The Ordinary Princess – M. M. Kaye

Source: Goodreads

Princess Amy is the youngest of seven princesses, and her parents are sure she will be the most beautiful… until the court advisors insist that all of the local fairies should be invited to the christening, and then no one bothers to provide adequate transportation for the eldest fairy, Crustacea, and she gives Amy the gift of being ordinary. When her parents begin to despair and the court advisors begin to get desperate for her to marry, Amy decides to run away and live in the forest. The approaching winter pushes Amy to get a job as a kitchen maid in order to afford new clothes. Little does she know that the man-of-all-work she quickly befriends is really the young King Algernon, who is just as ordinary as she is!


This book holds a special place in my heart as the first story I have memories of reading all on my own. I’m sure there were others before it, probably the Little Golden Books versions of Cinderella and The Little Mermaid, maybe even some other beloved books, but I don’t remember reading them like I remember reading this. I remember loving it so much I immediately started it over from the beginning.

Amethyst (Who’s name I distinctly remember pronouncing as “Azmyth”) was ordinary, with mousy brown hair like my own, and she ran away and made a life for herself. She was never a princess that needed to be rescued. She fell in love the way normal people do, slowly, and she lived happily ever after with a gaggle of children and the love of her life.

This book showed me that there was magic to be found in the mundane, that you didn’t need to be “the chosen one” to have an adventure – that life was the adventure – and that everyone has their own path to take to get where they’re headed.

Princess Amy and Prince Perry’s story might be the one that started my writing. If someone like Amy could find adventure and love, then so could anyone. And if adventure was a possibility for anyone, than writing was possible for me. It gave me permission to be myself instead of the cookie-cutter images of perfect little girls I saw on television and in other books. I could pursue my interests, chase my curiosities, have my adventures, and still someday find love. I’m happy to say that since that day, at maybe 6 or 7 years old, I’ve never looked back. I’ve chased my dreams and let nothing hold me back. And I’d just like to thank Queen Amethyst Alexandra Augusta Araminta Adelaide Aurelia Anne (originally of Phantasmorania) and King Algernon (+7 more names, one of which is Peregrine) of Ambergelder for showing me that being myself was the best thing I could ever wish to be.


HHC Rating: 5 Stars.

The Bear and The Nightingale (Winternight, #1) – Katherine Arden

Winternight-The-Bear-And-The-Nightingale-Katherine-Arden
Photo: Goodreads

As if you all didn’t already know of my love for fairytale retellings based on my reaction to Uprooted last year, let this be a testament. In this version of the classic Russian tale Vasilisa the Beautiful, Katherine Arden reimagines Vasya as the youngest child of a wealthy trader and his late wife, who herself was the daughter of the late ruler.

Vasya is indeed beautiful, but with a wild streak. As her elder sister begins preparing to marry, Vasya’s father Pyotr realizes that there will be no women to run Vasya’s life and makes the decision to remarry himself. At his brother-in-law’s insistence, he marries a woman whose faith dictates her life, and who is nearly as young as his sons.

About this time a young priest is rising to prominence in Moscow, threatening the power of the grand duke and the tentative peace across Russia. The grand duke decrees that the priest will travel with Pyotr when he returns to the north and to serve as the regional priest.

Vasya’s new stepmother and the new priest begin implementing Christian values in place of the old traditions, threatening the ancient spirits that protect Vasya’s homeland. As the townsfolks’ faith in the old ways waivers so do the life forces of their protectors. Vasya can see and communicate with the mysterious creatures, and soon finds herself the protector of the protectors. But a greater evil lurks in the forest, and it is only a matter of time – as the old ones weaken – until it wakes and comes for it’s due.

 

Much like Uprooted did last year, The Bear and the Nightingale transported me to another realm,  another time. The twists and turns! The intricacy of the plot! The landscape itself was so beautifully depicted that it took my breath away. Arden has succeeded in creating a future classic with a permanent place on my shelf. And it’s a series! The second book, The Girl in the Tower, was released last year and the final book in the trilogy has been announced for release sometime early next year. I cannot wait to dive back into Vasya’s world: magical, dangerous, and filled with religion and court intrigue.

 

HHC Rating: 5 Stars.

 

Other books in this series:
Book #2 – The Girl in the Tower
Book #3 – The Winter of the Witch

 

 

Disenchanted: The Trials of Cinderella (Tyme, #2) – Megan Morrison

Tyme-Disenchanted-The-Trials-Of-Cinderella-Megan-Morrison

Source: Goodreads

 

Ella Coach doesn’t want riches or fame, only justice for a mother who died working in a sweatshop. Prince Charming isn’t looking for true love, but he’s done playing with people’s hearts too, now that The Charming Curse has been broken. Serge is an executive fairy godfather. He’s granted wishes beyond your wildest dreams, even made queens out of barmaids, but now he caters mostly to the rich and famous who pay to be on his list. Until one day a name no one knows appears on it. Ella Coach.

 

This second installment in Morrison’s Tyme series is just as fantastic as the first. Unlike Grounded, in which we follow the characters on an epic quest of sorts, Disenchanted deals with problems much closer to home. A prince who is finally free to act like himself grapples with the world who liked him better the way he was. A girl who knows first hand the horrors of a sweatshop sets out to make things right. A fairy uncovers a nefarious plot to overthrow a corrupted king. We also get a Cinderella who’s a person of color, and she’s not the only POC character! There’s also a Crimson Fairy who is dealing with everyone hating him base don his heritage, and then the normal class wars that you see in most fairytales. There’s a lot going on here, but it all melds together beautifully.

While I was disappointed at first that we weren’t going to explore multiple kingdoms this time around, I found the in-depth look at a single kingdom infinitely interesting. Because Ella is dealing with worker compensation, the reader gets a good hard look at the economy in the kingdom of Blue. Morrison has a talent for taking real-world problems and making them understandable to the average person, no matter their age. This narrative on the importance of all lives, not just the wealthy, is something everyone can relate to, especially right now.

The world building was wonderful yet again, and I can’t wait to see what else Morrison and her world of Tyme co-creator Ruth Virkus come up with for the next book in the series, which has tentatively been titled Transformed: The Perils of the Frog Prince and is due to be published in Summer 2018.

 

Curio Street Reads Rating:  5 Stars

 

Other reviews in this series:
Book #1 – Grounded: The Adventures of Rapunzel
Book #3 – Transformed: The Perils of the Frog Prince (To be published in Summer 2018)

Grounded: The Adventures of Rapunzel (Tyme, #1) – Megan Morrison

Grounded-Rapunzel-Megan-Morrison

via Goodreads

Rapunzel has lived in the tower her whole life. Her beloved Witch brings her everything her heart desires and protects her from evil princes who want to steal locks of her golden hair. Then Jack shows up insisting that Witch is lying, and although she’s sure that she’s never met this mysterious thief before, he seems to know her. Before she has time to call Witch for help, Jack has run off with one of Rapunzel’s beloved roses, and the only way to get it back is to go after him herself. On the ground. What waits for Rapunzel in the wide world of Tyme is more magical and terrifying than anything she could have imagined, and she’ll have to survive it all if she wants to know the truth: about Jack, about Witch, and about her own hidden past.

If you know me at all, you know that I simply adore a good fairytale. I picked this one up by chance at the library in April 2016. The original hardcover came out in 2015 and the paperback was released in May 2016, but I still have yet to find a store with either in stock. I find this appalling because the book is so good. Barnes & Noble and Amazon both have it online, but it’s not the same as having it at the ready to buy for all of my friends’ birthdays and Christmases.

Obviously, my favorite part is how the author deals with Rapunzel’s lack of knowledge about anything outside the game of jacks, but the world building is phenomenal as well. I believe the idea behind the series is that each book will follow different characters, which is exciting, but I’m kind of attached to Rapunzel and Jack now and I wouldn’t mind seeing them fix other fairy tales during their adventures.

I am also obsessed with the kingdoms being named after colors. It reminds me strongly of Andrew Lang’s Fairy Books (The Blue Fairy Book being the first and most well known), which are collections of fairy tales. There are a dozen books, and they were my absolute favorites growing up. Having Tyme’s kingdoms named after those colors feels to me like a nod of thanks to Lang and to all of our childhoods, regardless of whether or not that was the intention.

Goodreads tells me that Megan Morrison has been developing the world of Tyme with her friend Ruth Virkus, who is listed as the co-creator. So we might be able to expect some Tyme novels from Ruth as well. The second book in the series, Disenchanted, came out October 11th, 2016, and follows Cinderella. I’m beyond excited to dive into that book next.

HHC Rating: 5 stars

Other reviews in this series:
Book #2 – Disenchanted: The Trials of Cinderella (Review Available 8/29)
Book #3 – Transformed: The Perils of the Frog Prince (To be published in Summer 2018)

Ella Enchanted – Gail Carson Levine

Ella-Enchanted-Gail-Carson-Levine

Source: Goodreads

Ella is cursed at birth to be obedient: any order given to her must be obeyed. Up until she is fifteen, her mother and Mandy, their cook, have kept her safe from harm. That all changes when Ella is sent away to finishing school, where she must learn to brave the world and all of its occupants. Ella’s life is further complicated by the attentions of Prince Charmont, who’s love and friendship she desires, but whose life would be in constant danger if it were to become wrapped up in hers.

 

This book was my favorite as a child and has always held a special place in my heart. There are few books that are more important to me than the Harry Potter series, and this is one of them. Ella was one of, if not the very first strong female lead character I ever read about, and she has stuck with me through thick and thin. I think I’m on my third or fourth copy of the book because I love it so much that I used to lend it out (which I never do anymore), and people kept losing it for extended periods of time. So now I just buy copies for everyone and give them as gifts.

Re-reading it yesterday on my 25th birthday for what is probably the 30th or 40th time, I noticed a number of things I’ve been overlooking in the story. Growing up I always saw Ella as the epitome of a strong female character. I saw her as selfless, romantic, and kick-butt. Yesterday, I tried to pay attention to the little details, possibly for the first time since my initial reading all those years ago. Mainly what I realized is that there are no 100% good characters in this story. Mandy and Lucinda each have ways in which they can help Ella, but they decline to use their talents. Prince Charmont readily admits that he has anger issues and holds grudges for years – rather like Mr. Darcy’s ‘my good opinion once lost is lost forever’ nonsense. Even Ella is quite selfish. The story is told in the first person, occasionally delving into Ella’s mind and often into her intentions, and typically reveals that she is at her core a human teenage girl, not the kind of hero/heroine to be placed on a pedestal. Ultimately, it is her selfishness and the opposing need to be selfless that results in breaking the curse – in a very odd, somewhat confusing and relatively anticlimactic scene that made perfect sense to my younger self but now seems a little lack luster.

Over the years, I often picked up Ella Enchanted as a comfort read. If I was stressed then I could read about how Ella defeats her demons and gain the courage to fight my own. But this time around it was like looking at one of my heroes through fresh eyes or new spectacles, and realizing they were as much of a selfish brat in their early and mid teens as I was. Up until more recently, I deeply identified with Ella’s character, and growing out of her feels like I’m finally, just maybe, growing up.

This book is not perfect. I can admit that now – maybe for the first time – but it will always be especially dear to me. I may even love it more because of its imperfections. I definitely recommend this book (not the film. PLEASE NOT THE FILM) to LITERALLY EVERYONE, because there are just so many lessons, adventures and discoveries to be found in its pages.

 

HHC Rating: 5 Stars