Retold Fairy Tales

Book Review: So This Is Love

Author
Lim, Elizabeth
Rating
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review

This book was a beautiful twisted tale based on Cinderella. It was a simple and quick read. I loved having it for a leisure book, it was a nice break between complex novels. On this note, I felt as though certain elements could have been developed better, such as the conspiracy within the castle. It was childishly simple to read, albeit that is part of what made this book so enjoyable. The biggest downside in my opinion was the ending. It felt far too rushed. Overall however this was a great read! I enjoyed where Elizabeth Lim picked up the story and cannot wait to read more books from her.

Reviewer's Name
Samantha

Book Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses

Author
Maas, Sarah J.
Rating
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review

This book had me completely hooked! It almost follows the plot of Beauty and the Beast but in its own world with its own complex characters. Feyre's determination and strength was incredible to see in a female character. Not only is she the main character and heroin but she carries real and deep emotions. In addition to this, I love Tamlin and his court. Sarah J Mass's descriptions are in depth and I felt like I was really in the room experiencing everything as it happened. The end had my head spinning and I could not wait for the next book.

Reviewer's Name
Samantha

Book Review: Dorothy Must Die

Author
Paige, D.M.
Rating
4 stars = Really Good
Review

Dorothy Must Die follows Amy Gumm, a trailer-park living girl from Kansas, who has battled through a not present mother, school bullies, and a life of loneliness. However, all things change for Amy Gumm when she is transported into the land of Oz. But things don't seem to be the same, cheerful, yellow brick road Oz that Amy has always heard about, and she fears that she may be in for a much more sinister adventure than she'd planned.
Dorothy Must Die is a fantasy novel that is based on The Wizard of Oz but with a dark twist. Personally, I enjoyed Amy as a character and felt that all her hard experiences in life really turned her into a dynamic character. I also enjoyed seeing how the other turned the happy tale of Oz into something way more dark and deeper. Many of the new twists the author applied to this classic tale were very imaginative and applicable to today's society, and I enjoyed the creativity the novel displayed. Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reworked fairytales, and dark fantasy.

Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name
Michelle

Book Review: Stars Above

Author
Meyer, Marissa
Rating
4 stars = Really Good
Review

Something I feel is underappreciated in book series is when authors don't try to cram in as much material and side stories as possible to pad each of the books to be longer than they should be. Keeping the core books of a series concise helps drive the main plot forward without requiring larger and larger volumes to tie up all the loose ends introduced along the way. The Lunar Chronicles excels in this. Look no further than the "prequel," Fairest, and the collection of short stories and epilogue that is Stars Above for proof of this restraint.

I can appreciate that worldbuilding will often create so much content that it doesn't always make sense to include it in the actual storytelling. Still, some origin stories might seem interesting, only to find out that most of these moments of exposition happened along the way as the character's motives are revealed to the reader. Ergo, some stories don't need to be told. Stars Above has some stories like this, but it also contains a few worth reading, the best of which is the pseudo-epilogue to the Lunar Chronicles.

With so many different fairy tales to pull from into the Lunar Chronicles, I'm glad that Marissa Meyer had some restraint in recognizing when some of them wouldn't work with the main narrative of Cinder's rise to claim her rightful throne. The "Little Mermaid" story in this collection works on its own, but I would find myself hard-pressed to see how it would add anything to the overarching plot of the Lunar Chronicles without reworking the whole thing. Even so, it's a good story that any fan of this series will likely enjoy.

Some necessary (and not so necessary) short stories that round out the Lunar Chronicles, I give Stars Above 3.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name
Benjamin W.

Book Review: Winter

Author
Meyer, Marissa
Rating
4 stars = Really Good
Review

If there's one thing I appreciate with a series, it's when all the loose ends are tied up by the end. In the fourth and final installment in the Lunar Chronicles series, Marissa Meyer manages to wrap up all the disparate parts of the story that had been running in parallel for three books. Not only does this series have a satisfying ending, but there's even enough time to flesh out the titular character, Winter, so that her presence makes sense in the context of the whole series. Still, even if the backstory for Levanna in Fairest isn't directly needed to understand more of Winter's character in this book, it certainly helped that I had already read it going into this final chapter of the series.

While my standard qualms with the "teenage girl" style of characterizations remain for this book (as it has for the entire series), the dialogue feels very natural (as it has for the entire series). Ultimately, though, it feels like the ending takes forever to arrive, especially since the audience has already known for some time that Cinder is the true heir—a fact that only became apparent to her in the last few books. Plus, there's the almost constant sexual tension that runs through these books as well. I've never wanted to scream at fictional characters, "Kiss already!" so much in my life.

I will say that the sci-fi fairy tale reimagining Meyer does in the Lunar Chronicles is unique in its interpretation while also remaining relatively close to the source material's references. And while there were moments where the characters might have been annoying, all of their motivations were clear and drove them to make decisions that felt logical based on their background. Overall, I think this has become one of my favorite series lately, and I'm now looking forward to reading more of what Marissa Meyer has to offer.

A satisfying ending to the best series of sci-fi fairy tale reimaginings, I give Winter 4.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name
Benjamin W.

Book Review: Fairest

Author
Meyer, Marissa
Rating
4 stars = Really Good
Review

I’m not sure when it happened, but somewhere in the last decade or so, the idea of “redeemable villains” took off. So many stories had antagonists that had their heinous acts justified by some past trauma that somehow made them more human and understandable. While I appreciate flawed characters and the bad decisions that eventually led them down the dark and evil path, I don’t think it’s always necessary to make villains redeemable. That is unless it’s done well. Fairest does it well.

Right from the first pages of Fairest, the reader understands that Levana was the runt of the family. The amount of teasing and hypocrisy that formed this young girl into the evil queen she would eventually become is understandable. However, the real brilliance of this story comes in when Levana tries to solve her problems the only way she knows how: by manipulation. It’s not entirely her fault, as the royal family seemed to be built on this foundation of getting what they want by any means necessary—still, it doesn’t excuse what she did.

Even if Fairest is only a side-story for the Lunar Chronicles series, I think it’s required reading to understand the series’ main antagonist fully. If you want to read it chronologically (before Cinder ), it’s a good amount of backstory that will help bring you up to speed, even at the expense of being spoiled by some of the (albeit obvious) twists of the series. If you read it after Cress and before Winter, then it stands as a much-needed flashback before the conclusion of the series. At the very least, I’m glad that this story wasn’t crammed into the other books and was given the room to be its own story.

The best “understandable villain” I’ve ever read, I give Fairest: Levana’s Story 4.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name
Benjamin W.

Book Review: Cress

Author
Meyer, Marissa
Rating
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review

Anyone who has spent a considerable amount of time with me will know that one of my top three favorite movies is Tangled (2010). It then comes as no surprise to me that the third book in the Lunar Chronicles series that adapts the Rapunzel fairy tale into this sci-fi retelling would be my favorite of the set. It wasn't until I was reading original fairy tales to my daughter that I realized how close Cress came to representing the story it was based on instead of just relying on the familiar accouterments of the fairy tale.

While I didn't appreciate as much of the split storylines in Scarlet , I felt they improved the greater story arc of the whole series here. Cress explored much of the inner workings of the antagonist faction of Lunars that had been missing up until this point of the series. As such, I was able to gain a greater emotional attachment to the rag-tag group of rebels. It also helped that there was clear character growth in some of the minor characters like Carswell Thorne and Cress through the challenges they had to overcome.

Perhaps the best reason this was my favorite book of the Lunar Chronicles series is that it truly was building toward the climax of the series as a whole. Watching all the different pieces fall into place to set up the final book of the series was what had me hooked on this story all the way through. And sure, it still had that "teenage girl" quality to its prose, but at least it helped make the characters realistic—even if it was to adhere to the tropes of the Young Adult genre.

The sci-fi Rapunzel retelling I didn't know I needed, I give Cress 4.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name
Benjamin W.

Book Review: Scarlet

Author
Meyer, Marissa
Rating
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review

I continue to be impressed with Marissa Meyer's ability to weave a compelling narrative based on common fairy tale themes but set in a sci-fi framework. A continuation of the story that started in Cinder , Scarlet felt a little distracted as it added in elements from "Little Red Riding Hood" and split its time between the new characters—mainly Scarlet and Thorne—and advancing the plot of Cinder to its next logical step. As long as you realize this series centers around Cinder and her rise to the Lunar throne, this book should provide some great entertainment.

Perhaps what I enjoyed most about this book was how it seamlessly integrated with the lore already established in the previous volume while also being true to its source. Nothing strays too far from the themes of wolves/werewolves, so it's a bit of an obvious connection to make in a series that's titled the Lunar Chronicles. Still, the thought put into constructing a plausible plot from the pieces of a short fairy tale is something that must be applauded. Even so, Scarlet does have some weaknesses that have carried over from its predecessor.

The charm of the characters in this series comes from how realistic they seem. Granted, most of the characters are teenage girls, so there are many quirks that are amusing at first but become irritating over time. In particular, Scarlet seems quite stupid. Her logic is clearly flawed, and it's obvious to the reader that she's going about things all wrong for far too long until she finally "gets it." And—of course—she's going to be attracted to the "Wolf." The other new character, Thorne, seemed underdeveloped as well, but I'm sure we'll see more of him soon.

A somewhat distracted but still excellent follow-up to Cinder, I give Scarlet 3.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name
Benjamin W.

Book Review: Heartless

Author
Meyer, Marissa
Rating
4 stars = Really Good
Review

This book is about the Queen of Hearts and how she became so evil. Catherine's dream in life is to be the best baker of all of Hearts. These skills end up wooing the king and he eventually asks for her hand in marriage. Her mother wants her to agree, but Cath soon finds her heart is drawn to someone else, the mysterious Joker. With Hearts under attack by the dangerous Jabberwocky, Catherine gets pulled into an adventure that soon unfolds the reasons behind her infamous tale in the book: Alice in Wonderland.

I really liked this book mostly because of the characters. They were really well developed and I felt as if I knew them and was a part of their story. The plotline gets really slow in the middle, but by the end, I really enjoyed it. Meyer is the same author who wrote the Cinder Series. Even though this book is not like the Cinder Series, they are still really similar, so if you enjoyed that series, you will like this book.

Reviewer's Name
Emma

Book Review: Of Giants and Ice

Author
Bach, Shelby
Rating
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review

I adored this series in middle school. Now that I'm older, I'm better able to recognize that it isn't exactly high literature, but it was fun to read. Putting a twist on middle grade and YA fiction's beloved fairy tale retellings, in Of Giants and Ice, main character Rory discovers she's a "character" when she joins Ever After School, which is supposedly an unassuming after-school program but actually a school where characters go on missions and eventually end up in "tales." As the name suggests, tales are when characters become characters in a fairy tale. Rory and her two friends, Chase and Lena, are thrown into a Jack and the Beanstalk tale, but discover there's something waiting for them that's more sinister than just giants. Of Giants and Ice follows a fairly typical middle grade fiction structure, with a "chosen one" middle school protagonist on an adventure with some friends and eventually solving a massive problem that, for some reason, the adults are incapable of handling without the help of kids, but it's an entertaining read with a fun premise. I would recommend for younger readers who are looking for something light and diverting.

Reviewer grade: 10

Reviewer's Name
Elanor