Review: RoseBlood

January 10, 2017 in Book Reviews, Fairytales, Retellings, YA

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: RoseBloodRoseBlood by A.G. Howard
Published by Abrams on 10th January 2017
Genres: YA, Retellings
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
three-stars

In this modern day spin on Leroux’s gothic tale of unrequited love turned to madness, seventeen-year-old Rune Germain has a mysterious affliction linked to her operatic talent, and a horrifying mistake she’s trying to hide. Hoping creative direction will help her, Rune’s mother sends her to a French arts conservatory for her senior year, located in an opera house rumored to have ties to The Phantom of the Opera.

At RoseBlood, Rune secretly befriends the masked Thorn—an elusive violinist who not only guides her musical transformation through dreams that seem more real than reality itself, but somehow knows who she is behind her own masks. As the two discover an otherworldly connection and a soul-deep romance blossoms, Thorn’s dark agenda comes to light and he’s forced to make a deadly choice: lead Rune to her destruction, or face the wrath of the phantom who has haunted the opera house for a century, and is the only father he’s ever known.

RoseBlood is a Phantom of the Opera retelling. Let me start by saying that although I’m familiar with the Phantom story, I’m by no means a ‘Phan’. However, the premise of this book captured my attention and I was lucky enough to be sent an ARC by the publisher.

Yes, this is the same A.G. Howard of the Splintered series. However, although I have the books on my shelves, I haven’t yet read them, so RoseBlood was my first encounter with A.G. Howard’s writing.

I must admit, I struggled with the opening quarter of the book. I felt it to be rather slow and it took me a while to become invested in the story.

However, once the ‘scene-setting’ element was over I definitely enjoyed the story more. Although, it was more Thorn that kept me reading than Rune.

Howard’s retelling of this story is creepy, mysterious and imaginative. She draws upon her research of the legend to inspire her story and the result is an interesting combination of High School tale and paranormal romance.

Howard’s writing is beautiful. Her descriptions are stunning and as a result this tale truly comes to life in the mind’s eye.

While I ended up enjoying this book and its concepts, I wasn’t crazy about it. Perhaps I went into it with overinflated expectations? When I did really start to get into the story, it ended! Personally, I felt the ending too abrupt – I didn’t feel satisfied by its content or pacing.

I realise this is a somewhat mixed review, but I *did* enjoy this, I just wasn’t blown away by it. I loved the gothic nature of it though – Howard absolutely captured that creepy, Gothic feel.

All in all, once the book gets going it’s a good read with interesting concepts and some intriguing characters. It’s Howard’s descriptive writing that I enjoyed most though – I felt as though I was actually in RoseBlood!

three-stars

Review: A Thousand Nights

June 28, 2016 in Book Reviews, Fairytales, Retellings, YA

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: A Thousand NightsA Thousand Nights by E. K. Johnston
Published by Macmillan Children's Books on 30th June 2016 (Paperback)
Genres: YA, Retellings
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
three-stars

Lo-Melkhiin killed three hundred girls before he came to my village, looking for a wife. When Lo-Melkhiin - a formidable king - arrives at her desert home, she knows that he will take her beautiful sister for a wife. Desperate to save her sister from certain death, she makes the ultimate sacrifice - leaving home and family behind to live with a fearful man. But it seems that a strange magic flows between her and Lo-Melkhiin, and night after night, she survives. Finding power in storytelling, the words she speaks are given strange life of their own. Little things, at first: a dress from home, a vision of her sister. But she dreams of bigger, more terrible magic: power enough to save a king ...if only she can stop her heart from falling for a monster. Set against a harsh desert backdrop, A Thousand Nights by E K Johnston is an evocative tale of love, mystery and magic that would not feel out of place if Scheherazade herself were telling it. And perhaps she is...

A Thousand Nights is a retelling of One Thousand and One Nights, and it’s the first of its kind that I’ve read, so there will be no comparison with other such retellings currently on the market. What I can say though, is that while I enjoyed this book well enough, I wasn’t crazy about it. I wanted more from it I think.

Johnston is herself a forensic archaeologist. She has travelled extensively and draws upon these experiences as well as her studying as inspiration. I really liked that about this book; you can feel her first hand experience of the desert in these pages.

Much like the traditional story, it is the telling of stories that keeps the King’s wife alive. Where her predecessors were murdered during the night, the King’s new wife has discovered a way to keep herself alive – her fearless storytelling. She also uncovers a hidden power that will allow her to face down the daemon residing within the King.

While I can appreciate the storytelling in this book, I found it hard work at times. In all honesty, I’m not very familiar with many of the traditional tales that are entwined within One Thousand and One Nights. So perhaps it’s my own ignorance that’s the reason I wasn’t captivated by this book? Perhaps I would have been more absorbed had I been familiar with the tales being retold?

However, I loved the way Johnston captured the Arabian setting. Her descriptions are beautiful and I did feel transported to the desert.

Truthfully, I don’t have much more to say about this one. Maybe it’s my own ignorance that hampered my enjoyment, or maybe I just wasn’t quite in the mood for it?

P.S. That cover though – STUNNING!

three-stars

Review: The Shadow Queen

March 3, 2016 in Book Reviews, Fairytales, Retellings, Fantasy, YA Fantasy

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Shadow QueenThe Shadow Queen by C.J. Redwine
Series: Ravenspire #1
Published by Scholastic on 3rd March 2016 (UK)
Genres: Fantasy, YA Fantasy, Retellings
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
four-half-stars

Lorelai Diederich, crown princess and fugitive at large, has one mission: kill the wicked queen who took both the Ravenspire throne and the life of her father. To do that, Lorelai needs to use the one weapon she and Queen Irina have in common—magic. She’ll have to be stronger, faster, and more powerful than Irina, the most dangerous sorceress Ravenspire has ever seen.

In the neighboring kingdom of Eldr, when Prince Kol’s father and older brother are killed by an invading army of magic-wielding ogres, the second-born prince is suddenly given the responsibility of saving his kingdom. To do that, Kol needs magic—and the only way to get it is to make a deal with the queen of Ravenspire, promise to become her personal huntsman…and bring her Lorelai’s heart.

But Lorelai is nothing like Kol expected—beautiful, fierce, and unstoppable—and despite dark magic, Lorelai is drawn in by the passionate and troubled king. Fighting to stay one step ahead of the dragon huntsman—who she likes far more than she should—Lorelai does everything in her power to ruin the wicked queen. But Irina isn’t going down without a fight, and her final move may cost the princess the one thing she still has left to lose.

From Goodreads

I seem to have been reading quite a few retellings recently, and I’m really enjoying them. I heard about The Shadow Queen sometime last year and my interest was immediately piqued – a ‘Snow White retelling’ was all I knew when I added it to my 2016 wishlist. Well, let me tell you that I loved it! Yes, there are obvious tropes because, well, it’s a retelling! But it is so much more than ‘just’ a retelling. For one, there are dragons!

Lorelai is the rightful Queen of Ravenspire and yet she and her brother Leo have been on the run, hiding from the Crown for the past nine years. When their mother died, their father married their mother’s sister, Irina. Like her mother, Lorelai is a Mardushka, a sort of witch and her aunt also holds this power.

As Irina tries to take over the role as their mother, Lorelai realises that Irina’s been using magic to bend the court and the King to her will. While the court are enjoying apples, Lorelai realises that they aren’t normal apples, they are rotten inside with the power of Irina’s magic. So she confronts Irina, cases a counterspell and, well, things go wrong. Her father, the King, is killed and Lorelai flees the Palace with her younger brother, promising her father she will keep him safe. They are accompanied and protected by Gabril, a former Palace Guard, and spend the next nine years of their lives avoiding discovery. Gabril makes Lorelai wear gloves, knowing that should her bare hand touch anything affected by Irina’s magic, the evil Queen would know she is still alive.

So, there’s the background complete with an evil Stepmother and poisoned apples. We join Lorelai together with Leo and Gibril in the present day. They are slowly planning their revenge on Irina while Gabril trains them physically to protect themselves, as well as maintaining lessons on courtly behaviour for when they finally return to the Throne.

Meanwhile, in the neighbouring country of Eldr, their Prince Kol is dealing with his own personal tragedy and an army of magic wielding ogres who are beginning to overrun his country. Knowing he needs the help of a Mardushka he travels to Ravenspire to plead for Irina’s help. He ends up locked in a blood oath that will control his life, and endanger the life of Lorelai.

What follows is magic, dragons, romance and war.

That’s about as much as I’m going to tell you, however I do want to share some of the things I liked, some things I didn’t like, and a couple of cool things too!

I mentioned dragons? Well Kol and his countrymen are Draconi. They have 2 hearts (1 human, 1 dragon) and they can shift into their dragon form at will. Honestly, I loved the Draconi!

I haven’t yet mentioned Sasha. She is a gyrfalcon that Lorelai saved when first on the run. In using her magic to rescue the bird they have formed a bond whereby they pass messages to one another telepathically. Again, I really liked this concept and I’m a sucker for an animal with a personality!

The magic system in this book requires the use of a heart, whether that be human, dragon, mountain, river, tree. Irina has slowly been sucking the life out of Ravenspire leaving barren lands and food shortages in order to increase her power. I really liked this magic system. In using a willing heart, the strain of performing spells is much less than with that of an unwilling one. A cool concept.

What about the rest of the characters? I liked Leo, he’s a cool wee guy. I enjoyed his banter and his relationship with his sister. As for Lorelai herself,  I found her to be very likeable, a good strong female lead. Then there’s Gibril, I really appreciated his character, not only his commitment to the two Royals but also his love for them.

I did have an issue with one part of the book though. It’s hard to explain without giving spoilers so I’m going to hide them below. Seriously, don’t open it if you don’t want spoiled!

View Spoiler »

 

This book made me laugh, it hurt my heart, it held me in suspense and it made me smile. It’s an easy read and I really enjoyed it.

Oh and dragons!! <3

four-half-stars

Review: The Sleeper and the Spindle

February 26, 2015 in Book Reviews, Fairytales, Retellings, Fantasy, Fiction

Review: The Sleeper and the SpindleThe Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman
Published by Bloomsbury Genres: Retellings
Source: Purchased
Goodreads
four-stars

On the eve of her wedding, a young queen sets out to rescue a princess from an enchantment. She casts aside her fine wedding clothes, takes her chain mail and her sword and follows her brave dwarf retainers into the tunnels under the mountain towards the sleeping kingdom. This queen will decide her own future - and the princess who needs rescuing is not quite what she seems.

 

 

 

 

 

Shocking admission – this is the first of Neil Gaiman’s work I’ve ever read. Yeup, ever. I have a lot of Gaiman’s novels on my TBR list but I’ve just not got to them yet. After reading this though, I’m going to make more of an effort.

This is a fairytale retelling of sorts. It’s a short story that pulls together ideas from Sleeping Beauty and Snow White, adding a dark spin and an interesting twist.

TSATS

Much as I enjoyed the story the thing that really made this for me was the beauty of the book. Chris Riddell has illustrated the book beautifully. Using just black, white and gold the illustrations really add to the story. They are so detailed, creepy and quite frankly stunning.

I can’t post about this book without mentioning the cover…

covers 3

…a semi-transparent dustcover that continues the theme of black, white and gold. Peeking out beneath this is an illustration of the Sleeper, which is actually the cover of the hardback book itself.

This really is beautiful. For me, it’s the combination of artwork and storytelling that makes this book. I’m looking forward to reading and perusing it again and again.

four-stars