Wednesday 6 July 2016

#bookreview: Beyond the Woods & Cinder

So this week, I review two Fairy Tale books!

Beyond the Woods: Fairy Tales RetoldBeyond the Woods: Fairy Tales Retold by Paula Guran
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Beyond the Woods: Fairy Tales Retold is exactly what it sets out to be - a compilation of fairy tales retold for the modern generation. The modern adult generation. Where fairy tales were once cleaned up and made happy and "family-friendly" for the consumption of children (looking at you, Disney), these fairy tales go back to earlier forms when such tales were cautionary tales.

If you were aware that the editor, Paula Guran, edits the annual Year's Best Dark Fantasy and Horror series, you would be prepared for this. I sort of absorbed that, but it did not register totally until I started reading the stories and found that indeed, most of these tales were on the darker side, with some extremely grim ones. I'm not complaining. I don't need all my stories to have happy endings. As it was, I enjoyed most of the stories included in the anthology; there was only 1 story that I distinctly disliked.

Some of these stories are based on very familiar fairy tales, some on the not-so-familiar. Others are totally new fairy tales, but using plot devices, settings or situations common within the fairy tale formula/genre. These do not only stick to the common English/European/American tales - there are Chinese, Indian and Arabian fairy tales, as well as possibly more from cultures I am not familiar enough with to identify.

But "based on" is a rather misleading term to use. Each writer brings a new perspective to well-worn tales, either retelling the story from a minor character, or from the antagonist's point of view. Some of them rewrite the whole story, giving us new endings altogether. Others retain the shape of the story, but bring it into modern times.

I would recommend this extremely long tome to anyone who is a fan of fairy tales and/or horror stories. Unless you're a kid. I would not recommend this for children.

Note: I received a digital ARC of this book from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

Beyond the Woods releases on July 5th!

Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles, #1)Cinder by Marissa Meyer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The thing with fairy tale retellings is that if you wander too far from the original, people get upset. And yet if it's just a same ol' rehash, people get bored. Marissa Meyer walks a risky - and bold - path in her retelling of Cinderella.

Cinderella, or Linh Cinder in this case, was saved from the terrible road accident that killed her parents, by being turned into a cyborg. She doesn't remember anything from before her surgery, and she's been earning her keep in her adopted home by working as a mechanic at New Beijing's weekly market. And earn her keep she must, because as a second-class citizen and property of her stepmother, she must do as she's told.

Before you get all excited about how this is an Asian-based story, you need to come to terms with the fact that this is the Earth after World War 4. Countries and alliances as you know them have changed, and the world is largely united against two threats: the Letumosis Plague and the Lunar Queen. Other than scattered Asian-type honorifics, and the fact that most of the story takes place in New Beijing in the Eastern Commonwealth, there isn't anything very culture specific. But that works fine, because dystopia anyway.

So following the Cinderella story, there's this annual ball, where Crown Prince Kai is rumoured to be looking for a bride. Everyone wants to be there, especially Cinder's two stepsisters, Pearl and Peony. Cinder kind of wants to go, but she also wants to make her escape. Then the plague changes everything. First of all, Peony, Cinder's one human friend, contracts the disease, and then Prince Kai's father dies of it. Queen Levana makes an unwanted appearance, Cinder gets hold of some classified information, and all of a sudden, Cinder is caught in a web of destruction.

Does she run for freedom, as she has been planning for so long? Or does she risk her life to get important information to the Prince?

Cinder is a book that you read for the sheer joy of the story. It's not one for complicated plots or sudden twists; after all, it is a fairy tale retelling and you should already know where it's headed. Cinder's hidden past is obvious to the readers, though Cinder seems oblivious to it. In fact, certain times during the novel, it seems that Dr Erland is on the verge of spilling all. The only reason Cinder doesn't get it is because she's too worried about whether the Prince could actually love a cyborg, hoping that Peony will get better and trying to escape a deranged Lunar Queen who wants to kill her for unknown reasons. Well, saving your own life takes a lot more brain space than trying to figure out seemingly coded sentences and dangerous obsessions.

The novel doesn't get to reach its happy ending, though, mainly because Meyer has 3 more stories in the Lunar Chronicles, each of them a fairy tale retelling as well. I guess we'll have to wait until book 4 (Winter) to see if Cinder really gets the Prince.

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