Tag Archives: fairytale

Wintersong by S Jae Jones. Review. 

‘She is for the Goblin King now’

I’ve recently become enthralled by novels like Wintersong which take the dark fairytales of Russia, Eastern Europe and in this case Germany and make them into their own. 

Wintersong tells the tale of Liesel, a young German woman with a passion for music. Music she is not allowed to compose or play because a woman is too inferior to do so. Instead she lives through her brother Josef who is about to audition to receive tutelage from a famous music teacher. Liesel is a young woman who is not just plain to look at but perceived as ugly, especially beside her beautiful sister Käthe. The three children have grown up beside the Goblin Grove, listening to their grandmother’s eerie tales of witches, hobgoblins and sprites. But most particularly of the Goblin King himself. Now they are getting older they don’t believe in her stories anymore. That is until Käthe is kidnapped by the King and Liesel has to go to his underground kingdom to bring her back. 


This book is deliciously dark, it tantalises and teases, it is frightening in parts but at the same time grips you with its intesity. It draws you in and seduces you. The Goblin King, dips between two personas as the thing of nightmares and the man of your dream. It is very, very cleverly done! While wanting to stay lost in the world there is a fear that should you do that, you would never escape. 


There is passion in this novel, but of the dark sort. The ones that all girls who don’t believe in themselves, who view ‘beauty on the inside’ as an ugly truth. The novel doesn’t feel very YA it reads more like an adult novel which I did really like. The border of YA and adult fantasy became blurred which is just right for the dark fairytale theme. 


Wintersong has echoes of a more serious version of the film Labyrinth and the combination of this, and the dark fairytales just makes it devilishly decadent. A true work of art of a novel! I can’t wait for the sequel! 

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden. Review 

‘It was late winter in Northern Rus’, The air sullen with wet that was neither rain nor snow. The brilliant February landscape had given way to the dreary gray of March, and the household of Pyotr Vladimirovich were all sniffling from the damp and thin from six weeks’ fasting on black bread and fermented cabbage. But no one was thinking of chilblains and runny noses, or even, wistfully, of porridge and roast meats, for Dunya was to tell a story.’ 

From the first paragraph, detailed above, it is immediately apparent that Katherine Arden has a skill beyond many other writers. The skill for weaving a story in beautiful language, a skill which usually comes around an author’s 3rd, 4th or even 5th novel. But this is actually Katherine’s debut. 

Thank you firstly to Penguin Random House and Del Rey Books for my copy in exchange for an honest review. 

This is not going to be a difficult book to review. Mainly because it was beautiful from start to finish. From it’s wonderfully, colourful cover to its neat black font. But mostly because of its imaginative, detailed and phantasmagorical story. 

The story focuses on the family of a Russian lord. The setting I would say is around the time period of the 1800s and Russia is in the midst of a bleak winter. Pyotr and Marina already have 4 children, 3 boys and 1 girl when Marina announces she is with child again. She also announces that this one will be different, more like her own mother who came from nowhere and won the heart of Russia’s Grand Prince. Here is where Vasilisa is born. Vasilisa has a sight beyond that of her siblings. She alone can see the spirits and demons who protect her home from the threat in the forest and she alone can save them when the rest of her people turn to God. 


The story is magical, in that it mixes the real world with that of fairytales and other worlds. I’m not talking the fairytales mass produced by Disney either, these are the dark tales of Russian folklore, demons in the night, whispers between the trees and the nip of wolves on your ankles. Placed in a setting of freezing midwinter when the trees are bare and families starving, mistrust and fear breed. 


Though the story is far from fast paced it keeps the reader gripped with anticipation and dread as the threat comes closer. The bitterness of a jealous stepmother, the devotion and misplaced trust of a pious priest and the hint of devilry just around the corner sends a thrill down the readers spine. 


The writing itself is beautiful, Katherine Arden creates a world and weaves the magic into her words with beautiful descriptive sentences, excitement and desperation as we, the readers sit with baited breath, unsure what is around the corner. 

A truly magical and yet terribly dark story of what happens when bedtime stories become real life. Katherine Arden is the author to watch. 

Between the Lines by Jodi Picoult

It was a funny sort of way how I came about being a reader and inevitably a fan of the writing of Jodi Picoult. I picked up my first book by this author The Pact about 6 years ago; simply for the reason that her first name was spelt the same way as my sister’s name. By the time I got to Between the Lines I’d successfully read every book (even the ones not published in the UK) by Jodi.

It’s been a while since I’ve picked up one of her novels and to be quite honest I hadn’t read the blurb on Between the Lines a novel she co-wrote with her daughter Samantha Van Leer. All I saw was a new book by Jodi and instantly checked it out from the library. When I did actually take the time to read the blurb before I started the book yesterday I was excited to see there was a complete change of subject matter for Jodi who usually writes about real life issues such as suicide, cancer and autism. A fantasy style novel seemed like a daring change.

I was right. It was very daring. Unfortunately too daring and invariably it failed. Some authors are extremely talented in being able to write novels of different genres, some are not. Jodi is one of the latter.

The novel is based around the idea that the 2 dimensional characters in novels come to life when the book is closed. That they lead their own lives unbeknownst to their readers and simply act out the story whenever the book is opened. So far so good right? That’s what I thought…

The two central characters in the novel are Delilah a 15 year old social misfit with no friends except for one gothic newcomer. Delilah is just trying to move on with life and get through school. The other central character in Between the Lines is Oliver; The Prince from the fairytale Delilah keeps reading again and again. Eventually Oliver who is unhappy with life inside the book and wants out, manages to contact Delilah and convince her to try and get him out of the book. Again sounds great…

 

Well it wasn’t. The characters were poor and literally 2 dimensional. There was nothing about them you could relate to and bond with, they were just flat. Delilah is a 15 year old girl its not even realistic that she would be rereading a children’s fairy tale simply because the character in the story did not have a dad just like her. The writing was dull and flat and uninteresting. There was nothing of Jodi’s articulate and interesting writing style. In the end having only made it a third of the way through I abandoned the book and returned it to the library.

I hate to be harsh but the only conclusion I can come to is that her daughter was actually the complete author of Between the Lines and that Jodi’s name was added to the title page simply to get it published and sold.