Winterspell

I’m a huge fan of retellings, so I was super excited to find out about this upcoming release that tells the story behind the famous Nutcracker tale. The original already has the perfect ingredients for a fabulous story: young heroine, mysterious nutcracker prince, evil queen rat. Can’t wait to see how author Clare Legrand takes that and runs away with it!

From the GoodReads website:

The clock chimes midnight, a curse breaks, and a girl meets a prince . . . but what follows is not all sweetness and sugarplums.

New York City, 1899. Clara Stole, the mayor’s ever-proper daughter, leads a double life. Since her mother’s murder, she has secretly trained in self-defense with the mysterious Drosselmeyer.

Then, on Christmas Eve, disaster strikes.

Her home is destroyed, her father abducted–by beings distinctly nothuman. To find him, Clara journeys to the war-ravaged land of Cane. Her only companion is the dethroned prince Nicholas, bound by a wicked curse. If they’re to survive, Clara has no choice but to trust him, but his haunted eyes burn with secrets–and a need she can’t define. With the dangerous, seductive faery queen Anise hunting them, Clara soon realizes she won’t leave Cane unscathed–if she leaves at all.

Inspired by The Nutcracker, Winterspell is a dark, timeless fairy tale about love and war, longing and loneliness, and a girl who must learn to live without fear.

AARGH!! Love it already!

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The Perilous Gard

Okay, so having written a review for Ironskin, I was reminded of one of the greatest books I’ve ever read, a true OMG Book: The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope.

Kate Sutton and her younger sister are banished by Queen Mary because of her sister’s silly but traitorous letter. They accompany the young Princess Elizabeth to a remote castle called the Perilous Gard, where the younger brother of the lord is a aloof and brooding Christopher Heron.

There are secrets at the castle that Kate must discover, and they center on the mysterious People of the Hill who may have had something to do with the disappearance of Christopher’s little niece.

What’s so great about this book that I still love and remember it after so many years?

1. Kate is one of my favorite heroines over. She’s smart and strong and will do what needs to be done for those she loves.

2. Christopher has just the right amount of moodiness and likability. He and Kate share some great exchanges.

3. The atmosphere is eerie and beautiful at the same time, and the faerie People of the Hill are sinister but also sympathetic.

4. The writing is perfect. (“Someone was laughing. Startled, she looked up, and saw a woman at the top of the bank, among the branches. She was standing so still, her long dark hair and shadowy green cloak melting in and out of the shifting leaves, that for an instant Kate thought she was not real, only a trick of light and color like her first illusion about the ivy-covered stump. But he was real. Kate could see the hard delicate bones of her face, and the glint of a gold bracelet on the wrist under the edge of the cloak. She was gazing down at the scene on the road beneath her with an amused, faintly disdainful laugh still lingering about her mouth, as if she were watching a pack of half-grown puppies all yelping together in a kennel-run.”) WOW. Talk about an amazing description.

5. It’s based on the Tam Lin ballad, one of my faves. (This was actually my first introduction to the ballad, and the words are included in the story, too.)

6. It won the Newbery Honor. So yeah, you don’t have to just take my word for it that it’s a really good book!

7. The book has some intriguing illustrations by Richard Cuffari too. Check this out:

See where her eyes are at? Love the subtlety 🙂

 

My greatest sorrow is that the author, Elizabeth Marie Pope, only wrote TWO books 😦

(A review of her second book The Sherwood Ring coming soon!)

Ironskin

 

There’s a lot to love about this adaptation of Jane Eyre.

The setting is an alternate steampunk-ish England, where the War that has just ended isn’t World War I, but a war against the evil Fey.  The atmosphere is pretty Gothic, feels deliciously Bronte-ish.

The main character Jane is strong, as you’d expect, but she has the additional misfortune of being scarred from a Fey bomb. She wears a mask of iron to contain the Fey infection and to hide the gashes on her face, hence the title.

The story also borrows heavily from the folk tale Tam Lin, one of my favorites ever. The beautiful but cruel Fey want the hero, and it’s up to the heroine to save him and the day. My only issue with this hero, Edward Rochart, is that, though he broods wonderfully, he never really shows any kind of strength. I feel like the author didn’t really develop him completely.

Not so with the daughter, Dorie Rochart, who Jane has come to be governess to. She’s an adorable child with “issues” that Jane needs to resolve. She doesn’t use her hands, but uses her Feyish magic to move things around. There are some pretty intense interactions between her and Jane that reminded me of Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan from The Miracle Worker.

My only huge letdown was at the story’s end. I wanted more about Edward since he was barely around, and I really didn’t like what happened to Jane. There was a lot building up in the story with Jane learning to let go of her iron mask and finally be strong in her own skin. The ending kind of tore that entire premise down.

Still, this was definitely an interesting read. If you like Gothic novels (ahem, smwahdy), Jane Eyre (ahem, Fi), Tam Lin (Fi again), moody heroes with a mystery only the heroine can solve (who doesn’t?), then you’ll most likely enjoy reading this too.

 

Camelot Burning

 

Arthurian steam-punk

 

Arthurian steam-punk? A definite no, I thought, until I read the first sentences:

“When a mechanical falcon takes flight from Merlin’s tower, it means the sorcerer is bored or drunk on absinthe.

I wonder if anyone else in Camelot stargazes enough to know this.”

Which left me feeling both amused and wistful at the same time.

Now, I haven’t read Arthurian stuff since I was a tumultuous teen who thrived on the pathos found in them, but this looks to be intriguingly different:

Seventeen-year-old Vivienne lives in a world of knights and ladies, corsets and absinthe, outlaw magic and alchemical machines.

By day, she is lady-in-waiting to the future queen of Camelot–Guinevere. By night, she secretly toils away in the clock tower as apprentice to Merlin, the infamous recovering magic addict.

Then she meets Marcus, below her in class, destined to become a knight, and just as forbidden as her apprenticeship with Merlin.

When Morgan le Fay, the king’s sorceress sister, declares war on Camelot, Merlin thinks they can create a metal beast powered by steam and alchemy to defeat her. But to save the kingdom, Vivienne will have to risk everything–her secret apprenticeship, her love for Marcus, and her own life.

Just picked up the book from the local bookstore!