The Swan Kingdom

January 9th, 2014 | Posted by Paola in Fantasy | Retelling | Review | YA Fiction - (2 Comments)

swankingdomTITLE: The Swan Kingdom

AUTHOR: Zoë Marriott

GENRE: Fantasy

PUBLISHED: 2007, Walker Books; paperback, 285 pages

ALSO SEE: Shadows On the Moon

When Alexandra’s mother is slain by an unnatural beast, shadows fall on the once-lush kingdom. Too soon the widowed king is entranced by a cunning stranger — and in one chilling moment Alexandra’s beloved brothers disappear, and she is banished to a barren land. Rich in visual detail, sparked by a formidable evil, and sweetened with familial and romantic love, here is the tale of a girl who discovers powerful healing gifts — and the courage to use them to save her ailing kingdom. (From Goodreads)

I know retellings aren’t for everyone, but I absolutely love them. Some of my favorite books of all time are re-interpretations of beloved and well-known stories. What I look for is originality, creativity, and that sense that I’m getting a unique perspective on a story that’s been told a thousand times before. When you already know how everything is going to play out, these are the elements that really become important. I think that Zoë Marriott has a gift for retellings, and I’ve believed this ever since reading Shadows On the Moon — a phenomenal retelling of the Cinderella fairy tale that you so, so, SO need in your life. LIKE RIGHT NOW. I think you need The Swan Kingdom, too. Honestly, I haven’t been so in love with an author’s fairy tale retellings since I first discovered Robin McKinley (Rose Daughter, Spindle’s End, Deerskin) years and years ago, and that’s saying something because I’m a HUGE Robin McKinley fan. I think they both bring so much magic into the stories they weave.

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Of Beast and Beauty

September 16th, 2013 | Posted by Paola in Fantasy | Retelling | Review | Science Fiction | YA Fiction - (13 Comments)

ofbeastandbeautyTITLE: Of Beast and Beauty

AUTHOR: Stacey Jay

GENRE: Fantasy

PUBLISHED: 2013, Delacorte Press

FORMAT: eBook, 256 pages

The domed city of Yuan is the only safe haven for miles in the harsh deserts of Isra’s dying planet. The lands outside the dome are prowled by the Monstrous — mutated beasts like Gem. They were once human, and are now shunned from the cities where those without mutations dwell in privilege and even luxury. Their safety comes at a terrible price, however; a price that Isra knows too well. The blind princess of Yuan keeps many secrets, not all of which are her own. Her path collides with Gem’s when the starving Monstrous attempt to steal the source of Yuan’s prosperity and fail. What unfolds is a friendship, and then a love, that could change the fate of their world.

I’m a huge fan of fairytales and an even bigger fan of fairytale retellings, especially creative ones. I’ve read quite a few of these over the years, but I have to say that Of Beast and Beauty is by far the most unique version of Beauty and the Beast that I’ve ever encountered. And you know, sometimes I just get this gut feeling about a book… it’s hard to explain, but some books I just KNOW I’m going to love. I read the synopsis and DONE, let me have it RIGHT NOW. This was one of those inexplicable moments of book serendipity for me. (I mean, just read the synopsis… OF COURSE THIS WAS MEANT FOR ME. Hello???)

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Cinder

June 9th, 2013 | Posted by Paola in Retelling | Science Fiction | Series | YA Fiction - (14 Comments)

051_cinderTITLE: Cinder (Lunar Chronicles, #1)

AUTHOR: Marissa Meyer

GENRE: YA Science Fiction

FORMAT: Hardcover, 387 Pages

Cinder has a reputation for being one of the best mechanics in New Beijing. She has a gift for fixing what’s broken, even if that talent doesn’t seem to extend to her personal life. Being cyborg means limited rights and high tensions with the only family she has left, not to mention disdain from the majority of the population. But there is more to Cinder than being part human and part machine, and the mystery of her past might just be the key to securing Earth’s future…

… FIGHTING EVIL BY MOONLIGHT! WINNING LOVE BY DAYLIGHT! NEVER RUNNING FROM A REAL FIGHT — oh, we’re NOT singing the Sailor Moon theme song right now? Well, boo. I guess I’ll go back to writing this review then…

I absolutely loved Cinder, and not just because it brought back fond memories of watching Sailor Moon every morning when I was a kid. It’s a refreshing, original take on the Cinderella fairy tale that effortlessly incorporates new twists with familiar details. Besides, there are cyborgs. And a Prince. And diabolical mind manipulation powers…! What more do you need in life??

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Scarlet

May 27th, 2013 | Posted by Paola in Historical Fiction | Retelling | Series | YA Fiction - (7 Comments)

044_scarletTITLE: Scarlet (Scarlet, #1)

AUTHOR: A.C. Gaughen

GENRE: YA Historical Fiction

FORMAT: eBook, 304 Pages

They steal from the rich to give to the poor, but not all of Robin Hood’s merry men are what they seem. Scarlet, for one, isn’t even a man. She’s a young woman dressed as a boy, and none of the boys can keep up with her — except one, and that’s the fabled Robin himself. Scarlet would do anything, commit any crime, if it meant bringing justice to oppressed, overtaxed Nottinghamshire. Masquerading as Will Scarlet, she lies, cheats, steals and breaks innocent prisoners out of the sheriff’s jail. But Scarlet is also running away from the guilt and trauma of her past, and no disguise could ever be enough to evade the truth.

It’s been a long while since I last read a Robin Hood retelling (The Outlaws of Sherwood by Robin McKinley, specifically) and I’ve never read the original, but I’ve always enjoyed the premise and was familiar with the main characters so I was interested to see what kind of twist Scarlet would bring to the timeless story. Guys, I was not disappointed! I just really love strong female leads in books for so many reasons, and the titular character here is as tough as they come. While there was a minor adjustment period for me when it came to the narrative style, I ended up rather impressed by how the author used Scarlet’s way of talking in such a strategic way. I thought this book was an incredible take on Robin Hood with all the adventure, daring deeds, and romance a girl could wish for.

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