Book Review: Traitor’s Masque

What if Cinderella had a lot to learn about being kind, no particular interest in a royal ball, and no fairy godmother? Enter the world of Trystan Embrie Colbourne. Once the admittedly spoiled daughter of a wealthy nobleman, she now lives in physical comfort but under the spiteful rule of her resentful stepmother. Her primary joy is the freedom of secret horseback rides while her family sleeps. It’s on one such ride that she crosses paths with a young man who becomes what she might dare to call a friend.

Traitor's Masque

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Book Review: Before Midnight

Before Midnight Young Constanze de Brabant, more commonly called Cendrillon, was born of noble blood but raised a commoner. After her mother died in childbirth, Cendrillon’s heartbroken father disappeared, refusing to acknowledge his daughter and wishing to never again see her. When he departs, he leaves behind an infant boy. This boy, Raoul, and Cendrillon grow up together as brother and sister. Each year on their shared birthday, Cendrillon wishes for something to grow on her mother’s grave while Raoul wishes to discover who he is. The fulfillment of their wishes will surprise them all.

I’ll start by warning you that my review might be a little misleading depending on how you read it. Cendrillon and Raoul do not become sweethearts. I tell you this not as a spoiler but because hoping that they might was the one disappointment I had in the book, and I think you’ll enjoy the story more if you don’t get your hopes up in that direction. Before Midnight has jumped up to become my second favorite fairy tale retelling, surpassed only by Beauty. There was very little magical anything, which is a plus for me. Even the pumpkin carriage was very real world (a bit of an inside joke). I loved the twist on her stepmother and stepsisters. I won’t telling you what’s different, but they’re definitely not what you’re expecting. At its heart Before Midnight is a story of family and love at first sight. Very sweet. (And the farthest the romance goes is three brief kisses. ;))

Cinderella seems to be one of the most popular fairy tales to retell. What twists might you add if you were planning a retelling of the story?

Book Review: Ella Enchanted

Ella Enchanted

Char’s anger at his tutor would be nothing compared with this. He would hate me until the end of the world.

Given the “gift” of obedience at birth by a foolish fairy, Ella has no choice but to obey every command given her. Even a command to harm herself would have to be followed. Ella lives a happy life despite the curse until her mother dies. Her father, who cares only for money, sends her off to finishing school. Ela is miserable as her natural clumsiness clashes with her need to obey. When a ill-humored classmate discovers her secret and uses it against her, Ella flees. But as long as the curse remains, she cannot outrun the danger. What will happen when the prince Ella has come to love and perhaps the entire kingdom hang in the balance?

I don’t read very many fairy tale retellings, but I seem to have a pattern for the ones I do read. For both this story and Beauty, I didn’t care much for the first half but really enjoyed the second half. In this book, I felt the author was trying too hard to establish a fantasy world. The fantasy creatures seemed tacked on. The second half, where the story became recognizable as Cinderella was where I was drawn in and began to really care what happened. My main caution is that the “curse” of obedience does shed a slightly negative light on obedience in general. It worked well for the story, but is definitely something that should not be taken lightly.

What do you consider the pros and cons of this story? How do you feel about a positive ideal like obedience being turned, in a logical way, into a curse?

Book Review: The Light Princess

Light Princess, The

One day [the prince] lost sight of his retinue in a great forest. These forests are very useful in delivering princes from their courtiers, like a sieve that keeps back the bran. Then the princes get away to follow their fortunes.

When the king and queen of a far off country try to keep a wicked relative from their baby girl, the woman curses the child with the loss of gravity. And so it is that the princess grows up without her gravity, both literally and figuratively. Her nurses must be careful not to let her float up to the ceiling. In addition to floating her way through life, the princess can take nothing seriously. She laughs at even the most serious of matters and causes her parents a great deal of concern. The only time she regains her physical gravity is when she swims. It is in the lake that she meets the prince. The prince who will willingly sacrifice… well, telling you that would give away the end of the book, wouldn’t it? And the ending was by far the best part.

I read this book last year after enjoying Sir Gibbie. (Yes, if you follow the link, it’s the abridged version. No rotten tomato hurling please, that’s the version I read because I got it at a book sale. I didn’t even realize it was abridged at first.) Anyway, The Light Princess was the only other George MacDonald book I could find at the library. So I checked it out. I found myself quickly irritated with the princess. I wanted to slap some sense into her head. But something kept me reading, and when I started tearing up during the prince’s sacrifice at the end, I was glad I’d stuck to it. It’s only a little over 100 pages after all.

Any George MacDonald fans out there? What are your favorite books by this author?

Book Review: The Princess and the Kiss

Princess and the Kiss, TheAs part of my request for theme suggestions last week, lesmiserables1 suggested a princess theme. I’ve received several other great suggestions, but this was the one I could best run with right away. I still need to read at least one more princess story for the month. So, my question for you. What are your favorite princess stories?

Once upon a time there lived a beautiful princess with a precious treasure…her first kiss. As suitors begin to call, the princess searches for a man who will appreciate her kiss, but all seem too caught up in themselves. Until a poor young farmer comes to the castle and offers her his own first kiss.

Yes, it’s a picture book. No, I don’t usually review picture books. Yes, I realize most of my readers are teenagers (though there are plenty of adults hiding in the woodwork!). This picture book is truly timeless. My Dad and I still occasionally pull it out for him to read to me. (Yes, I’m eighteen.) I think Dad got it for me when I was ten or eleven. The first time he read it to me was the first time I made a conscious decision that I wanted to save my first kiss for the man I marry. I’m so grateful to have had this book’s positive influence and to have the foundation of wanting to save my kiss from such a young age. So, yes, I really do recommend this book for anyone. Parents, parents to be, teens, teens younger siblings, you name it. Anyone else saving their first kiss? 🙂

Book Review: Beauty

“Did I not tell your father that no harm should come to his daughter?” I opened my mouth, and then shut it again, and he continued sadly: “No, you need say nothing. I am a Beast, and a Beast has no honour. But you may trust my word: You are safe here, in my castle and anywhere on my lands.”

Though not normally a fan of fairy tales, this retelling of Beauty and the Beast is a real favorite of mine. When Beauty’s father looses his fortune and the family is forced to move to the country, Beauty adapts to their new life faster than her sisters. She considers herself happy in her new home until her father returns from a trip with a horrifying story.

To save her father from death at the hands of  the Beast, Beauty volunteers to leave her family and live at the Beast’s mysterious castle. There she meets him, and after her initial fear begins to fade…Well, I would love to tell you the whole story, but you should read it for yourself.

Audience: 10 through adult (very enjoyable read and not overly romantic)