The Evolution of the Fairy Tale – Retellings in the Modern Age

*Where I ramble on about fairy tale retellings*

I think it’s been a really long time since I did a rambly thought post like this. Today, I just wanted to talk a bit about the modern fairy tale retelling.

grimm's fairy taleIn many ways, fairy tales are coming full circle. Retellings are getting darker and grittier- “back to the basics” of the horrific Grimm versions. Yes, Disney did pretty them up a bit, once upon a time, perhaps because of changing theories about the of the need to protect childhood innocence, but what I’ve noticed in recent years is that there is more of an appetite for “adult” retellings. Though I don’t think this is coming from the realisation that darker stories help people adjust to the real world, I do think that free markets are a huge influencer in this, because, even if the theorists don’t get behind this idea (and many do), the fact of the matter is the markets will provide what people are willing to pay for.

PrincessAuroraSleepsBUT this is not to say that they haven’t changed drastically at the same time. These modern day retellings are clear subversions of the originals. If it is true to say that the women are passive in early Disney versions, then this is nothing compared to the portrayal of “heroines” in the like of Grimm, Perrault or Basile. In fact, I am even reluctant to call them heroines, for the simple reason that sometimes all they do is lie there and get impregnated by random princes… Yeah that actually happens to Sleeping Beauty in the Italian version. The heroines now are so far removed from that they have taken on the role of an almost Greek goddess type figure- unstoppable, wildly powerful and sometimes a little unrelatable (hello Mary Sue).

This drive to the other extreme has had interesting consequences for fairy tales. Because before we put on the hat of superiority about our own time, we should probably note how it is flawed in different ways. One of the drawbacks to this approach that I have noticed is a tendency to turn male characters into the damsel in distress ie Kai in The Lunar Chronicles. Now, I don’t personally think it is such a problem to have a “damsel” character, be it male or female, because the need to save another human being, especially a loved one, is an incredibly powerful motivator. This role reversal is just an interesting phenomenon that I have noticed. The issue I often find with this is that it can end up emasculating the male characters to the point where they feel superfluous or uninteresting. Whether male or female, if a character constantly needs saving, they can be a bit of a bore. A healthy balance, where they save each other, while cheesy, often works best for me personally.

Cinderella_2015_official_posterYet those are just some of the drawbacks I’ve noticed in modern retellings. What really gets me is the loss of the central messages. Take Cinderella, where one of the core messages is that goodness will be rewarded. To my mind, it was never about being “saved” but to “have courage and be kind” (to coin the Disney live action maxim). But where are the morals in so many retellings? Sometimes they just seem to be about how kickass a character can be, which, don’t get me wrong, is a lot of fun- but hardly connected with a story about being kind. For instance, by making Celaena an assassin no less (not exactly the most “kind” profession) I fail to see any connection with the story it’s supposedly retelling. It’s no surprise to me (though a little disappointing) that it’s ended up going the Messianic route in terms of plot and seemingly abandoned all  hint of Cinderella. Thus we are back to the idea of subversion and, oddly enough, in some ways abandonment of the core messages altogether.

So I don’t really have any happy or comfortable conclusions to draw from this. Fairy tales have changed, they always will change. But do those changes work all the time? What do you think? Let me know in the comments below!

Court of Wings and a Teensy Bit of Ruin

*Minor spoilers and snark*

court of wings and ruinSuperfans of the series look away- actually- on second thoughts- come back!- what with the spoiler warning there’s probably no one left. Ah well, I guess I can say what I want then…

So let’s start at the very beginning (a very good place to start…) At first, I have to say I was a little… disappointed. It was slow to start and there was not much ruin in the opening section– at least not as much as I’d hoped. Call me old fashioned, but I was hoping for some grim and gritty revenge fantasies. Instead we got some minor punking. Not really what I had in mind.

Okay, so now that we have established that my soul is as black as the night, we can move onto the action. Oh no, wait we couldn’t. Because the pace was slooow. I wrote in my notes that it started speeding up around 45%- 45%?!?- in a book this long??? You’ve got to be kidding me.

What gets me more than anything though is that on paper (obviously not the paper this was written on) this should have been good stuff. I mean revenge and planning for war- that’s dramatic, right?! WRONG! They spend *so long* planning for war, plotting who’s gonna be involved, where it’s gonna be at- never mind that going to war was a foregone conclusion. Add some posturing, where the strong masculine manly males show off with their “look how strong I am” poses, and it felt like reading the bickerings of a high school prom committee.

Okay- so not a great start- but now I’ve got to talk something else that bothered me (I swear after this, we’ll get to the good bits- probably…): the writing. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of Maas writing in general. Still as you may be able to tell with how long it took to get to the action, this book felt bloated and like it could have done with a bit of a trim– I usually try not to complain when an author lets their freak flag fly and really goes for it with the word count, but there’s no way of getting round this one: sometimes less is more! Ultimately, while there were some gorgeous points to the writing, I’m kind of bored with being given “what I want” in the form of unnecessarily chunky books and would rather someone took an axe to the boring bits. Plus, even though there were some truly lovely, inspiring parts, there was the occasional corny line that can get under my skin when I’m in a crankier mood:

“Leave this world… a better place than how you found it.”

(Yeah sometimes I’m not into that level of cheese)

Okay *deep breath* that’s over- let’s hope I never have to critique Maas again, cos that was not fun. Let’s get onto what I liked- the characters! Now unlike Throne of Glass I’ve always found the characters in this to be a mixed bag– some I love, some I’m meh about. I’ve often found I’m a bit uncertain about Nesta and Elain, cos let’s face it, they can be whiny and difficult. Funnily enough Nesta, for all her prickliness, is growing on me more. On the upside, I’ve forgotten why I disliked Feyre in the first book, cos I really liked her in this. Of course a lot of my babies from the Night Court were back and some magnificent new additions from the other courts. And, major plus, I have a new favourite in Helion.

I have seen criticism from people that she shoehorned in the LGBT part- but I will say that I disagree cos it makes sense for the character she spent a book building up. Although I didn’t guess it, I had been wondering about what was up with them. To be honest when people complain about stuff like that, it just feels like a no-win situation for a lot of authors- damned if you do, damned if you don’t. (And for the record I never would have even thought of this non-issue, if not for seeing it in a ton of other reviews).

In terms of world building- well the aforementioned additions in terms of characters, and consequently courts, were some of the best parts about this book. Not only did Dawn and Day add an interesting dynamic to the story, we also got hints of things going on beyond the realms of the story. I felt like details such as the the Nephelle Philosophy added interesting layers and, while Nephilim are old hat for a lot of people, this will be a slight change for Maas. Plus despite the fact I’m not usually a fan of off-topic myth building, I did thoroughly enjoyed all the little Easter eggs for the rest of the series and I like the sound of where it’s going (possibly swan lake?).

In terms of the conclusion, however, I don’t want to hold too much stock in this being the first Maas ending I’ve read. It was good and shit went down, but it was only an ending of sorts and a lot was left hanging. I’m going to hold onto that feeling that it’s not really over- because to be honest, the ending was not as dramatic as I wanted, because *spoiler warning* it was a mirror image of the ending to book 1. And because of that, it didn’t feel like there were any real stakes and was far too predictable. As exciting as it got, I was never too worried about what would happen. It was just not the hammer blow I wanted it to be.

At this point it probably sounds like I didn’t like it, but I did. I know, I know, I’ve just spent this entire post moaning. There were some really exciting bits and I couldn’t fault it for grabbing my attention at times. Yet… looking back on this “trilogy” as a whole, I still feel like Throne of Glass is the more cohesive story and I find the twists more convincing. And yes, I shouldn’t really be comparing this so much to throne of Glass, but ah well. I guess I may only ever be a TOG Superfan…

Rating: 3½/5 bananas

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Hope you enjoyed that- even if I did peeve some of Maas’ fans :/ This actually turned out to be an appropriate book to review tonight, given that it’s the summer solstice and magic is in the air, so my question tonight is- WHAT’S THE MEANING OF STONEHENGE?

Happy Tuesday!!

Well hello lovelies!! I hope you’re all having a wonderful start to the week! I have to say I’m in a fantastic mood for two reasons:

  • The weather is *glorious* right now! I’ve been soaking up as much of this rare glimpse of the sun as possible!!
  • I reached 1500 followers!!!

I just wanted to say a quick THANK YOU to everyone that’s following me- it really means a lot!!

thank you cat

And cos I haven’t done one of these in well over a year, I thought I’d do a chill Q&A to celebrate. So yeah, this is your opportunity to ask me all those soul-searching questions like “What is the meaning of life?” and “is the moon really made of cheese?” (in answer to those- 42 and yes). No question is too silly or too serious (though silly questions are preferred 😉 ) Just write your questions in the comments and I’ll answer in another post!

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(any excuse to use this image and I’ll do it)

So ask away!!

My Top Ten Books Featuring Sisterhood

*Warning there will be lots of pink and gushing girliness in this post*

Phew it is hot today- I don’t know how anyone gets anything done when it’s so hot! Resisting the urge to just lounge around all day, I thought I’d follow on from yesterday’s post and talk about sisters in books!

I don’t think sisterly love gets nearly enough attention in books- so today I want to celebrate some of my favourite books that feature sisters (both real and metaphorical) in a big way!  And just a heads up, I won’t be including any creepy long lost identical long lost twins or back or backstabbing biatches here- this one’s all about the positivity (mostly 😉 ):

pride and prejudice

  1. Pride and Prejudice– how could I not include Austen? The queen of the sisterhood?! That would be madness! In fact, I was actually super tempted to put Sense and Sensibility on here as well, but let’s face it, nothing beats Lizzy and Jane’s relationship!

i capture the castle.jpg

  1. I Capture the Castle– so mostly I just want an excuse to mention a childhood favourite. But there is a strong sister relationship in this book- only trouble is, even after all these years I can’t quite put my finger on where that relationship ends up at the end of the book. Ah well, it still deserves to be on this list, partly because I have always wanted to be part of this wacky family, but mostly because I secretly want to live in a derelict castle with no heating… (says the girl that couldn’t stand the Scottish winters)

little women

  1. Little Women– apart from this book giving me the warm fuzzies every time I think about it, this book hands down has one of my favourite family dynamics in literature- and guess what? They’re all girls! Yay- girl power! The March sisters are adorable, quirky and love fiercely- but my goodness you don’t want to get in the middle when that goes awry- there are ups and downs in this book that still make me cry (and not just the obvious *ahem* unmentionable parts- seriously don’t mention it, or you will reduce me to a fluffy orange mess again…)

Sisterhood_of_the_Traveling_Pants_book_cover

  1. Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants– you knew it was coming- after my review yesterday it can’t come as a surprise. What’s especially wonderful about this series is that it has every type of sisterly relationship- it deals with the figurative, the blood relations and the “oh goodness what category are you in” type of sister. And even more importantly, it doesn’t shy away from conflict between sisters (really just an occupational hazard)- instead directly addressing the issues they have and letting the characters grow as a result.

to all the boys

  1. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before– I’ve mentioned it before- but one of the best things about this series is the *lovely* sister relationships in it. Like my previous choice, it doesn’t make them buddy-buddy all the time- but that’s a-okay with me! Because complex dynamics are so important when portraying any relationship- and especially in something as nuanced and complicated as sisters!

court of thorns and roses

  1. A Court of Thorns and Roses Trilogy– okay so I wasn’t actually sure whether to include this one, because initially *avert your eyes superfans* I wasn’t totally sold on the sister relationships. It just seemed to be based on the protagonist’s older sisters letting her do all the work for them. But, while I’m still not convinced of this series’ perfection- review of ACOWAR to come *very* soon– I did find the sister relationships grew on me.

red sister

  1. Red Sister– okay, so no one in this book was technically a biological sister- BUT they were all Sisters- you know, nuns. Killer nuns in fact. And let’s face it, when am I gonna pass up an opportunity to mention killer nuns? (Plus they also had developed really great bonds with each other- but to be honest my brain is still on the *deadly nuns* thing to go into detail 😉 )

the young elites

  1. Young Elites– This one is another really unusual one, because this series is so out there. And I can’t talk too much about why I love this sister relationship, because of *spoilers*. But what I can say is this relationship ends up being super integral to the plot and the story’s conclusion- and how many non-romantic relationships can you say that about really? Let alone sister relationships?

hunger games

  1. Hunger Games– and speaking of another sister relationship that is integral to a book’s plot, what about Katniss Everdeen and her sister Prim. There would have been no story if Katniss hadn’t offered herself as tribute to save her sister. And as for where this relationship ends up going… well let’s not go there shall we (seriously, it’s like I designed this post to get all teary or something!)

how i live now

  1. How I Live Now– okay, so another cheerless book about the end of the world. But there was one thing I always took heart from and that was Daisy holding Piper’s hand and leading her through the literal end of the world- they’re not technically sisters, yet this image of sisterly devotion is burned into my mind whenever I think of a moment of sisterhood in books. I just want to point to it and say *that right there* (there’s also a lot of weird shit in this book, but at least there’s family at the centre of it all)

Okay that post ended up going in a darker direction than I intended. Do you agree or disagree with my choices? What book do you think is a great representation of sisterhood? Let me know in the comments below!

And naturally, I dedicate this post to my sister the monkey baby (yes that is her real nickname and no I am not making that up)

Sisterhood Everlasting

Sisterhood everlastingWell hello everyone- today I’m going to be taking a lot of you back in a time machine- cos I know this series was popular *so long ago*. But I finally picked it up this year and read it right through to the end, so I’m gonna do something pretty unusual and review the last one in the series *with no spoilers* (I know- wish me luck!)

Now when it came to this book it ended up being nothing like what I expected. If you’re at all familiar with this series, you’ll know it’s fluffy and cute and wonderfully summery… And that is not the same vibe you get from this book. I thought this book would be just another frothy, light, heart-warming book, and, well, that’s not what I got. This book was a total break from form.

So after saying all of that, I should have been disappointed, right? WRONG! Just because this book was not what I wanted or expected, in the end it gave me *exactly* what I needed. It ended up being something I never even realised I was looking for.

As I said, I don’t want to give any spoilers, but I will say that the themes of this book spoke to me so much more than I expected and I sobbed the whole way through. And I mean ugly crying. Till my eyes had grown tired with tears and my head heavy. I was an ugly mess of orange fur 😉

Undoubtedly, one of the best things about this series is the characters. I cannot begin to describe how lifelike they are. Someone said on the back of this book: “Ann Brashares knows her characters”- well I feel like I know them too. All of them are my babies at this point and I have grown so attached to them (including Carmen, my least favourite, who honestly has her moments, but really shines and comes through when she’s helping others!)

Ultimately, this book will make you want to grab hold of your sisters (both real and metaphorical) and give them a massive squidge! (Shout out to my own marvellous sister, who I buddy read this with!)

As if that wasn’t enough to *make you read this book now* I found the writing in this book some of the loveliest in the series:

“He’d shown her his seams.”

“Her sadness was all over his face.”

“We aren’t built for leaving”

I don’t know why, but this simplistic, yet gorgeous style just spoke to me. Plus, in case that wasn’t enough, one of the songs it quoted is a favourite:

This is a *perfect* book to enjoy (well maybe get a cathartic kick out of) on a lovely sunny day. Or a rainy day. Or any day really. Just as long as you have somewhere you can cry in private.

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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Hope you liked that! Have you read this book or series? Do you like it? And what book have you read recently that gave you an emotional kick? Let me know in the comments!

 

King of Thorns is Another Stinging Blow for Fantasy!

king of thornsWell this was a show stopper make no mistake! Although I shouldn’t be surprised because this is what I’ve come to expect from a Mark Lawrence book! This book was absolutely chockablock with the non-stop excitement!

Jam packed with action, a great plot and character development, especially from Katherine, this was a wholly satisfying read. Also, while I’m on the subject of character, MORE JORG is always welcome in my life. And Lawrence doesn’t let up in his characterisation- I mean just look at this:

“Genealogy can work for me or I can cut down the family tree and make a battering ram”

How stonkingly good is that writing? How perfectly balanced is that double entendre? It’s a thing of beauty.

Like the first one, I thought it was excellently structured (which I somehow missed out in my review). I loved how it flicked between time periods and found the way the story folded in on itself. It was masterfully done.

And in terms of the construction of this book, I have to talk a moment about the world building. I’ve mentioned before how I love the ominously dystopic elements in this series- but the true magic and ingenuity is in the details like Fexler- no spoilers, but it’s awesome!

Rating: 4½/5 bananas

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Have you read this series? Do you like it? Let me know in the comments!

Going Postal For, Well, Going Postal

going postalOk so I’ve vaguely hinted at British politics last week… But now it’s time to talk about what’s really important to Brits: the Post Office.

Now us Brits have a weird thing about the Post Office. Thatcher used to say how barmy we’d all go if it was privatised (sneaky bloody Cameron snuck it through though). Anyway, I digress.

In this biting satire, Pratchett explores just why the Post Office is such an amazing, important institution! (a statement which should of course be sealed with a loving kiss 😉 )

Everything from the premise to the characters is just perfect. I loved the name Moist Von Lipwig in particular and I adored how good ol’ Vetinari’s characterised in this one.

But best of all, this one was packed full of some of the Pratchett’s best, pithiest, wittiest quotes:

“I commend my soul to any god that can find it.”

“See a pin and pick it up, and, all day long, you’ll have a pin.” 

“Steal five dollars and you’re a common thief. Steal thousands and you’re either the government or a hero”

I usually have a hard time reviewing Pratchett, cos, well it’s Pratchett and I feel the *pressure*, but this one just called to me. Definitely one of my favourites:

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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Well, have you read this one? If not, what are you waiting for?!