Thursday, 17 November 2016

Retold Tales ~ Stealing Snow + Den Of Wolves Reviews



Fairytales have a way of transporting the mind and warming the heart.

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Unless they're Grimm's fairytales...in that case they're more likely to scar you for life than give you a happily ever after! Regardless of their endings however, fairytales have a magic to them that is hard to resist. Many modern authors have become masters at taking this magic and harnessing it - weaving it into the fabric of their retellings and causing us to fall in love with these stories all over again.

Retold tales should excite readers.

A good retelling won't stick too closely to the original so as to be predictable. Instead, it'll take small plot pieces and character traits, giving them a new, fresh twist.

Today I'll be reviewing two retellings: Stealing Snow by Danielle Paige and Den Of Wolves by Juliet Marillier.


Thanks to Allen & Unwin, Bloomsbury, and Pan Macmillan Australia I was able to experience the creative ways in which Ms Paige and Ms Marillier attempted to make classic tales their own. I can't wait to share these two tales with you guys - hopefully they'll intrigue you, entertain you, and above all have you falling in love with their worlds and characters.

So without further ado, let's get started!

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#1: Den Of Wolves (Blackthorn And Grim #3) by Juliet Marillier



TitleDen Of Wolves (Blackthorn And Grim #3)
AuthorJuliet Marillier
ImprintMacmillan Australia
Publication date: October 2016
Page(s): 384
Price: $14.99 (AUD) >> ebook 
$29.99 (AUD) >> paperback
Genre(s): fiction, romance, historical fiction

Synopsis: The “powerful and emotionally-charged” fantasy series from the author of the Sevenwaters novels continues, as Blackthorn and Grim face haunting secrets and old adversaries...

Feather bright and feather fine, None shall harm this child of mine...

Healer Blackthorn knows all too well the rules of her bond to the fey: seek no vengeance, help any who ask, do only good. But after the recent ordeal she and her companion, Grim, have suffered, she knows she cannot let go of her quest to bring justice to the man who ruined her life.

Despite her personal struggles, Blackthorn agrees to help the princess of Dalriada in taking care of a troubled young girl who has recently been brought to court, while Grim is sent to the girl’s home at Wolf Glen to aid her wealthy father with a strange task—repairing a broken-down house deep in the woods. It doesn’t take Grim long to realize that everything in Wolf Glen is not as it seems—the place is full of perilous secrets and deadly lies...

Back at Winterfalls, the evil touch of Blackthorn’s sworn enemy reopens old wounds and fuels her long-simmering passion for justice. With danger on two fronts, Blackthorn and Grim are faced with a heartbreaking choice—to stand once again by each other’s side or to fight their battles alone...


Add to your Goodreads bookshelf today!




              Rating


Juliet Marillier is pretty much a goddess.

The character development, the attention to detail, the breathtaking descriptions...this authoress knows how to give me a serious case of writer's envy! I wish I could write the ways she does. She has a way of creating each of her characters with an inner fire that makes them come to life on the page.

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Den of Wolves was the perfect conclusion to a truly incredible trilogy.

Writing a final novel has got to be so very hard. Firstly, there's the immense pressure to live up to the previous books (which, in this case, were everything!). Then, there's the pressure to give fans of the series an ending that satisfies but doesn't play into stereotypes or cliches, or takes the easy way out.

Finally, the author also has to make it memorable. A finale that will stay in the reader's mind for days, months, years to come. And Den of Wolves ticks all of those boxes.

Obscure or lesser known tales ignite my imagination.

I've always loved discovering new tales - either in their original forms, or via retellings - that are not as well known in the Western world. One of my favourites has always been the Norwegian fairy tale East of the Sun and West of the Moon (which partially inspired Sarah J. Maas' A Court of Thorns and Roses series).

And I was intrigued to find out that Den of Wolves draws inspiration from a traditional western Scotland tale Big MacVurich and the Monster.

Further research led me to discover some of the seeds that set the foundations for Den of Wolves. An online book outlines a tale involving a magical beast and a bargain. My favourite part was the song MacVurich sung as the beast worked on fulfilling the bargain which was both informative and kinda creepy...the perfect combination!

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But Ms Marillier doesn't take large chunks of the tale to make her work shine. She used it as inspiration which brought forth a richer, far more vivid tale that delighted me page to page, chapter to chapter.

Blackthorn is a badass heroine.

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She's just so real. She's incredibly capable but also has her weaknesses, and embraces those. But that weakness, that humanity, is harnessed into even greater strength which she shows in every situation she's thrust into.

Reading about her made me smile because it is possible to have a female character who embraces her strength without being all "I don't need anybody, don't you dare help me!" She knows what she's capable of and that's what makes her a true warrior.

The friendship between Grim and Blackthorn...

...is freaking adorable and everything and I'll start squealing madly if I keep going so I'm going to just leave this gif here:

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But the best part was no love triangles.

No over-the-top romance, or mushiness. No brooding male buffets! The romance element was subtle and very, very sneaky - only appearing towards the end as a delightful surprise. It wasn't the focal point of Ms Marillier's story and for that I am so, so thankful.

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Overall, Den of Wolves was a beautiful tale that showcases Ms Marillier's storytelling and talented 'painting' of words, landscapes, and characters.




'He moves away from Ripple, away from Grim. Curls in on himself, arms up over his head, eyes squeezed shut. Willing that night away. The night he lost her. The night he lost himself.'

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#2: Stealing Snow by Danielle Paige

TitleStealing Snow
Author: Danielle Paige
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Publication date: October 2016
Page(s): 384
Price: $16.99 (AUD)
Genre(s): YA, fantasy, retellings

Synopsis: A powerful, twisty, contemporary reimagining of The Snow Queen - with a heroine destined for acts of icy darkness, to become a villain, a queen and ultimately a hero. A gorgeously dark and grown-up Frozen

Seventeen-year-old Snow lives within the walls of the Whittaker Institute, a high security mental hospital in upstate New York. Deep down, she knows she doesn't belong there, but she has no memory of life outside, except for the strangest dreams. And then a mysterious, handsome man, an orderly in the hospital, opens a door - and Snow knows that she has to leave . 
She finds herself in icy Algid, her true home, with witches, thieves, and a strangely alluring boy named Kai. As secret after secret is revealed, Snow discovers that she is on the run from a royal lineage she's destined to inherit, a father more powerful and ruthless than she could have imagined, and choices of the heart that could change everything. Heroine or villain, queen or broken girl, frozen heart or true love, Snow must choose her fate .
A wonderfully icy fantastical romance, with a strong heroine choosing her own destiny, Danielle Paige's irresistibly page-turning Snow Queen is like Maleficent and Frozen all grown up.


Add to your Goodreads bookshelf today!



               
                   Rating:


Stealing Snow is like a basket of apples.

That basket of apples could contain some delicious, juicy apples that will have you making praise hands and dusting off your grandma's apple pie recipe. Or...it could be a basket of delicious, juicy apples that have been cursed by a witch, that will leave you waiting around for a prince to kiss you.

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To put it in normal people terms? Stealing Snow had a 50/50 chance of success.

From the very beginning it had equal odds. It was either going to be paralysingly brilliant, or leave me disappointed and craving chocolate.

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And - to be perfectly honest - I'm still not 100% sure how I feel about it! It's been a week since I finished the book and all I feel is a lingering sense of frustration. Mainly because I had such high expectations for this book and although it was a brilliantly written work, I just didn't connect with it the way I was expecting to.

But one man's poison apple is another man's apple pie!

I really need to quit it with these apple analogies before people start throwing apples at me! Many people have loved this book - and some of you may pick it up and find an instant favourite! - so I want to go into what I loved (and what I could have done without) when it came to Stealing Snow so you guys can make your own informed choices.

The base concepts for this novel were SO COOL.

The magic, the lore, the snow powers. There was so much for this novel to have built upon further. At the start of this post I mentioned how a good retelling showcases its uniqueness by not sticking too closely to the original tale. And Stealing Snow I think tried - I want to believe that! I think it started off with some great, fresh ideas that would have made for a story that could have stood on its own.

But no one was there to give them a little TLC.

Some care was needed to help these baby ideas blossom - to allow them to bloom fully. They needed a good amount of love and attention in order to truly shine.

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But there was no a whole lot of world-building, in my opinion, meaning that the story had to rely a lot more heavily on the original tale (which is either Snow White, or The Snow Queen...or both) and a much more standard story pathway.

Compared to Ms Paige's other works (shout out to Dorothy Must Die!) Stealing Snow was missing a tonne of intricate world-building that would have added so much more to the tale as a whole.

The stance on mental illness didn't sit well with me.

I'm going to give Stealing Snow the benefit of the doubt and I'll say that I think a negative/uneducated/thoughtless view of mental illness was not done purposefully. I'm sure there's a reason for Ms Paige's personal choices when it comes to the way Snow's 'insanity' was pieced together.

But, personally, I found it offensive and a little irritating that the portrayal of mental illness wasn't handled with the care it deserves. And it does deserve care - regardless of the fact that it's fiction. Topics like mental illness need to be handled correctly and not used as a convenient character or plot advancement tool.

There was just no realism. From Snow's childhood 'mishaps' and biting of people, to her miraculous 'recovery' once she comes into her own...I don't know, it just didn't sit right with me. If Stealing Snow really wanted to give an accurate and non-offensive mental illness portrayal, there were so many ways it could have gone about it.

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But (spoiler alert!) Snow isn't really mentally ill and ends up being normal, fine as rain, happy as a snowman in...well, snow! I just don't feel like that kind of inaccuracy was worth the brief amount of plot it gave.

I also prefer well-paced novels.

I get bored really easily! I also need time to read and absorb information. So my perfect novel isn't fast paced, or slow...it's somewhere in the middle. Enough details to fill you in, and enough pacing to keep you hooked and journeying on.

Stealing Snow kept recapping and recapping and information dumping at intervals which wasn't for me. It made it hard to really concentrate and become fully immersed in the book. There were times where the action made up for it, but the novel could have done with less commentary and more...like, actual more important stuff that wasn't included enough that should have been (*cough* World building! *cough*).

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I'm also over love triangles/angles/squares/octagons.

*breathes in*
*breathes out*
*tries to think happy thoughts*

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I just...I want unique romances!!

Please someone kill off love triangles and squares and annoying instances of girls being unable to decide between a bunch of guys who are all fine with her flitting between them like desserts at a broody-guy buffet.

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Do I love a good kissy scene? Why yes, yes I do.
Do I love broody males? Lemme think...of course I do!

But you cannot match these things with more broody males and more kissy scenes and more drama. Because when I pick up a book I'm not looking to watch an episode of The Bachelorette. I'm there to be transported and shown something I haven't seen/heard/read a hundred times before.


Between all the cliches (and the many many snow puns that came to mind) I couldn't fully enjoy what Stealing Snow had to offer.

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But - like with every book I review - I'm gonna remind you guys that that's just my opinion and this could be the book for you! You may enjoy Snow's tale, for all you know. Also the cover is to die for and looks gorgeous on your bookshelf.

Although Stealing Snow left me a little disappointed I will definitely be giving the next book a chance at a redemption. Hopefully Ms Paige can bring back her epic story writing skills and give us the magic we've been waiting for *crosses fingers*.






'We breathe out the lies; we stutter the truth.'

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Which book will you be adding to your TBR? What is your fave retelling you've read?

Let me know in the comments below!










Although I was provided with a review copy by the author and/or publisher, all opinions expressed in the this post are purely my own. To find out more, please visit my disclaimer page.





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