the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘fairy tale

Welcome to a new-ish feature here at Little Red Reviewer, called Five for Friday. The concept is simple – it’s a Friday, and I post a photo of 5 books, and then we chat about them in the comments.

The only things these books have in common are:
– they were on my bookshelf
– I’m interested in your thoughts on them.

have you read any of these? if yes, did you like them? If you’ve not read them, does the cover make you interested in learning more about the book?

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman – I have got to be only person left on earth who hasn’t read this book!  My friend lent it to me, and I just finished a manga (Silver Spoon #5!), so the timing is perfect for me to finally read this.

 

The Best of All Possible Worlds by Karen Lord – Hard to believe it’s been five years since this came out.  This is a quiet book that sneaks up on you, I reviewed it here.  Did you like Station Eleven?  You’ll like The Best of All Possible Worlds.  Totally different plots, but they have a similar, hmm… tone is maybe the right word?

 

Winterglass by Benjanun Sriduangkaew – I love everything this woman writes. Gorgeous prose, atmospheric writing, vibrant characters, and did I mention the gorgeous prose?  And can I say no to a retelling of The Snow Queen? no, I can not. Also, have you seen that beautiful cover art?  review is here, if you’re interested.

 

Bridge of Birds by Barry Hughart – Chinese fantasy adventure! This debut  novel won the World Fantasy Award and has become a classic. review here. Have you read the sequels?  are they good?

 

The Sun, The Moon, and The Stars by Steven Brust – Gosh, I haven’t read this in ages.  I remember a painter and a bunch of artists who share a studio, I remember  fairy tale that is told in tiny bits and pieces. I remember the first time I read this, I thought the painter was telling the fairy tale to his artist friends. Yep, I should really reread this.

 

I totally did not plan it this way, but a bunch of these books involve mythology and fairy tales!

 

Have you read any of these?  what did you think of them?

Which of these look interesting to you?

What are some of your favorite fairy tale / mythology retellings?

Six_Gun_Snow_White_by_Catherynne_M_Valente_200_311

 

I was maybe 20 pages in Six Gun Snow White when I wrote this in an e-mail to a friend:  “spending the morning of my first vacation day reading Cat Valente’s “Six Gun Snow White”.  the words are so pretty i am afraid if I touch them they will shatter into a million pieces and i will never hear the end of the story . . .  e-book words will surely be flatter and soulless, they won’t respond to my petting. might be safer that way.”  Those words on those pages, they were pretty, but they were also knife tip sharp, and with every page they clawed their way into me.

 

If you’re familiar with Catherynne Valente, you already know what she does with words. And if you’ve read other reviews I’ve written of her work, you might know what her words do to me. With every word I read, with every page I turn, a creature takes shape. Something that flies and dreams and takes me with it, a dragon made of velveteen words, and as you read those words, and caress those scales, the dream creature’s shape becomes clearer, this is what you’ve been looking for all this time. And the story is the breath of that dragon.

 

See?  reading Cat Valente makes me talk in ways my vocabulary can’t support.

 

So, “Six Gun Snow White”. No dragons to be found here.  Only a child who is forced to find her own way.  Valente takes the traditional Snow White story, and plunges it into the American frontier, the mines of the Dakotas, the mythologies of the Native Americans. A white man takes a crow woman as wife, and a baby daughter is born. For reasons unknown but guessed, the man treats his own flesh and blood daughter as an adopted ward, a novelty native girl, someone the maid can dress in doe skin and trot out for visitors to view and ask “is she real?” “Where did you find her?”.  The girl learns how to read, write, and be silent.  The name she uses for her father is Mr. H. He doesn’t treat her poorly, or unkindly, he simply doesn’t treat her like anything at all. She doesn’t know any better, she thinks this is love.  And then he gets married again.

 

The new wife, Mrs. H., sees this dark haired, dark skinned girl in braids and leather, and decides to make her into a true lady. Everything that makes the little girl what she is, Mrs. H destroys, even her name.  To remind the child of everything pure she’ll never be, Mrs. H. bestows on her the name Snow White. And she doesn’t know any better, so she tries to tell herself that being treated like this is what love is. This is the point you’ll start to recognize the original fairy tale, and this is also where Snow (who doesn’t remember her own name) takes the story in her own hands and refuses to allow it to be told in anyway except hers.  Mrs. H is a witch, and Snow can only take so much.

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Vintage SF badgeThe Polish science fiction writer Stanislaw Lem (1921 – 2006) was known for his works in science fiction, satire, and philosophy.  His writing style is detailed, subtle and literary, making translations a challenge.  I got into a great discussion on twitter with Joachim Boaz about the Lem translations. Apparently much of his work was translated to French and then translated to English, doubling the chances of wit and puns being lost in translation. By sheer luck, the copy of The Cyberiad that I read was translated directly from the original Polish by the amazing Michael Kandel. I’ve got to wonder if crappy translation is directly responsible for my mixed luck with Lem titles I’ve read in the past. Note to self:  seek out the Kandel translations!

Cyberiad

The Cyberiad, by Stanislaw Lem

published in 1965, first English translation available 1974

where I got it: borrowed from a friend

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Subtitled “fables for the cybernetic age”, many of the short stories in The Cyberiad have a bedtime story fairy tale feel to them.  Featuring quests and adventures and demanding royals  and hermits and pirates and even the phrase “once upon a time”, alongside literary devices such as alliteration, punny phrases and nested tales, I quickly became desperate for a nerdy 8 year old to whom I could read these out loud to.

The series of stories follows the robotic constructors Trurl and Klapaucius.  The two friends build amazing machines either for their own amusement or to help (for vast sums of money, of course) people on other planets.  As with many parable style fairy tales, the machines and prophecies never quite work as intended, and on more than one occasion Trurl and Klapaucius are forced to destroy their creations and/or escape their insatiable clients. Most of the Sallys (as in To Sally Forth) are 10 pages or less, making the whole of The Cyberiad easy to digest in small portions, if you’re able to put it down, that is (which I wasn’t, and devoured this dense little package of amazing in just a few days).

Since Trurl and Klapaucius (and nearly every other character we meet) are robots, and can’t die or experience physical pain, there is a surprising amount of violence – people getting kicked and repeatedly beaten up or thrown off or into things. Since no one ever gets hurt, it’s humorous, not unlike an old style Bugs Bunny cartoon.

Beyond the hysterical and madcap adventures and Klapaucius egging Trurl on every step of the way, the writing is absolutely brilliant, with a level of literary humor and intelligent wordplay that is absolutely off the charts. Imagine if Charlie Stross and Terry Pratchett rewrote a book of Hans Christian Anderson fairy tales, and then ratchet the whole thing up a bit more.

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The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There, by Catherynne Valente

published in October 2012

where I got it: borrowed ARC from a friend

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A year has passed, it’s time to visit Fairyland again. It’s got to be better than Nebraska, where the other girls at school aren’t interested in being September’s friend, and food is purchased with ration coupons. The sooner she gets back, the sooner she can be with the best friends a girl could ever ask for: a book loving wyverary and a shyly beautiful marid.

After a rough and lonely landing in a glass forest, September notices drastic changes in her surroundings. None of her friends come to greet her, magic is being rationed, and the few magical creatures she meets are terrified of her.  Maybe she’s just landed in a provincial area of Fairyland? But no, Fairyland has changed, and not for the better.  Humans don’t belong in Fairyland, and when they leave, they aren’t supposed to leave things behind.  When September last visited, she left her shadow behind, and it’s been up to all sorts of trouble.

For the last year, while September was doing sums and spelling, her shadow was living the high life in Fairyland-below.  Known as Halloween, the Hollow Queen, her shadow rules Fairyland-below, where there are no rules, no bedtimes, no lost friends, and and un-attached to their other selves, the shadows are suddenly free to live their own lives, and do everything they’ve never been able to do before.

Ell the Wyverary and Saturday the Marid didn’t greet her when she landed in the glass forest, but their shadows were waiting for her when she landed in Fairyland-below.  Are these the same Ell and Saturday that September had so many adventures with? Shadow-Ell and Shadow-Saturday are elated to be freed of the shackles of their other selves, this is the first time they’ve ever had any control over their own lives.

As Halloween hosts her revels, and her invisible assistant pulls down more shadows from Fairyland-above, Septembers feels more and more that something is wrong. Why can’t she just reunite with her shadow? Why won’t anyone listen to her?  why doesn’t anyone seem to care about the damage that’s being done to Fairyland-above? If Halloween is such a reckless, horrible person, does that mean that deep down, September is too?

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The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern

published Sept 2011

Where I got it: the library

Why I read it:  Cuz everyone is doing it.

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Le Cirque de Reves, the Circus of Dreams, follows no set schedule.  It simply appears where it needs to be.  Circus tents in stark black and white stripes tempt you from your every day doings to visit a magical place that only opens at night. Tents might feature illusionists, or contortionists, or trees ablaze with wishes or bottles full of places. You never know until you look, and you better take advantage of it while you can, for it will disappear without notice.

Really, how could anyone possibly say no to that?  Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus has been getting buckets of attention lately.  I saw an entire end cap  of this book at Barnes and Noble the other day, a wall of black and white and red and silver, you couldn’t not stop as you walked by.  I watched people approach tentatively, pick up a book, look at it, and smile. It was as if they were petting kittens for the first time.

But I suppose the concept of this story isn’t unlike a soft purring kitten with eyes you could drown in:

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.