Godmother: The Secret Cinderella Story by Carolyn Turgeon

Lil lives a quiet life, working each day in a dusty used book shop in Manhatten,  then returning home to her lonely apartment each night.  We soon realize, godmotherhowever, that Lil is not just any old woman.  Home after a long day of work, she draws a warm bath, undresses and sinks into the welcoming warmth.  “I was alone, finally, completely free.  I leaned forward and unclenched my back.  A pure feeling of bliss moved through me.  My wings unfurled.  White feather by white feather, curving out and up toward the ceiling, spreading to their full span, like two halves to one heart, until they tapped the walls.”

You see Lil is a fairy.  A very famous fairy.  Imagine a Cinderella story where the fairy godmother botches the big night with tragic consequences.  Banished in disgrace  from the fairy world, Lil finds herself living amongst the humans in New York City, old and lonely and longing to return to her world.   One day in the book store she sees a book  with photos of the Cottingley fairies  and becomes convinced that the familiar fairy faces she sees in the photos are a sign that if she can just complete the assignment that she botched hundreds of years before, she can return to her world.  One day beautiful, quirky Veronica walks into the bookstore and soon Lil is on a mission to match her with the “prince” who owns the bookstore and send them to a  charity ball at the Pierre Hotel. 

Turgeon gives us a darker take on the familiar Cinderella fairy tale with some unexpected surprises.  Moving back and forth in time between the Cinderella story and the modern day story, we grow to love Lil and feel her sadness, loneliness and isolation.  We root for her to successfully accomplish her mission and find redemption and a way back to her world.  The story ends with a twist that may leave you feeling a bit disappointed, or maybe even a little bit cheated if you expected the typical “happily ever after” ending, but overall I found the whole story quite enchanting.

 

My Rating: 

 

Burn Me Deadly by Alex Bledsoe

Burn Me Deadly HC

The Dragon was so enthralled by The Sword-Edged Blonde, she couldn’t resist another trip to Neceda, and it was a journey well worth taking.

So come with me, my Wild Things, for here there be dragons.

Eddie LaCrosse is a sword jockey for hire. For a fee he investigates missing persons, domestic indiscretions, and murder most foul. A good thing, because the case Eddie takes on in Burn Me Deadly is personal.

Eddie is returning from a routine job late one night when a beautiful woman begs him to help her. Against his better judgment, he agrees to escort her safely to Neceda, but before they reach the city, they are waylaid by unknown assailants. Eddie is left for dead beside the girl’s mutilated body in a secluded ravine.

Of course, Eddie isn’t going to let this slide. With no other clue than the intricate dragon design on his assailant’s boots, Eddie is soon searching Neceda’s wild streets to find the girl’s killers. Legends are involved, tales of dragons that burned through the skies and were worshipped as gods, but this is Neceda where nothing is ever as it seems.

Alex Bledsoe treats us to another adventure where he blends hardboiled detective fiction with heroic fantasy and somehow makes it all come together. Here there be dragons and their worshippers, gangsters, and murder for hire, yet Bledsoe infuses his world with a sense of realism through Eddie’s pragmatic observations.

Bledsoe ups the ante by bringing much needed adult observations and maturity to the fantasy genre. Yet Burn Me Deadly is neither stodgy nor plodding; this novel is a breathless run through the violent streets of Neceda. Younger readers will enjoy the fast-paced action while enthusiasts such as the Dragon will pleasure in Bledsoe’s nuanced story-telling.

With a deserved starred review from Publishers Weekly, Burn Me Deadly will be released on November 10, 2009. While you’re waiting, Alex Bledsoe shares what he learned about dragons and dragon cults with his research At the Fiery Altar: The Dragon Cult of Burn Me Deadly.

Go on, my Wild Things, go back to Neceda. You can tell them the Dragon sent you.

My rating:

The Sword-Edged Blonde by Alex Bledsoe

Sword Edged Blonde Oh my dear, Wild Things, this novel made the old Dragon dance for joy. Yes indeedy, that was a sight. Long has she loved the mystery and fantasy genres, so she salutes Alex Bledsoe, who has combined two great genres and entertains us with a story that is simultaneously wicked funny and dark as a devil’s soul.

Gather close . . .

Eddie LaCrosse is a sword jockey, a sword for hire, who understands the need for discretion. A routine case becomes extraordinary when Eddie is summoned by the King of Arentia to solve the murder of the royal heir. Queen Rhiannon has been accused of an unspeakable crime, and King Philip wants Eddie to find the truth, but the truth follows a winding path into an underworld of gangsters and corruption.

This is Philip Marlowe meets Thieves World, and Alex Bledsoe mixes the mystery/fantasy genres with savage grace. Bledsoe segues from Eddie’s past to his present so two tales intertwine with style, and while the plot is labyrinthine, Bledsoe’s clear prose and dynamic pacing keeps the story moving.

The characters are real with heartbreaking betrayals, and the dialogue snaps. While there were light moments that made me laugh out loud, there is nothing frivolous about this dark tale. Eddie’s encounter with the goddess, Epona, was written with a nightmare quality worthy of any horror novel, and a macabre limerick that forms a clue never leaves your mind. Bledsoe ties his clues together neatly at the end without being trite, treating the reader to one ah-ha moment after another.

Finally, I am delighted to find a fantasy for adults who seek substance over fluff! I’ll be watching for more of Alex Bledsoe and so should you.

My rating:

The Gentling Box by Lisa Mannetti

The Gentling BoxOh my Wild Things, come close, come close; the Dragon has a treasure for you.  I remember now what it is to be afraid . . .

It is the mid-nineteenth century, but the Age of Enlightenment has bypassed Hungary and Romania’s itinerant gypsy population.  Imre is a half-gypsy horse trader who lives with his wife and daughter in Hungary, but their happy existence is shattered when they receive word that his wife’s mother, the sorceress Anyeta, is dying.  Mimi insists they go to Romania to ease her mother’s final days and against his better judgment, Imre agrees to make the journey with his wife and young daughter, Lenore.

By the time they arrive, Anyeta’s body is dead, but the old sorceress’ spirit has taken possession of another woman’s body.  Anyeta contrives to seduce Imre from his family so she can destroy him.  Anyeta has plans for Imre and Mimi’s beloved daughter, Lenore.  Imre can stop the sorceress, but first he must overcome his own terror of using the gentling box.

Imre’s haunting tale grabs the reader by the eyeballs from page one and does not let go. In spite of his best efforts, Imre watches everything he loves slip away, and his struggle with his conscience is heartbreaking. Mannetti weaves Imre’s story with skill and her dark prose evokes the wild loneliness of the Romanian wilderness where Imre’s small family struggles against Anyeta’s evil.

I was delighted by the accuracy of Mannetti’s research both into Romany culture and the time period.  Mannetti recently won the Bram Stoker Award for first novel with The Gentling Box, and it is an honor that is richly deserved.

I warn you now: let no one disturb you when you read this novel, because you will not want to stop until you have devoured the last word.  I could not put The Gentling Box down and neither shall you.

Tshailo sim.”

I am replete . . . (hehe)

My rating:

The Bell at Sealey Head by Patricia A. McKillip

I believe this is the most recent book by Patricia McKillip (published in late 2008) and it is my third McKillip book.  While I did enjoy it for the most part, it was the least satisfying McKillip book to date for me.

The story centers around a crumbling manor house in the small town of Sealey Head, perched on the cliffs above the sea.  To all outward appearances, not much happens at Aislinn House where Lady Eglantyne lies on her deathbed.  The only sign that things are not as they seem is the mournful tolling of a bell as the sun goes down each day.  No one knows where the bell is or what it signifies.  It has been a part of the lives of the residents of Sealey Head for so many years that many don’t even notice it any more.

It soon becomes apparent that there is another side to Aislinn House which only a select few people know about.  Emma, the housemaid, sometimes opens what seems to be a closet door or a door to an unused bedroom and finds instead a parallel world of princesses and knights entangled in some sort of bizarre ritualistic existence unchanged for year upon year.

The entire idea of the story is fascinating and as I said before I did enjoy the book, but the ending was a bit of a letdown with many questions left unanswered (for me at least).  The mystery is wrapped up rather quickly and anticlimactically (is that a word?).  Of the three McKillip books I’ve read, this one seemed to have the least of the enchanting and poetic language that initially drew me to her work when I read In the Forests of Serre

Still, I would recommend this one to McKillip fans and those who have not discovered McKillip yet and enjoy “world within a world” fantasies.  As always, the artwork on the cover by Kinuko Y. Craft is extraordinary as well.

My Rating: 

Winter Rose by Patricia A. McKillip

Having greatly enjoyed my first McKillip book, In the Forests of Serre, I moved immediately to Winter Rose with great anticipation.   Rois and Laurel are two sisters, opposites in every way.  Laurel is calm, serene and happily making beautiful lacey things  for her upcoming wedding to Perrin.  Rois prefers losing herself in the woods, wandering barefoot collecting flowers and herbs.  One day handsome Corbet Lynn shows up at crumbling Lynn Hall intent on rebuilding his family home, stirring up gossip and talk in the village of the murder that took place years before and the curse on the Lynn family.

At this point I was enjoying the “gentle elegance” of McKillip’s style (as described by Library Journal), but scratching my head thinking that this story was shaping up as a typical historical romance.  Around about Chapter 7 I began to realize that things weren’t quite what they seemed.  That charming spring in the woods reflected more than just the bramble roses hiding it, and Rois was hearing more than just the wind in the trees.  Not to mention that odd look in Corbet’s eye. 

McKillip weaves a tale as intricate as that tangle of bramble roses, drawing us into her fantasy world (or should I say worlds?) and holding us there with beautiful, evocative language.  I’ve already started my third McKillip book of the summer,The Bell at Sealey Head, and it’s only May.

My Rating: 

In the Forests of Serre by Patricia A. McKillip

When I was twelve-years-old (yes, my Wild Things, I was not hatched old; it only seems that way) I was browsing the stacks at the Reidsville Public Library and found a slim paperback book entitled The Forgotten Beasts of Eld, by Patricia A. McKillip.  It was my first fantasy, and that novel led me to Peter S. Beagle’s The Last Unicorn, then to The Hobbit, and on to a life-long love of fantasy, folklore, and stories.  Most importantly, The Forgotten Beasts of Eld made me a fan of Patricia A. McKillip and her bewitching, beautiful characters.

In the Forests of Serre is an enchanting novel that tells the tale of Ronan, crown prince of the land of Serre, who seeks death through war, because his grief over the loss of his wife and child has made his heart a barren thing.  While riding home, Ronan accidentally kills the prized white hen of the oldest witch in Serre, Brume. Ronan refuses to enter Brume’s cottage of bones, and the witch places a curse on him that will cause him to wander the forest of Serre until he finds her once more.

Thread by thread, Ms. McKillip then weaves into her story the beautiful princess Sidonie; the ancient wizard Unciel; the brash, young wizard, Gyre; and the scribe, Euan. Each character plays a part in Ronan’s tale, and only Patricia McKillip could spin such an intricate yarn about grief, love, and what it means to steal a heart.

With her elegant prose and her rich characters, Ms. McKillip sweeps the reader into a fairy tale as colorful and elaborate as the Unicorn Tapestries. So I invite you to journey to the forest of Serre where “ you never know when and where a tale will become true . . .”

My Rating: