Fairytale Features: Beauty & the Beast

fairytale features

The tale of Beauty & the Beast (originally called La Belle et la Bête) is probably familiar to most people: One night, a merchant gets lost in a forest during a terrible storm, and finds shelter in a great palace, where he is offered food and drink and a warm place to sleep. The next morning, on his way out, he picks a flower for his daughter, Beauty – only to be set upon by a terrifying Beast, who accuses the merchant of stealing his most precious possession. The merchant is allowed to leave, but only after promising that he will send his daughter to the palace instead. Over time, Beauty ends up falling in love with the Beast, and through her love, the curse that had transformed him into a monster is broken.

This story was originally written in 1740 by the French author Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve, and was influence by many different stories, including Cupid & Psyche (Apuleius; late 2nd century A.D.) and the Italian fairytale The Pig King (Giovanni Francesco Straparola; c. 1550-53), and may also have been partially inspired by the life of Petrus Gonsalvus (1537-1618), a Spanish man who became famous during his lifetime because he suffered from hypertrichosis, which made him abnormally hairy.

A more complete list of adaptations and retellings of this story can be found here, but these are a few of my favourites:

RECOMMENDATIONS

Robin McKinley//BeautyBeauty by Robin McKinley is a straight-up retelling of the original fairytale – by which I mean that the plot deviates very little from Villeneuve’s original story, though naturally both Beauty and the Beast are considerably more fleshed-out as individual characters. McKinley’s writing, however, is beautiful, and I really loved the slow, realistic relationship development in this book.

Christine Pope//Dragon RoseDragon Rose by Christine Pope is another reasonably straight-up retelling, but it’s also mixed with elements of legends such as St. George & the Dragon, where a maiden must be sacrificed every year in order to appease a terrible monster. In Dragon Rose, Rhianne (i.e. Beauty) offers herself up in the place of her friend, and is sent off to become the latest in a long, long line of brides to the cursed Dragon Lord, none of whom have ever been seen again after setting foot in his castle. Pope’s writing is not the best I’ve ever read, but I enjoyed the unpretentious nature of this story, as well as the way it played with the princess-and-the-dragon trope. It’s actually the second book in the Tales of the Latter Kingdoms series (many of which are fairytale retellings), but all the books in this series can be read as standalones.

Andrzej Sapkowski//The Last WishA Grain of Truth by Andrzej Sapkowski is a short story from The Last Wish (which is, in turn, part of the Witcher series), and manages to completely turn the tale of Beauty & the Beast on its head: Women come to the Beast willingly, enjoying their chance to flirt with danger, while their families are given a generous payment – and after a time, they leave. The Beast, for his part, is not particularly interested in breaking the curse that makes him a monster, as he fears that companions will be harder to find if he becomes less of a curiosity. Beautifully written, and fascinatingly re-imagined, this is probably one of my favourite re-tellings of this fairytale.

Rosamund Hodge//Cruel BeautyCruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge imagines Beauty (this time called Nyx) as a young woman who – promised to the Beast (Ignifex, the kingdom’s evil and immortal ruler) at birth due to a bargain struck by her father – has been raised as an assassin, trained to kill Ignifex, and break the curse he’s held over the kingdom for the last 900 years. This was a fast-paced, exciting retelling, with a dark bent to it that I really enjoyed. Hodge also managed to blend the tale of Beauty & the Beast seamlessly with a whole load of Greek mythology – something that really appealed to the Classicist in me!

Sarah J. Maas//A Court of Thorns & RosesAnd of course, I couldn’t possibly leave out A Court of Thorns & Roses by Sarah J. Maas – the book which pushed me to start writing this post (at long last)! In this book, the Beast (a.k.a. Tamlin) is a High Lord of Prythian, the kingdom of faeries, and “Beauty” (this time called Feyre) is a human huntress, struggling to support her impoverished family after her merchant father lost everything. One day, while hunting, she kills a Fae disguised as a wolf – but although she expects to be killed as punishment, instead she’s taken away to the Spring Court, where the High Lord is labouring under a terrible curse… and running out of time to break it.

There’s a lot going on in this series beyond the retelling that it starts with; in the second book, it breaks away from the fairytale almost entirely. The more epic tone of the story – the intrigue and politics and the looming threat of war – is the main thing that sets this apart from other retellings, and is probably its main selling point, but its also unusual in that it has a considerable cast of (well-developed) characters beyond Feyre and Tamlin, all with significant roles to play. [You can find my spoiler-free reviews of A Court of Thorns & Roses, and A Court of Mist & Fury here.]

[Navigation: INTRODUCTION | BEAUTY & THE BEAST | (More to come)]

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December Wrap-Up

My first post of 2016! (Though I’ll probably still be talking about last year – and isn’t that odd to say? – for a little while longer.) I read nine books in December, which wasn’t my best reading month in 2015, but what it lacked in quantity, it definitely made up for in quality! 😀 And my reading was also pretty sci-fi-heavy, which isn’t something that’s ever happened to me before… But anyway, on to the books:

Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff//IlluminaeIlluminae by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff. A sci-fi thriller that follows two teenagers who – after being evacuated from an illegal mining planet that was under attack – are attempting to reach safety with a group of damaged ships, and pursued by their attackers, whose ship is in significantly better shape than theirs. Interestingly, this story is told almost entirely in the form of data files and IM transcripts, and the such, which I was initially worried that I would find off-putting, but somehow it didn’t make me feel distant from the characters at all (and actually, since the files had personal details of everyone on board, I think it actually made the characters seem more real to me, not less). In terms of the story itself, it was fantastic, and tense, and full of surprises, and incredibly powerfully written. I would definitely recommend this, even for people like me who aren’t generally fans of sci-fi.5+ starsChristine Pope//Blood Will TellBlood Will Tell by Christine Pope. The second book in the Gaian Consortium series, which follows the hacker Miala Fels, who’s in the middle of trying to break into the bank accounts of her father’s murderer (the crime lord Mast), when he and his entire gang are killed in a shoot-out – except for the mercenary Eryk Thorn, who Miala saves in exchange for his help getting off-planet. I’ve always found Christine Pope’s writing rather hit-or-miss, but this is definitely one of the better ones! I really loved both Miala and Thorn, and their relationship dynamic was great. The plot was also pretty fun (especially in the first half of the book), though nothing special in itself – the romance is definitely the selling point for this series.4 starsLauren Oliver//Before I FallBefore I Fall by Lauren Oliver. A contemporary novel that I’ve been meaning to read for the longest time… It’s about a teenage girl called Sam, who dies in a car accident on her way home from a party one night – and then wakes up again (and again, and again), the morning before it happened. Time loops have, of course, been done to death in literature, but I found that I really liked Oliver’s take on it: Every time Sam relives her last day, she does things a little differently, and learns new things about herself, and the people around her, and this allowed for some really incredible character development. The characters themselves were brilliant – they were very realistically portrayed, and I found that I actually really liked all of them, even though most of Sam’s friends (and even Sam herself) aren’t always the most likeable people. I wasn’t a huge fan of the ending (not because it was bad, but because it didn’t work out the way I wanted it to), but overall, it was an interesting and enjoyable read. I’ve written a full review of this book, which you can read by following this link.4 stars

Christine Pope//The Mandala ManeuverThe Mandala Maneuver by Christine Pope. The fourth book in the Gaian Consortium series (which is a companion series, and doesn’t need to be read chronologically), following a human diplomat called Alexa, whose shuttle is attacked, stranding her on the strange, inhospitable planet of Mandala with Lirzhan, the Zhore ambassador – but very soon they discover that not all is as it seems on Mandala. This was one of the less interesting books in the series, though the plot initially seemed to have some promise. Unfortunately Alexa and Lirzhan were both rather bland, which rather killed the story for me. :/ I might have enjoyed this more, however, if I’d read it before I read Breath of Life (the first book in the series, which is also about a human-Zhore couple), but the characters and relationship in The Mandala Maneuver felt very similar to in Breath of Life.2 starsMarissa Meyer//FairestFairest by Marissa Meyer. The prequel to the Lunar Chronicles novels, which tells the story of Queen Levana, the series’ main antagonist. I was initially a bit nervous about reading this, as I’d heard a lot of mixed reviews, but – much to my surprise – I ended up really liking it! 😀 It was also my Library Scavenger Hunt pick for December, so I’ve written a mini-review which you can read here. 🙂5 starsMelina Marchetta//Finnikin of the RockFinnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta. The first book in the Lumatere Chronicles, which follows Finnikin, a Lumateran boy who’s searching for a way to help his people return to their homeland, which has been taken over by a tyrant, and is surrounded by a magical barrier that kills anyone who tries to cross it – and then one day he meets a girl called Evanjalin, who swears that the rightful heir to the throne is still alive. I struggled to get into this book at first: The narrative took some getting used to, and Marchetta seemed quite fond of switching perspectives without warning, which could be confusing at times. The story itself is wonderful, however, and I really, really loved the main characters, Finnikin and Evanjalin, and although the big reveal near the end of the story didn’t exactly take me by surprise, it was so well-executed that I found that I didn’t really mind. Even Froi grew on me, which is fortunate, since he’s apparently the main character in the second book… ^^’ And, as with many slow-burn fantasy books, I got a lot more invested as the story went on – for the last 200 pages or so, I had real difficulty putting it down!5 starsTakashi Hiraide//The Guest CatThe Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide. A short novel about a couple who befriend their neighbours’ cat, Chibi, and how she changes their lives and way of thinking. An enjoyable story, though I’m not really sure how to explain it… It was slow-paced, meandering and quite whimsical, but I found myself liking all the characters a lot. This isn’t the kind of book I’d usually read, but was still definitely worth reading, and I’d recommend it for fans of literary fiction.3 starsMarissa Meyer//WinterWinter by Marissa Meyer. The fourth and final book in the Lunar Chronicles series, and the first book I completed for the Holiday Booktubeathon (for which I didn’t write a dedicated wrap-up because I was too pressed for time…). Obviously, anything I could say about the plot would make this place spoiler central, so I won’t, but I can talk about the characters, who were all wonderful. Scarlet and Wolf, in particular, really shone through in this book, which was something of a surprise to me, as they have, until now, been my least-favourite (main) characters in the series – and I also really liked the friendship between Scarlet and Winter. Winter herself wasn’t quite as awe-inspiringly crazy as she appeared to be at the end of Cress, but I still absolutely loved her. 😀 Getting to know Jacin a bit better was also wonderful, as were all the returning characters… My only real complaint about this book is that I wish it had been longer (and since it was already over 800 pages, that complaint seems a little unreasonable), so I’m definitely going to be getting the novella bind-up, Stars Above, when it’s out, as it apparently contains an epilogue-type story (amongst others, of course).5 stars

Emma Mills//First & ThenFirst & Then by Emma Mills. A contemporary romance that’s half Pride & Prejudice, and half Friday Night Lights: It follows a girl called Devon in her last year of high school, as she copes with: college applications; her younger cousin, Foster, coming to live with her; an embarrassing, long-time crush on her best friend Cas; and her developing feelings for Ezra, the captain and star of the school football team. I’ve never been a huge fan of American football, and since I’d heard this book compared to Friday Night Lights, I suspected that it’d be fairly central to the plot, but although it was undoubtedly important to the story, I found that it felt more like a backdrop to everything else that was going on, which I liked; I definitely wouldn’t recommend that anyone read this book purely for the football aspect. As for the aforementioned “everything else”, it was all really great. I loved Devon, and really identified with her; Foster was adorable, and their relationship progression was both realistic and incredibly sweet; Ezra – the Mr. Darcy of the story – was a wonderful combination of swoon-worthy and socially-awkward (my favourite kind of love interest! 😉 ). It was a shame that the book wasn’t longer (my copy is 267 pages long), however, as I would’ve liked to have seen more of Emir – a character who showed up at the beginning, then disappeared until near the end, when he became surprisingly important to the plot – and also of Ezra and Devon as a couple.5 stars

April Wrap Up

I think I did pretty well in April, having read a total of 9 novels, 7 novellas/short stories, 2 graphic novels, 1 non-fiction book, and I also finished off a manga series that I put on hold a couple of years ago… And I’m doing pretty well with my reading resolutions for the year, as well: 9 of the things I read counted towards goals that I hadn’t already completed. 😀

Tahereh Mafi//Ignite MeIgnite Me by Tahereh Mafi. The final book in the Shatter Me trilogy. I enjoyed the book, and the characters, but I still felt that most of the time, the plot took a backseat to all the relationship drama – and while I don’t dislike that in itself, I think that dystopian fiction really needs more focus on the story and world-building. I did appreciate that the characters finally acknowledged that they hadn’t really had a viable plan to take down the Reestablishment in Unravel Me, which was something that had been bothering me, and I really enjoyed how Juliette’s relationships with both Warner and Kenji developed…3 starsTahereh Mafi//Fracture MeFracture Me by Tahereh Mafi. The end of Unravel Me, re-told from Adam’s perspective. I don’t have much to say about this, as I didn’t really find anything remarkable in it. Adam’s priorities were all over the place, as usual, and I guess it was interesting seeing his point of view, but I’ve never been a huge fan of his character…2 starsJuliette’s Journal by Tahereh Mafi. The whole of the journal that we see fragments of throughout the series. There wasn’t really anything new here, but I found that it was more interesting to read it as a whole, instead of in little pieces scattered all over the place.3 starsPhilip Pullman//Aladdin & the Enchanted LampAladdin and the Enchanted Lamp by Philip Pullman. A re-telling of the legend of Aladdin. Like most fairytales, it was rather lacking in character development, but my favourite thing about this edition (and, in fact, the main reason why I bought it) was the illustrations (by Ian Beck), which are absolutely beautiful. There were obviously no surprises in terms of the story (it’s a pretty straight-up re-telling, without any unexpected twists), but Philip Pullman’s writing was as enjoyable as always.4 starsNeil Gaiman//The Sleeper & the SpindleThe Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman. A re-telling of both Sleeping Beauty and Snow White, where Snow White and three dwarves set off on a quest to wake Sleeping Beauty and stop the sleep-plague that is creeping across the country. I didn’t expect, when I started this, that Snow White would be taking the place of the Prince (in fact, I didn’t expect Snow White to be involved at all), but it was a twist that I ended up really liking. The illustrations were also great – I’m not the biggest fan of Chris Riddell’s art, generally, but it suited this story, and the colour palette (black, white and gold), was lovely.4 starsThe Sleeping Beauty in the Wood by Charles Perrault (from Little Red Riding Hood and Other Stories). The original tale of Sleeping Beauty, in which, after Sleeping Beauty and the Prince fall in love and get married, they have two children (Dawn and Day), whom the Prince’s mother (who is part-ogre!) eventually tries to eat! It was certainly an interesting story, and the ending was very unexpected, but I ended up enjoying it a lot.4 starsMasashi Kishimoto//Naruto vol. 71Naruto (Ch. 614-700) by Masashi Kishimoto. The tale of a boy who wants to become the greatest ninja of all time, and gain the respect and friendship of all his peers. I’ve been following this series for years, and I’m so glad that I’ve finally finished. The story was (as usual) frequently ridiculous, but after however many years it’s been, I’ve come to expect that and not really mind it. More than anything else, the whole series was just a lot of fun! 🙂 What I read this month covered the fights against Tobi, Madara and Kaguya, as well as some really great Warring Clans-era flashbacks.4 stars

Jennifer L. Armentrout//OppositionOpposition by Jennifer L. Armentrout. The final book in the Lux series, which is a half-romance, half-alien invasion story about a book blogger called Katy. I wasn’t quite as into this book as I was the previous ones, but I think that was mostly because I had to break up my reading quite a lot because of non-fictional events… Quality-wise, I think it was on par with the other books in the series. Overall, it was an exciting and satisfying conclusion to the series, and I enjoyed it a lot.4 starsJennifer L. Armentrout//ShadowsShadows by Jennifer L. Armentrout. A prequel to the Lux series, that tells the story of how Dawson and Bethany met and fell in love, and how their relationship played out in the lead-in to Obsidian. The story and characters were both very enjoyable, though I missed having Katy’s perspective, and it was a little jarring to be reading an almost pure romance story set in the Lux universe, after the plot-driven storytelling I’ve been used to since reading Onyx4 starsNon Pratt//TroubleTrouble by Non Pratt. The story of a teenage girl who gets pregnant – and the boy who pretends to be her baby’s father – that turned out to be unexpectedly touching. I’m currently in the process of writing up a full review of this book, which will probably be posted in the next couple of weeks, so I’ll save the rest of my comments for there.5 starsChristine Pope//Breath of LifeBreath of Life by Christine Pope. The first book in the Gaian Consortium series, which seems to be a series of sci-fi fairytale retellings (so far as I can tell, not knowing anything about the other books in the series). This one is based on Beauty and the Beast, and features a girl named Anika, who goes to live with her alien neighbour after her father steals some flowers from his garden in order to save his own life. It was quite entertaining, but very short (125 pages, according to my kindle), and as with Dragon Rose (another Christine Pope book based on Beauty and the Beast), I found it rather disappointing that “beauty” never actually sees the “beast”, since Sarzhin always keeps his face covered, until he’s revealed to actually be incredibly attractive – which I think takes away from the impact of the fairytale. After all, imagining that someone looks like a monster is completely different from actually being faced with it…3 starsChristine Pope//A Simple GiftA Simple Gift by Christine Pope. A short story set the Christmas after Breath of Life, where Anika introduces Sarzhin to her parents, and tells them about her marriage and pregnancy. This was a nice additional scene, and it made me feel a little more kindly towards Anika’s mother, but ultimately I didn’t think it added much to the story.2 starsKaren Perry//The Boy That Never WasThe Boy that Never Was by Karen Perry. A thriller that follows a married couple (Harry and Robin) whose son died during an earthquake when he was three, but five years on,  Harry sees a boy who resembles Dillon in the street, and becomes convinced that he was actually kidnapped. This book was a gift from my Dad, which is the main reason that I decided to read it, since thrillers really have never really been my thing – and they still aren’t, it would seem. The writing was fast-paced, and the book was very readable, but unfortunately I wasn’t surprised by any of the plot twists, and I didn’t particularly like any of the main characters…2 starsJane Hardstaff//River DaughterRiver Daughter by Jane Hardstaff. The sequel to The Executioner’s Daughter, a historical adventure novel set in Tudor London that I read earlier this year and liked, but wasn’t too impressed by. River Daughter, I am happy to say, was a huge improvement, though it took a little while to really get going… In addition to Moss and Salter, we had three new characters: Eel-Eye Jack and Jenny Wren, both of whom were great fun and really interesting, and Bear, who is a bear (naturally) that Moss somehow manages to befriend (and their friendship is adorable 🙂 ). Some of the plot developments were rather convenient, but overall this book was a lot of fun.4 starsGeraldine McCaughrean//Peter Pan in ScarletJulie Kagawa//TalonAt this point the Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon came along, and I managed to get through two books for it – Peter Pan in Scarlet by Geraldine McCaughrean and Talon by Julie Kagawa. I’ve written mini-reviews for both of them, which you can read  by clicking on the covers…5 stars4 stars

Luke Pearson//HildafolkHildafolk by Luke Pearson. A short graphic novel about a girl who goes on a miniature adventure with her pet fox/reindeer-thing (which is the most adorable creature ever), and meets a troll. And a person made out of wood. 😕 Very, very cute, and I really loved the art style, but the ending was very abrupt, and it didn’t really feel finished…3 starsBill Willingham//Fables vol. 1Fables Volume 1: Legends in Exile by Bill Willingham. This series follows various familiar fairytale characters living in our world, after having been driven out of their homes by a mysterious invader. The first volume mainly focuses on the Big Bad Wolf, who is now a detective investigating the disappearance of Rose Red, Snow White’s younger sister. The focus on the plot made me ridiculously happy (especially when I think about most of the comics I’ve read recently), and the plot itself was really well thought-out and executed. The art was fantastic, too, and I’m really looking forward to reading the next volume~ 🙂4 starsChristine Pope//All Fall DownAll Fall Down by Christine Pope. The first book in the Tales of the Latter Kingdoms companion series (though this was the last one I read), which tells the story of a physician called Merys, who is kidnapped and sold as a slave, but finds herself falling in love with her new master. And then there’s a plague. This book was more plot-based than most of the other books in the series, which I appreciated, and the story was quite good for the most part (and particularly at the beginning). However, I didn’t really like the way some of the story’s themes were treated (slavery, euthanasia, at one point there is even what I would consider murder, though it’s not acknowledged as such…), and I thought that the ending was much too abrupt. :/ Overall, I liked it, but it definitely had its flaws.3 starsCarrie Hope Fletcher//All I Know NowAll I Know Now by Carrie Hope Fletcher. A slightly autobiographical book of advice on growing up. First off, I should acknowledge that I’m not the target audience for this book – most of the advice in it is about things that I’ve managed to figure out by now – but it’s the kind of book that would probably have been really helpful when I was a teenager, and it’s also not the kind of advice that will ever go out of date (except, perhaps, the section on internet manners 😛 ). But although it wasn’t exactly helpful to me, I still enjoyed reading it. The writing was very good, and Carrie’s voice came through really strongly (if you’ve ever seen any of her youtube videos, then you’ll see that she writes exactly the way she speaks, which is nice), and the anecdotes she used to make her points were very relatable (mostly! I certainly can’t relate to being chased by a bear!) and witty. She’s also illustrated the book, and the pictures are really lovely. 🙂 Some of the advice she gives I didn’t completely agree with, but she makes it very clear throughout the book that this is just what she believes, and that ultimately everyone has to make their own choices.3 stars

September Wrap-Up

This September I read 13 books, which isn’t quite as ridiculous as my August total, but still a surprising amount. Most of these I really liked, too, so without further ado…

Prudence Shen//Nothing Can Possibly Go WrongNothing Can Possibly Go Wrong by Prudence Shen. I was surprised by how much I ended up liking this book – I expected it to be fun, but it also felt really nostalgic (mainly for this old robot-fighting TV show that I used to be obsessed with). The second half had a very different feeling from the first half, though: It goes from high-school drama to robot war very quickly. There’s overarching emotional things going on with the main character, too, which added a lot to the story, & I really love Faith Erin Hicks’ (the illustrator) art style!

5 stars

Faith Erin Hicks//Friends with BoysFriends With Boys by Faith Erin Hicks. The story was interesting (it follows a home-schooled girl who’s switching to a normal school for the first time, & there’s also a ghost involved), but the main selling point for me was (the art, and also) the characters, especially Lucy, who is adorable.4 stars

Malorie Blackman//Boys Don't CryBoys Don’t Cry by Malorie Blackman. A very emotional story, especially in the second half & excellently written (as Malorie Blackman’s books always are). My favourite character was Dante’s brother Adam, but I felt like there was simultaneously too much of him & not enough. I would’ve preferred to have learnt about his problems from Dante’s perspective, rather than having a dual-POV, as most of Adam’s chapters seemed way too short. There’s a sequel/companion (I’m not sure which) out as well, called Heart Break Girl, but unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be available anywhere…3 stars

Brian Selznick//The Invention of Hugo CabretThe Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. Beautifully written & drawn, and the constant switching between pictures & words makes nice contrast, without being too jarring. I especially loved the way Professor Alcofrisbas was incorporated at the end (something not mentioned in the movie), explaining the reference to Hugo’s “invention” in the book’s title. Minor characters (i.e. the station master, other shopkeepers, etc.) weren’t quite as sympathetic as in the movie, as we don’t see so much of them.4 stars

Sally Green//Half BadHalf Bad by Sally Green. I don’t have too much to say about this one, since I’ve already written a full review, but I really loved the whole story, & I’d definitely recommend it. 🙂 4 stars

Christine Pope//Dragon RoseDragon Rose by Christine Pope. A nice, unpretentious love story which re-tells the tale of Beauty & the Beast. I really enjoyed it, but I thought the ending was a little rushed, & would’ve preferred it if Rhianne had seen Theran’s cursed-form at least once before breaking the curse. The side-characters were also sadly under-developed, but that’s actually pretty understandably, since the whole premise of the story is that the two main characters are pretty much in isolation the whole time.3 stars

Christine Pope//Ashes of RosesAshes of Roses by Christine Pope. A Cinderella re-telling this time! I loved the characterisation & how the romance developed, and the dual POV was a surprise after Dragon Rose, but I liked reading from Torric’s perspective, too. Plot-wise, there weren’t too many surprises, but waiting for the penny to drop on Ashara’s disguise was somewhat suspenseful, & the conclusion was very satisfying.4 stars

Christine Pope//One Thousand NightsOne Thousand Nights by Christine Pope. This one was pretty fun, but not so good as Ashes of Roses or Dragon Rose. I enjoyed seeing more of the Latter Kingdoms world, but liked Lyarris & Besh much less then previous couples in the series. Some threads of the plotline (like Besh’s daughter) could have been developed further, & it was overall plot-lite (which isn’t always necessarily a problem in romance fiction, but I found Lyarris’ constant whining about Besh not wanting to sleep with her kind of annoying). It probably would also have benefitted from a dual-perspective, as I never really felt that I got to know Besh very well. Also, the Scheherazade aspects were only present in a couple of chapters of the book, & completely not essential to the storyline. Definitely my least-favourite in the series so far.2 stars

Christine Pope//Binding SpellBinding Spell by Christine Pope. In contrast, this was probably my favourite in the series! Lark was a great, interesting heroine, though I wish she’d been a little slower to accept her fate. Kadar was a lot of fun, too, and probably the most realistic of the love interests so far. Their relationship development was very believable, too. I’m not sure which fairytale this is based on, though, or even if it is a re-telling, despite the fact that the other books in this series all seem to be…4 stars

Pale Roses by Michael Moorcock (from The Time Traveller’s Almanac). I’m not too sure what to say about this one. A bizarre story, with characters I didn’t like much… Werther (the main character) reminded me a little of Winston from 1984, though I’m not entirely sure why. It took a long time to finish, but I’m glad I’ve finally read it & can move on to the next story in the collection.1 star

Intisar Khanani//ThornThorn by Intisar Khanani. Well-written, with an interesting storyline – my first experience with the Goose Girl fairytale, so I don’t know how faithful it is to the original, but it definitely had a magical quality to it. I loved how Alyrra struggled between her desires and her duties, and how she finally found the courage to stand up for what she believed in. Kestrin was interesting, too, but less developed. Unfortunately, the combination of first-person & Alyrra’s pseudonym also meant that I continually forgot what her real name was… :/4 stars

Shannon Hale//The Goose GirlThe Goose Girl by Shannon Hale. Another Goose Girl re-telling (obviously), but much lighter in tone than Thorn. Ani was also far more “princess-y” than Alyrra was (understandably, since Ani had actually been treated like a princess, where Alyrra was scorned by her family). It was beautifully-written, & the side characters were better-developed in this one (with the exception of Selia, whose character & motivations were much less clear than Valka’s). I also found myself liking Geric & Ani’s romance a lot, even though it only played a small part in the story & the twist at the end was a little predictable (as fairytale “twists” often are!). I’m not entirely sure which version I liked better, but they were definitely both worth reading! 🙂4 stars

Diana Gabaldon//OutlanderCross Stitch by Diana Gabaldon (known simply as Outlander in the US). It read surprisingly easily, for an 800+ word book. I actually picked it up because I was enjoying the TV series so much, but I ended up liking the book even more. There’s less of Frank, of course (since it’s written in first person, from Claire’s perspective), which makes it less conflicting for the reader, and the TV series seems to have more fleshed-out side characters & settings, but at the expense of Claire & Jamie’s romance (the book focuses much more on their interactions). I like where the plot seems to be going, & am looking forward to seeing Bonnie Prince Charlie in book 2!4 stars