BOOK REVIEW: The Swan Prince by Danielle E. Shipley

17826115Series: The Wilderhark Tales #1
Publication Date: May 23rd 2013 by Ever On Word
Genres: fantasy
My Rating: 5 Stars

Catching her leg in a bear trap proves the least of Sula’s worries. Haunted by an enchanted monster from a past she dare not reveal, and hounded by the perilously perceptive young village doctor, Villem Deere, the headstrong girl of the woods gambles with fate by binding hers to that of Sigmund, the captivating orphan boy with mysterious nightly business of his own.
An enchantress’s curse turns a spoiled royal into a beast; a princess’s pricked finger places her under a hundred-year spell; bales of straw are spun as golden as the singing harp whisked down a giant beanstalk – all within sight of Wilderhark, the forest that’s seen it all. You’ve heard the stories – of young men scaling rope-like braids to assist the tower-bound damsel; of gorgeous gowns appearing just in time for a midnight ball; of frog princes, and swan princes, and princes saved from drowning by maidens of the sea. Tales of magic. Tales of adventure. Most of all, tales of true love. Once upon a time, you knew them as fairytales. Know them now as Wilderhark’s.

tumblr_ljldu0Iuvg1qao4gno1_500Here’s a thing you have to know about me to understand my adoration for Danielle E. Shipley’s Wilderhark Tales series: I grew up to walls and walls of fairy tale books. My mother had the most peculiar and most famous fairy tales alike all in one massive bookshelf, and as a child, it was like a towering wall of wonders and magic to little old me. Now, here’s the thing about Shipley as a writer that you need to know: her stories are re-imaginings of fairy tales a la Brothers Grimm, but what makes them stand out from so many other writers that chose to retell tales as old as time is that Shipley manages to draw you into her world from the very first sentence and won’t let go of you until the very last.
The Swan Prince tells the story of two rather peculiar teenage characters, Sula and Sigmund, two orphans looking for an escape from the magic that binds them. Villem Deere, a young doctor, is positively convinced there’s foul play at work when both of them disappear from the village orphanage, and begins to investigate the fantastical chasms that open up along the way for a rather enchanting and off-the-charts reveal (that I didn’t see coming, even though I knew it was coming, if that even makes sense, ha!)
wilderhark1While the words I’d use to describe Shipley’s writing would be in the likes of wonderful, magical, bewitching and luminescent, her characters – while meeting all those definitions, too – shine. Sula, for one, is an incredible dauntless, fierce, lonely and dainty character all at the same time, and I’m using these in nothing but a positive connotation. What I love about Sula was that she was likeable and unlikable, an arbitrary young girl, a human being. She wasn’t this absolute or that, she was simply real, which made her incredible. While Sigmund started out as the mysteriously charming male opposite, Villem stole the show for me because I had no idea what to expect from him. I didn’t know what kind of fairy tale role he’d eventually take on because he was just so peculiar, and while his point of view was super entertaining to read because I imagined him as this über-curious, weird doctor, I didn’t even notice the moment I fell hopelessly in love with him and began to consider him a friend. Shipley paints real human beings as her characters and writes them in such a way that in spite of their flaws, you begin to immerse yourself in them so much so that you literally whoop! when that off-the-charts reveal takes place by the end. She has an uncanny way to know what you want as a reader, when you don’t even know it yourself. Her characters and world-building make you forget that you know of all the fairy tales, and has you genuinely surprised at all the turns and twists in the story. When I first read The Swan Prince, and I have done so many, many times now, I entirely forgot I knew the stories behind her inspiration. The ending managed to surprise me, even, and it was the most peculiar thing to happen to me in a long time.
Basically, each book of the Wilderhark Tales is an individual pillar in my sanctuary from real-life. Shipley’s words soothe and encourage and paint such a vivid magic that has you escape into her story without much ado other than her terrific writing. Now, I’m not much of a religious person, I’m a very disillusioned-by-the-horrors-of-the-world type of girl, but whenever I pick up The Swan Prince, that part of me disappears and doesn’t come out until I’ve devoured the words cover to cover.
Processed with VSCOcam with hb1 presetI don’t believe in fate. Not at all. I met Ms. Shipley and her books by way of chance. And every time I pick up a copy for a reread, I can’t help but think that maybe a teeny tiny bit of fate played along anyway, because as a writer, Shipley’s books have saved me countless of times from really bad days with their phantasmal quests and unique action heroes and heroines. They’re little gems in a whole sea of present fairy tale galore, and their magic cannot and shouldn’t be ignored by anyone. They’re escapes from a rather dull and magic-less life, and a book that sucks you in and gives you all the peace in the world for the time you’re reading it is a very powerful book in my opinion. (Danielle, if you’re reading this, please make all your books the length of The Surrogate Sea from now on so that I can bask in them a little bit longer.



BOOK REVIEW: Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Cinder_hi-resSeries: The Lunar Chronicles #1
Publication Date: January 3rd 2012 by Feiwel & Friends
Genres: Young adult, fantasy, science fiction, romance
My Rating: 4 Stars

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

Oh my God, I wish I had Marissa Meyer’s The Lunar Chronicles series to grow up to, because, damn, that is one hell of a story well told. It’s a perfect blend between Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Star Wars and Sailor Moon, and the first book, Cinder, was a great way to introduce us to the futuristic setting of Meyer’s world. I think it’s safe to say this is my favourite series right now, no competition whatsoever.
21258_1_miscellaneous_digital_art_futuristic_futuristic_city KopieForget about Disney’s depiction of Cinderella, Meyer’s title-character Linh Cinder (don’t you just love how easily that name works here?) is much more exciting! You know, instead of singing with animals and having to scrub floors (I’m not saying that’s a boring or bad thing, but I prefer my female characters a little bit more unconventional and it doesn’t get more unconventional than Meyer’s interpretation of the character, trust me), Cinder’s a cyborg mechanic mad about tinkering with anything and everything she can get in her hands. The land of far, far away is the Eastern Commonwealth of the Earthen Union, a new unified Asia that has existed for some 125+years. But next to new unions and countries having formed on earth, there’s also an entirely new kingdom on the moon – Lunar, to be more precisely! Earth and Lunar have a less than stellar relationship, and political disagreements with their tyrant queen have pained the Earthen Union for years.
HeidiSo here we are, aspects of pretty much every genre ranging from dystopia to science fiction and fairy tales taking place all within the walls of the city of New Beijing – a world where cyborgs, humans whose bodies have been extended with mechanical elements, are being treated as second-class citizens since the Cyborg Protection Act, a law which not only prevents our heroine Cinder from being accepted into society beyond her mechanical skills, but also makes her a possible, albeit unwilling test subject for the union’s cyborg draft, to be examined in research for a cure for the world’s new black plague outbreak of letumosis. When Cinder meets Kai, the Emporer’s son, life seems to finally take a change for the better. But what would a retelling of one of the most famous and beloved fairy tales be without the evil stepmother that turns it all to hell, right? Trying to struggle with work, her growing (and unconventional) relationship with Kai, her friendship with robot Iko and secrets that seem to corner her every step she takes, there’s that ball to look forward to that will change her life forever – not because Kai has asked her to attend, but because even more secrets are going to be revealed when she comes face to face with Lunar Queen Levana and her mind-controlling entourage.
IMG_7626 Kopie 2Cinder tended to be a little lengthy at times simply because a big part of the story was the calm before the storm, but ultimately Meyer did a terrific job of setting up Cinder’s journey, her being the red thread weaving itself through the series and its upcoming new characters, so to speak. Meyer’s stunning world-building and amazing character constructions make for an absolutely brilliant read. Cinder is misunderstood, but she’s yearning for so much more, and this smart and kind diamond-in-the-rough just screams for some amazing character development along the way. You just know that Cinder and Kai will be going through a hell of a lot of troubles and that this is only the beginning of a journey with so much raw potential, it sort of, maybe, quite possibly has become even more dear to me than Star Wars. Because here we have this amazing cyborg girl who is thrust into layers upon layers of secrets, and even though she’s been burnt her whole life, she’s determined not to give up. It’s something I’ve always loved about the original Cinderella tale, and something I am absolutely smitten with in Cinder, that the main character has always been strong and resilient, never losing focus on her dreams. And despite Kai being an Emperor’s son and all, Cinder owns this book completely. The discoveries she makes about herself and the history around her propel Kai and even funny and charming Iko into the background, and while both the reader and the main characters seem to have no clue how to initially operate in this dizzying enigma of a world, Meyer makes sure you know just enough to be begging for more – because she leaves us with that little bit of hope that we’re not just going to places next – we’re going to space!