Fairy Tales From the Brothers Grimm: A New English Version by Philip Pullman (Galley)
Release Date: November 8, 2012
Genre: Fiction, fairy tales, short stories, fantasy, magic, OMG PHILIP PULLMAN WROTE A BOOK OF FAIRY TALES!
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Summary: Fifty tales from the Brother’s Grimm retold by fantasy author extraordinaire, Philip Pullman. From the well known to the more obscure, Pullman rewrites the stories in a colloquial way while still keeping the essence of the fairy tale alive and well in his stories. Complete with added commentary on the stories themselves, how they have changed and other various reincarnations they have lived through, Pullman leaves no fairy tale stone unturned in this fabulous new edition of folk tales.
When I heard there was a new collection of fairy tales being rewritten by Philip Pullman I practically wet myself in excitement (I seem to do that a lot for the sake of these reviews). This collection combines two of my favorite things: classic fairy tales- particularly of the Grimm variety- and incredibly well-written fantasy, which is where Pullman comes in. If you have yet to do so, I highly recommend checking out the His Dark Materials series. It will amaze and break your heart simultaneously. Please don’t judge a book by its movie.
The collection opens with a lengthy introduction discussing the nature and tradition of oral stories (their prominence in the middle class) and how anyone could have ended up being the well known collector of fairy tales, the Grimms just happened to beat everyone else to the punch. Fun fact: the brothers also worked together on the first German dictionary and it was their interest in the nature of language that led them to collect the oral and written fairy tales in one place. I never thought I’d say this, but thanks linguistics!
The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There by Catherynne M. Valente (Advanced Reader Copy)
Release Date: October 2, 2012
Genre: Fiction, fairy tale, fantasy, children’s literature, epic fantasy because I say so
Rating: 4.2 out of 5 stars
Summary: September once again returns to Fairyland, but this time it is much different than she remembers. Forced to fight her own shadow, the Hollow Queen who has been stealing the shadows into Fairyland-Below, September is tasked with saving magic and the inhabitants of Fairyland-Above before it is too late. Starring some familiar yet shadowy faces, this sequel to The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making is another grandiose fantasy from the talented Catherynne M. Valente.
Generally, the epic fantasy moniker is reserved for the likes of Lord of the Rings (HAPPY TOLKIEN WEEK! btw) and A Song of Ice and Fire- that is series with orcs and death and magical objects. But I would like to argue for The Girl Who… series, or the Fairyland series so as not to confuse it with the Swedish computer hacker books, as an epic fantasy in its own right. It’s a modern fairytale with lush prose, an enormous cast of characters, impossible magic, and even a dragon or two. Valente gives it all the trappings of a fantasy- including prophecies- and despite my dislike of the word I would definitely refer to it as “epic”. I rest my very shoddy, not so well thought out case.
Since the first book in the series was my hands-down favorite book of 2011 (you can read that review here) even beating out the amazing Night Circus, this book had big shoes to fill. It didn’t quite meet my much raised expectations, but it came pretty close. It wasn’t perfect in every way The Girl Who Circumnavigated was, but the fabulous writing, intriguing new characters and the highbrow parody was more than enough to get me past that. If only my brain wouldn’t rate or judge things based on other things!
Trashland A Go-Go by Constance Ann Fitzgerald (Submission)
Genre: Bizarro fiction, fantasy, fairy tale, Wonderland meets “Project Runway” meets “Hoarders”
Rating: 4.25 out of 5 stars
Summary: After a messy death at the Snatch Hausen, stripper on her way to a heart of gold Coco Darling finds herself unceremoniously sent to the dump. Forced to make a dress out of garbage bags and befriend a distraught fly named Rudy, Coco works her way to the heart of Trashland in search of the Queen, discovering female empowerment along the way.
Author Constance Ann Fitzgerald, the second in our New Bizarro Author Series reviews, was inspired to write a “Trashy Fairy Tale about a dead stripper” after numerous hours working in a sex shop and writing stories about the strange customers she encounters on a daily basis. I would love a nonfiction collection of just those stories, because you just know a varied collection of interesting characters turn up in her shop.
If this sounds intriguing to you, it’s extremely important to the success of the New Bizarro Author Series that you PURCHASE THIS NOVEL so the author can keep getting her work published. There’s only 15 left in stock from Amazon (the only corporate bookstore we support) so if you want a physical copy you better snag one up!
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente
Genre: Fiction, fairy tale, fantasy, children’s literature, it broke my heart
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Summary: September is swept away to Fairyland when the Green Wind comes flying in her window atop a leopard. What follows is an amazing journey full of dangerous choices, sacrifice, and a vivid cast of characters. This delightfully modern fairy tale will have you smiling at September’s wit and crying through her heartbreak.
I have always been a firm believer in the importance of a strong beginning and an even stronger ending in literature. A strong beginning is required to get the reader interested in investing their time, but an ending is crucial because it dictates how a reader will feel about the entire novel. A novel can be wonderful, but if the ending is lacking that is what the reader will take away from the entire experience.
Myself and my fellow Bibliomantics love the Harry Potter series, but the unrealistic rainbows and puppy dog epilogue at the end of The Deathly Hallows Rowling tacked onto the series left a lot of people feeling disappointed and let down. (See Stephanie’s hilarious post about the epilogue here.) Finality is a good thing, but I much prefer a little punch and even a little mystery to get me thinking. Rowling’s ending was just so-so. Now The Hunger Games series, that was an ending, at both times painful and beautiful.
A confession: I would love to be a fairy tale scholar. Yes, I already have my useless English degree, but I just want to keep rackin’ ‘em up.
From the time I was a small child, I would go straight for the J398.2s in my local library (Dewey Decimal, what up). Folk tales, fairy stories, tall tales, fables from different countries. It was all there, and I lived in those worlds. When I was older, I loved reading expanded and new takes on the genre. Ella Enchanted was my absolute favorite. And to this day I still can’t resist a magical tale. So when signing up for my final semester as an undergrad, I saw a senior seminar based on the fairy tale tradition, so it was a no-brainer. I had the professor before, and loved her immensely. And hey – it was fairy tales. How much fun was that going to be? Well, it was fun. But also an extremely difficult class. There are so many ways to examine fairy tales, and a far richer history than I had imagined.
And the tales themselves. As a culture, we have a very rigid idea of fairy tales: they are children’s tales, filled with “happily ever afters” and “once upon a times.” The princess is beautiful and the prince is brave. Well after the very first class, I learned one thing:
Fairy tales are fucked up.
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
Genre: Childrens, Fantasy, Magic, Fairy Tale
Rating: 4.89 out of 5 Stars
Summary: In a magical kingdom called Kyrria, Ella of Frell lives under a foolish fairy’s spell. Meant to be a gift of obedience, given at birth, Ella is cursed to obey any order given her whether it be to hop on one foot or to chop off her own head. When her mother dies, she is ripped from a blossoming friendship with Prince Char and sent to finishing school at the mercy of her new stepsisters who discover her secret and use it against her. Adventure ensues as she tries to escape and find the fairy Lucinda who is believed to be the only one who can lift the spell.
I feel like I say this about a lot of books, but Ella Enchanted is definitely one of my favorites. It’s a children’s book and it is amazing. Who doesn’t love a twist on a classic story? Here we have Cinderella, complete with evil stepmother and stepsisters, fairy godmother, and Prince Charming. (His name is even Char…though it’s short for Charmont, but close enough. He’s definitely charming). In this book, we take the idea of a girl not being in control of her own destiny to a whole new extreme – she literally is under a spell that FORCES her to obey.
Ella is immediately likeable which is good since we’re in first person from her point of view. Though her situation often seems hopeless, she will always put up a fight and in the end proves just how selfless she can be and how strong her love for her prince and her country really are.