Dread Companion
Adult / July 16, 2016

Author: Andre Norton. Summary: Kilda has always wanted to travel in space, but was unsure what career she could pursue; for the time being she has settled on governess, travelling with a fairly wealthy family to take care of the children. The two children are polite enough charges, but there’s something odd about the oldest, Bartare… When Bartare opens a doorway into another world, to follow and protect her charges Kilda will have to survive an inhuman world of old legend and law, clinging to her true nature as she searches for another door. My Thoughts: Although set in a clearly sci-fi world at the beginning, Dread Companion steps through into the world of fae. The rules were recognizable as soon as Kilda and the children appeared in the alternate world: Don’t Eat The Food, Running Water Stops Them, Don’t Trust Your Eyes, etc. This was an interesting and creative, if strange, combination of genres and formed the basis of the story. The characters were not as filled-out as they could be, and many things were never explained (as often happens in Andre Norton’s books), but overall it was good. Content Review: Sexual content: None. Language: None. Violence: There is…

Witches Abroad
Adult / June 15, 2016

A Discworld Novel. Author: Terry Pratchett. Summary: Once upon a time there was a fairy godmother named Desiderata who had a good heart, a wise head, and poor planning skills—which unforunately left the Princess Emberella in the care of her other (not quite so good and wise) godmother when DEATH came for Desiderata. So now it’s up to Magrat Garlick, Granny Weatherwax, and Nanny Ogg to hop on broomsticks and make for far-distant Genua to ensure the servant girl doesn’t marry the Prince. But the road to Genua is bumpy, and along the way the trio of witches encounters the occasional vampire, werewolf, and falling house (well this is a fairy tale, after all). The trouble really begins once these reluctant foster-godmothers arrive in Genua and must outwit their power-hungry counterpart who’ll stop at nothing to achieve a proper “happy ending”—even if it means destroying a kingdom. (Goodreads summary.) My Thoughts: Usually, the melting-pot style retellings that try to cram as many fairytale references into one story as possible are just annoying. They’re scattered and random, and I don’t like the stories being reduced to a passing paragraph or two around the protagonist as he/she continues on his/her way. Witches…

Cloaked
Young Adult / May 31, 2016

Author: Alex Flinn. Summary: I’m not your average hero. I actually wasn’t your average anything. Just a poor guy working an after-school job at a South Beach shoe repair shop to help his mom make ends meet. But a little magic changed it all. It all started with the curse. And the frognapping. And one hot-looking princess, who asked me to lead a rescue mission. There wasn’t a fairy godmother or any of that. And even though I fell in love along the way, what happened to me is unlike any fairy tale I’ve ever heard. Before I knew it, I was spying with a flock of enchanted swans, talking (yes, talking!) to a fox named Todd, and nearly trampled by giants in the Keys. (Summary from goodreads.) My Thoughts: While it was fun to notice all the fairy-tale references, especially the less-common ones, there were so many I felt they blended together. The book felt like stone stew, with everything hode-podged together until it was hard to keep track of the main conflict. The main character was something of a doofus, and didn’t notice what was right under his nose. I.e., it was clear from the beginning that the…

Black Unicorn

Unicorn Series #1. Author: Tanith Lee. Summary: Nobody knew where it had come from, or what it wanted. Not even Jaive, the sorceress, could fathom the mystery of the fabled beast. But Tanaquil, Jaive’s completely unmagical daughter, understood it at once. She knew why the unicorn was there: It had come for her. It needed her. Tanaquil was amazed because she was the girl with no talent for magic. She could only fiddle with broken bits of machinery and make them work again. What could she do for a unicorn? My Thoughts: Black Unicorn has the taste of a fairy tale; with dreamy landscapes, magical creatures, and set-piece characters intermixed with interesting dimensional characters. It has a simpler story line, with much detail on immediate settings but little over-all world building. While many of the minor characters are undeveloped set-pieces, the main character is an independent multi-dimensional girl with a will of her own and the perseverance to go after what she wants. A good tale for younger readers, as it is quite clean and fairly straight forward, with a fun world and strong protagonist. I think older readers with an inclination to fairy-tales or a certain type of fantasy…

Snow
Young Adult / May 18, 2016

Author: Tracy Lynn. Summary: The Duchess Jessica’s childhood began with a tragedy: her mother’s death. Her father, heartbroken at the loss of his beloved wife, could not bear to raise the child. Largely ignored, Jessica spent the first eleven years of her life running free on the family estate, cared for only by the servants. Then her father decides to remarry, bringing an end to Jessica’s independence. At first her new stepmother just seems overly strict. But as Jessica grows into a beautiful young woman, it becomes clear that her stepmother is also wildly — and murderously — jealous of her. Jessica escapes to London. Going by the name Snow to hide from her family, she falls in love with an odd band of outcasts who accept her into their makeshift family. But when her stepmother appears in the city, repentant and seeking her forgiveness, Jessica will have to decide whom to trust…with her life. My Thoughts: A short, fun, rather inventive retelling of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. It’s completely recognizable, although the author is quite loose with the connections – there aren’t even seven Lonely Ones to match the dwarfs. It wrapped up very quickly, and I…

Coraline
Middle Grade / Juvenile / April 30, 2016

Author: Neil Gaiman. Summary: Coraline’s often wondered what’s behind the locked door in the drawing room. It reveals only a brick wall when she finally opens it, but when she tries again later, a passageway mysteriously appears. Coraline is surprised to find a flat decorated exactly like her own, but strangely different. And when she finds her “other” parents in this alternate world, they are much more interesting despite their creepy black button eyes. When they make it clear, however, that they want to make her theirs forever, Coraline begins a nightmarish game to rescue her real parents and three children imprisoned in a mirror. With only a bored-through stone and an aloof cat to help, Coraline confronts this harrowing task of escaping these monstrous creatures. My Thoughts: Told through the simple voice of a fairly young girl, this is a shivery horror story. It combines elements of various fairy tales together in a child’s telling, creating a story with moral without moralizing. Top marks. Content Review: Sexual content: None. Language: None. Violence: A child is locked up in a cupboard for a little while; two rats are killed; a child is chased around by a hand.  

The Forbidden Wish
Young Adult / April 23, 2016

Author: Jessica Khoury. Summary: Zahra, jinni of the lamp and prisoner of old, is released from her lamp for the first time in centuries when Aladdin finds it. Haunted by the death of the only friend she ever had, Zahra must try to keep herself from growing too attached to Aladdin as she waits for him to choose his wishes… especially when the jinni king offers her freedom in return for help rescuing his son from the humans. But as the two go through trial and hardship together, hiding Zahra from the flautists who would imprison her and moving Aladdin into place to start a revolution, Zahra begins to realize she has failed in the worst way possible. And her king is coming to exact his payment. Zahra must make her decision, give her alliance and risk her life for one side or the other, once and for all. My Thoughts: A fluffy, rather middling retelling of the story of the lamp. It is set in a desert/kingdom type, but not Arabia; it is clearly a new world by the author. This actually seemed a good choice. Had Khoury gone ahead and set it in Arabia the potential for failure…

The Last Unicorn
Adult , Young Adult / April 9, 2016

Author: Peter S. Beagle Summary: A beautiful, bitter-sweet fairytale with the length of a (short) book. Dreamy and haunting, this is the story of the last unicorn of the world. When She left her friendly forest and set out to find others of her kind, the unicorn was soon captured by a witch and bound in a cage she could not break. Released by the witch’s reluctant compatriot, a magician, she continues on her journey, picking up friends and allies on the way. Everywhere she searches, people tell her the unicorns vanished long ago, driven away by a beast known as the Red Bull. In the end she will have to confront him herself. Facing her direst enemy, alone in the end and struggling to keep hold of her true nature, will the world lose the last of her kind? My Thoughts: One of my all time favorites, both for the gorgeous prose, the best treatment of the essential unicorn that I have ever found, and the masterful bitter-sweet tone throughout the entire book as it muses on beauty, youth long past, and loss. Content Review: Sexual content: When the magician turns the unicorn into a girl, she changes into a…