My friend Hope Ann is releasing her book Shadow of the Hersweald tomorrow. It’s the third book in her fantasy retelling novella series and my favorite so far.
The fact that I enjoyed this one so much shows that I rather like anti-heroes. Because our main character Haydn is certainly an anti-hero. He’s got good intentions and he’s got boundaries, he’s not exactly a bad person, but as he says, “There are some who don’t deserve a pardon.” He’s determined to make sure they don’t get it.
The other characters are equally fascinating and very well developed for the length of the book. In fact the whole story felt much longer than a novella. The plot was very rounded and I got a great sense of this new part of the world.
The Hansel and Gretal aspect of the story became apparent pretty quickly, but it went places I didn’t expect it. I probably should have, but I don’t tend to doubt perfectly nice characters. Anyway siblings are one of my favourite character pairings and this didn’t disappoint.
If you like fairytale re-tellings or Christian fantasy, I highly recommend this. I’m looking forward to see what aspect of this diverse world Hope will bring out next.
About the Book
They would have to come that afternoon. Haydn glared at the rutted road twisted away from the gate beneath him, slithering into the shadows of the Hersweald. And what was the flaming idea behind leaving him in charge? Tregaron in the hands of a criminal… that would put them all in the good graces of the province governor, no questions asked.
A battered soldier from a defeated army, Haydn knows there is only one end to the arrival of the Prince’s governor. Except he hasn’t counted on the Prince himself. Or the pardon which his recent foe has declared to acquit all those who fought against him.
A pardon Haydn detests.
A pardon that refuses to punish the rebels now threatening his own village. And threatening his sister.
Guilt-ridden from his own actions during the war, Haydn knows there are others who have no conscience at all. Others who are using the freedom of the pardon to forward their own desperate schemes.
With enemies closing in on all sides, a pardon that refuses punishment, and nightmares of murder and fire haunting his every thought, will Haydn recognize the truth or will his fear condemn everything he loves to destruction?
Although the history of Aslaria and the conflict between the Prince and the rebel, Tauscher, flow chronologically through the series, each novella in the Legends of Light series is a stand-alone story. Each novella focuses on one of the nine aspects of the Fruit of the Spirit while twisting fairy tales in a clean, exciting, and inspiring manner.
“Open the gates, Dyfed,” Haydn called down. His voice jolted the men to their feet.
They sprang into action under the terse orders of a short figure with muscular arms. The heavy planked gates swung open with protesting groans. The great doors quivered against the earthen walls as the horsemen approached.
Mathias was in the lead. The man’s hair was grayer than last time. Thinner too, perhaps, but his grizzled face, set jaw, and sharp nose belied any change in either strength or personality. His blue eyes never glanced upward as Haydn saluted. But another pair did.
Haydn stared, his arm frozen in mid-motion. Traveon… Where had he come from? Of course, it was expected the governor would bring his son. Some said they’d reconciled during the war. Or maybe it had more to do with the death of Mathias’s wife.
Traveon’s lean face flashed a quick smile and his hand brushed his brown hair in a sharp salute. Haydn’s throat tightened, his breath hissing between compressed lips. He’d braced himself against arrest or judgment before his mother and Gorawen. But Traveon… He bit back an oath. Now they’d be one happy circle of family and old friends.
Haydn blinked and swallowed hard as the last horseman passed through the gates. He gave a quick nod to the men below and the doors squealed shut. Haydn pivoted. His boots clomped down the steps, each thud echoing like a heavy drumbeat.
“Keep watch until Eurof returns,” Haydn ordered over the heavy crash of the bar falling back into place.
About the Author
Hope Ann is a Christian authoress who lives on a small farm in northern Indiana. She was homeschooled and now helps teach several of her eight younger siblings.
She has been writing for over five years and has so many story ideas that she doubts she will ever stop. Her favorite genre to write is high fantasy with a touch of the allegorical. A close second is futuristic suspense. Her goal is to not only entertain with her stories but to provide inspirational fiction for young adults.
Predictably, she loves reading fantasy, fairy tales, mythology, and futuristic suspense. Her favorite authors include J. R. R. Tolkien, Charles Dickens, Frank Peretti, Mark Twain, and Serena Chase.
Her hobbies include photography, movie making, knitting, tree climbing, writing e-mails to friends, listening to Celtic music, and collecting shiny trinkets for story inspiration.
Happy Book Birthday to Runaway Lyrics by C. O. Bonham.
I have an interview of one of the characters over on my blog (link in profile) asking with directions to the rest of the blog tour. It's probably the character on the corner, but hard to be certain as this book features identical twins.
I just finished reading Prophet's Apprentice by Cassandra Boyson. I've read a lot of good books and I'm not sure I could call this one spectacular or groundbreaking in anyway, but I just really, really liked it.
It's a solid example of a book that uses fantasy to explore supernatural themes. Sort of a chosen one story, but not about being chosen as a hero to save the kingdom, but as a prophet to do, well, the weird stuff prophets get up to. Wyn doesn't really know what she's doing it why she's been chosen.
The characters are fun. Wynn is super capable, except when it comes to most prophet matters, Phillip keeps tripping over his own feet and the prophet is a nutter who adores Wynn, is both wise and child-like, and does everything the great one asks of him without being perfect.
It was a good book and I'm definitely planning to read more by Cassandra Boyson.
Today I've got another reimagined fairytale (there might be a theme of me not liking my retellings to be straightforward)
K. M. Shea's Snow Queen books (Heart of Ice, Sacrifice, and the short story collection Snowflakes) have a lot of elements of the original Hans Christian Andersen tale, but they're all spun into an epic fantasy romance. Lots of themes of courage, love and redemption and wonderful characters. The books have a lot of feeling, but a good dose of humour too and plenty of depth to the plots.
I don't really want to make comparisons to Frozen, but there's an element or three that I strongly suspect were inspired by that. The snow Queen is a princess with ice powers who got exiled to an ice castle in the mountains and she's not evil: That's in there. Some sort of moose/elk creature: Actually has nothing to do with Frozen. That's really about the extent of the overlap. Heart of Ice certainly doesn't feel like a Disney movie.
These books are linked to K. M. Shea's Timeless Fairy Tales and Fairy Tale Enchantress series, but they stand alone very well.
(All images are versions of the book covers and belong to K. M. Shea)
Today it's two books for the price of… well, the price is none of my business. I won The Ryn and The Remedy by @serena_chase in a Talk Like a Pirate Day giveaway many years ago and they are gorgeous books.
The books, well mostly the first one, contain so many elements from the tale of Snow White and Rose Red without taking much from the plot at all. This is a quest story with adventure, disguises, ancient evils and plenty of royals and nobles. The world building is magnificent, the allegorical elements aren't bad and the prophecies are of the long, detailed kind instead of the vague kind if that matters to you.
Unlike the emphasis of the original tale, this isn't really a story about sisters and their mother, but it does have family and romance. Pirates too.
There's magic, but only a small amount, telepathy which is something I love, and heroic and interesting characters. (sometimes they're both)
For anyone who might be confused, Snow White and Rose Red is a completely different tale from Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, though it does have a dwarf of its own.
For other retellings of the tale, keep an eye out for the Frosted Roses Challenge books coming out next month. There's going to be a lot of good books.
The Entwined Tales series is extremely humourous, making fun of a bunch of fairytale tropes. This poor family has the most unhelpful fairy-godfather who has no interest in listening to what they actually want and generally makes things worse with my magical gifts.
Melanie Cellier's book in the series is what introduces me to her as an author and is at least as good as her later books. An Inconvenient Princess is funny, features twins, and doesn't approach the story of Rapunzel in at all a conventional way. It's been a while, but I can recall enough to know neither of the twins is a princess.
Honourable mention to Misfortune by Kendra E. Ardnek. It manages to merge Rapunzel with the apocryphal story of Daniel and the Dragon and sticking Rapunzel in a Ziggurat is a great idea. (also, any books released in the Golden Braids challenge that Kendra hosted are also wonderful. Mechanical Heart by Sarah Pennington and The Dragon's Flower by Wyn Estelle Owens. So good!)
It took me searching on my Kindle to recall a retelling of The Little Mermaid that said out in anyway. Other books such as The Mermaid's Sister by Carrie Anne Noble and The Seahorse Legacy and The Sunken Realm by Serena Chase( which doesn't even have mermaids) came to mind instead.
The Tomb of the Sea Witch is an obvious choice for me. I do like twisted around versions of fairytale and what Kyle Robert Shultz does in the Beaumont and Beasley books is part twist, part sequel and part deconstruction of myth. If 'what actually happened is all backwards and worse than you ever imagined' can count as a deconstruction. The book has lots of twists and turns and pain and people not coping well and I love it. Also, there's little hints of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and that makes it better.
Honourable mentions because given a little time I can think of more books: The Little Selkie by K. M. Shea is humourous and a fairly straight up retelling. The Siren and the Scholar by J. M. Stengl is a more modern magical world with a bit of a rom-com feel. A light retelling instead of the fate of a kingdom. I've not read either of these in a while, but I'll probably reread then someday. There's a couple more I could mention, but they've actually got mermaids in them, so I won't.
Beauty and the Beast, a many times retold tale, but one that that's a bit tricky to do well.
I've read a good many retellings and Masque by @wrgingell is definitely one that stands out. It's not a very traditional retelling, but that's certainly enough elements for it to count.
Masque is a murder mystery in a magical world that I found delightful and surprising. Isabella Farrah is a very independent heroine with a tendency to stick herself into things others would rather she stayed out of. She gets herself in and out of trouble with only a thumbtack worth of magic and doesn't care too much what people think of her.
(Warning for mildly disturbing gore and the sense that danger is going to catch up)
Other honorable mentions for Beauty and the Beast include Thorn of Rose by Emily Deady, The Rose and The Wand by E. J. Kitchens, Midnight for a Curse also by E. J. Kitchens and of course Kill the Beast by Michelle Israel Harper.
Ladle Rat Rotten Hut!
Ignore the linguistic geekiness. I mean Little Red Riding Hood. Obviously.
I just discovered that @michele_israel_harper's new book is coming out and there's an Instagram challenge starting today/yesterday. I'm looking forward to reading Silence the Siren (here's to hoping the library will get it for when they reopen) and I certainly have read enough fairytales to pick out a few.
I'm never going to stop talking about Anne B. Walsh's books whenever they're appropriate. The Marrain Chronicles add are a series of (too few) mixed up fairytale retellings that don't ignore the darkness in the originals or in the world, but bring about happy endings all the same. This is not Little Red Riding as you know it, but it is a lovely charming story.
“Why, Grandmother,” said Little Red Riding Hood, “what big ears you have!”
“All the better to hear you with, my dear,” said the Big Bad Wolf.
Sofia Holtzer, trapped in an unhappy marriage to a forester, finds what solace she can in picking flowers near her cottage in the woods. An unexpected encounter with an old woman in a fur-trimmed cloak of red might have the power to change her life. But in a world where magic hides in plain view, no one is ever quite who they seem to be at first…
Set in the magical land of Pasaka and starring the colorfully-cloaked Marrain family, the Marrain Chronicles take a playful approach to retelling traditional fairy tales without shying away from their darker aspects.