have to read for the read-along. To make up for this, I will schedule a post on April 4, reminding everyone how awesome I think Nameless is!
Goodreads Summary: A dark and eerie retelling of Snow White from Lili St. Crow,
New York Times bestselling author of the Strange Angels
Sixteen-year-old Camille doesn’t remember her life before she was adopted by the powerful Vultusino family—the missing childhood years that left her scarred and silent. Now she lives a life
of luxury, protected by the supernatural Mafia Vultusinos, specially Nico, her adopted brother.
But Cami knows that she is not really Family. She is a mortal with a past that lies buried in trauma. And it’s not until a mysterious boy approaches her and reveals scars of his own that Cami begins
to uncover the secrets of her past . . . to find out where she comes from and what danger she now finds herself in.
Review: Nameless is the most gripping and original take on “Snow White” that I have read. The Disney version, with its silly dwarves and cute woodland critters, makes it tempting to approach the tale with something whimsical and light-hearted in mind, even in spite of the more gruesome aspects of the plot. Or, unless you are Tolkien, the presence of dwarves alone can become problematic. Serious, solemn dwarves have not been done better, though other authors such as C. S. Lewis have of course written them well.
Lili St. Crow laughs in the face of any complications. First, she takes the story of “Snow White” and chooses to be inspired by it, rather than simply modernizing it or fleshing it out. Thus, the family that takes Cami in is not a group of dwarves, silly or serious, or even a fraternity or whatever crazy sort of half-knit group one might suspect to see in a retelling. Rather, Cami is adopted by the Family—a literal family of beings that are part mafia, part vampiric, and part truly decent people. Things get serious, and creative, fast in Nameless.
As one might expect from all the hints about Family, there is some great original world-building happening in Nameless. In the beginning things are a bit hazy, with a plethora of unexplained references to jacks, minotaurs, Family, the Twist, mere-humans, et cetera. Eventually something of a solid picture begins to form. And eventually one realizes Nameless is set in an alternative future of our world, which came from an alternative past. It sounds as if things were the same until sometime around the Industrial Revolution, when something happened that leaked a bit of magic into the world. Then things went crazy. It is all laid out for readers interested in connecting our history with the history of the characters.
The one aspect that might be characterized as a weakness is Cami herself. She is on the whole a fantastic character, well-written and quite admirable in many respects. She gets into trouble she could easily have avoided, but unlike a number of YA protagonists, this is not simply because she is foolish or thinks she knows better than all her friends and ignores her advice. Cami chooses with open eyes to walk into danger because she truly thinks it will help. That conclusion may have come from some poor reasoning, but it still sets Cami apart as a strong young woman.
Before this climactic scene, however, Cami likes to dwell in self-doubt. She is not really Family. She does not really belong. No one really loves her. I grant this thought-process could have been much worse; there is certainly a line of “annoying self-hating character who blindly believes everyone hates her in spite of constant indisputable evidence” that St. Crow does not cross—but only barely. Cami also comes across as a little too dependent and even young at times, but, again, St. Crow stopped just short of making this a truly annoying issue. On the whole, Cami is awesome.
As is the book. The world has magic, but this is not high fantasy. Perhaps in some ways it is like magical realism. Magic is permeating our world, but it is slightly subtle and somewhat normal. People are magic, but the plot is not. There is certainly no cheesy enchanted food here; things are much more real. The effect is a slightly creepy, deliciously mystery atmosphere that fits St. Crow’s story perfectly. And I want more!
(Interestingly, Cami’s best friends have elements of Cinderella and Little Red Riding Hood about them that are fun to catch. Will the next books be about them?)
CONTENT NOTE: There is cursing, but not more than one might hear in an average public high school hallway. Cami also whips off her shirt at one point, but in context the scene is actually less scandalous than it sounds here.
Publication Date: April 4, 2013 (Penguin—Razorbill)
Goodreads: The Wide-Awake Princess
Series: Wide-Awake Princess #1
Summary: Princess Annie’s older sister Gwen was cursed at her christening to prick on finger on a spindle on her sixteenth birthday and sleep for one hundred years. So when Annie was born, there was only one fairy, and she gave Annie the gift of being unable to be touched by magic. When Gwen falls into her enchanted sleep, the rest of the castle household surprisingly sleeps, as well, and only Annie is left awake. Determined to see her family again, Annie embarks on quest to find Gwen’s true love so he can break the spell. But first, she needs to figure out who her true love is.
Review: The Wide-Awake Princess is a cute, creative tale that turns a number of fairy-tales on their heads. To start, Annie is not Sleeping Beauty, but her ordinary sister, “blessed” to never have the benefits of magically-enhanced beauty, or embroidery, or poetry. Of course, the reader soon discovers that Annie is remarkable in her own way; all her talents have been earned through hard work, and she has the biggest heart in the kingdom.
Other fairy tales do make small cameos. For example, Annie wanders into the home of the witch from “Hansel and Gretel,” though her personality is not what one might expect. Spotting these little extras thrown into the story is a lot of fun.
The plot line is structured similarly to that in Baker’s The Frog Princess. Annie goes on a fairly straightforward quest, there and back again, and various obstacles arise in her path. Just when one is ready for her to return home with an eligible prince for Gwen, something stops her. Just when all seems lost, something pretty convenient happens. Although precisely what will happen tends to be unpredictable, there is a definite pattern to the types of events that do. Nonetheless, the pattern reads more smoothly than in The Frog Princess.
Still, Annie—and the companion she finds to help her on her quest—are endearing characters, and the variety of princes they meet is hugely entertaining. Although Annie, in a fit of pique, accuses all magically-enhanced princes of being the same, it is clear they are not. A great cast of characters in a fun setting makes The Wide-Awake Princess an enjoyable read.
Footnote: Apparently Rapunzel is a bit of player, and one of her lovers is a married man. One of the princes Annie finds is an alcoholic. Are these not strange themes for a middle-grade book? Share your thoughts in the comments!
Published: 2012 (Bloomsbury Children’s)
The Fairy Tale Read-a-Thon begins Wednesday, Oct. 17, at Debz Bookshelf and will continue until Oct. 22. I have a lot going on in real life in the next couple days, so my goals will be very small.
- I plan to finish and review Nameless by Lili St. Crow.
- I need to read some English “Loathly Lady” tales, which are more in the line of retold folk tales, but they definitely have some fairytale elements (knights and an ugly woman who magically turns beautiful!).
- I may get to Entwined by Heather Dixon, if Krysta will lend it to me. (I think this post is my way of asking her.)
Krysta’s Waiting on Wednesday post will be fairy tale themed!
Also, come here on Saturday, Oct. 20 because Pages Unbound will be hosting a fun mini-challenge for the event!