Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Some Fairy Tales

Bebel Gilberto's new CD, All in One, came out yesterday! I'm a big fan and the disc doesn't disappoint. And I'd like to sincerely thank everyone who bought something from Amazon by clicking first on one of my links, because it was this summer's commission that bought me the CD.

Princess of the Midnight Ball Jessica Day George

You know I love a good fairy tale retelling and some of my favorites (The Night Dance, Wildwood Dancing) have been based on "Twelve Dancing Princesses." So, I was both really excited and kinda nervous about Princess of the Midnight Ball.

Luckily, it was awesome (I'll admit I was a lot less nervous after reading George's Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow). Based loosely on pre-unified Germany, the kingdom of Wesfalin has just finished a long war against Analousia. Galen grew up in the army and is glad to be done with that life, finding work with his uncle, the head gardner at the palace. There, he meets the twelve princesses, bound and cursed to dance every third night for the legendary and evil King Under Stone. Their binding is the price their mother paid to ensure the Wesfalin victory in the war. And, as the story goes, the Westfalin king is disturbed to see his daughter's dancing shoes worn out so often (especially as how can he be expected to buy new shoes when his country is in such poverty after the war?). Things get even worse as the princes cannot find out where the girls go and rumors of witchcraft spread, prompting drastic action from the Church.

One of the things I really liked about this book is that we got a lot of Galen's side of the story. In fact, most of it is Galen's point of view, with some chapters focusing on the princesses thrown in. Also, Galen knits! After living with the army, he had to learn to knit if he wanted his own socks and hats, and it's something he continues to do to calm his nerves (and keep his feet warm.) Such knitting ends up playing a large role in the story and there are even knitting patterns at the end of the book, which is awesome. And more knitting patterns at George's website, which is more awesome. A most excellent retelling.

Tender Morsels Margo Lanagan

I read this book five months ago and I'm still not entirely sure how I feel about this retelling of "Snow White and Rose Red".

Liga retreats to a magical heaven (her heart's desire) after bearing two children--one the product of repeated rape by her father, one the product of gang rape by some neighborhood boys. While she is safe and content there, her daughters long for more and eventually they come back to the real world.

This isn't an easy book--lots of plot lines and a lot of sections switching to first person narration without telling us who the narrator is (and who the narrator is switches from section to section.)

It moves a little slowly and while I cared deeply for Liga and her daughters, it was a hard read for me. I had to put it down often and go do something else and then come b ack to it and I don't know why. It wasn't the complexity of the novel and it wasn't the content, something about it... I don't know. It's really well written and crafted, but it just didn't do it for me on a lot of levels and I didn't like it.

I also didn't like the gender politics that exisited in the real world. Really, really, really didn't like the societal rules and how much they were unquestioned by everyone else. This is probably really true of a certain time and place, but it annoyed the hell out of me.

And then the end! ACK!


Anonymous said...

Hm! Princess of the Midnight Ball sounds interesting.... especially if they've incorporated knitting into the folk tale (by a guy, no less). I really enjoyed Juliet Marillier's Wildwood Dancing.


Anonymous said...

Um, a man that knits? Yes, that's totally what I just got out of your review -- and I'm thoroughly intrigued! :) haha. No, seriously, it sounds great... I'll have to look for it. And Wildwood Dancing has been on my list for a while!

Tender Morsels? Meh. Sounds interesting, but disturbing!