Crimson Bound

Title: Crimson Bound
Author: Rosamund Hodge
Series: Cruel Beauty Universe 2/2

Genre: Fairytale, Fantasy, Romance
Publisher: HarperCollins
Release Date: May 5th, 2015

First of all, let me just state that I do not understand how this can be labeled as a Little Red Riding Hood retelling. It’s a stretch, for sure.

Since she was fifteen, Rachelle was marked as one of the bloodbound – tied to the forest and the evil that infests it – and forced to live in servitude for the past three years. But even though she has been turned into a monster, she wants nothing more than to destroy the Devourer – a legend, supposedly – and prevent an eternal darkness from settling over her world for the rest of time.

Rachelle finds an unlikely ally in the prince of her realm, Armand – the last person she ever thought would help her. Together, they seek a lost sword that might be the only thing with the power to defeat the Devourer and save their world. But defeating the evil of the forest means making one sacrifice after another – sacrifices of both the heart and the flesh.

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Cruel Beauty

Title: Cruel Beauty
Author: Rosamund Hodge
Series: Cruel Beauty Universe 1/2

Genre: Fairytale, Fantasy, Mythology, Romance
Publisher: HarperCollins
Release Date: January 28th, 2014

You may have read one or two (or ten) retellings of Beauty and the Beast, but chances are you haven’t read one quite like this. Cruel Beauty’s fresh take on this classic tale was unexpected, captivating, and at times downright twisted. Here’s how it goes:

Seventeen-year-old Nyx had been groomed from birth to grow up to be the wife of a monster – a demon – because of a bargain made by her father in desperation. But when she finally fulfills her destiny and marries the Gentle Lord, she gets more than anyone bargained for. Her plan to break the curse he has held over her people for nine hundred years proves to be more difficult than she ever could have imagined, especially when she begins to think he might not be as much of a monster as she had always assumed him to be.

As more and more secrets are brought to life, Nyx uncovers the hold her demon lord husband has over the last prince of her people from long ago, but she cannot deny the hold he has over her. In a realization that there is darkness in every heart, not just the heart of a demon, she makes a sacrifice of her own heart for the sake of her people – a sacrifice that could turn out to be the key to the undoing of an age-old curse.

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Title: Ever
Author: Gail Carson Levine
Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade, Mythology, Romance, YA
Publisher: Harper
Release Date: May 6th, 2008

Kezi is a beautiful dancer, a skilled rug weaver – and a mortal. And because of a vow her father made to their god in desperation, she only has 30 days to live. To make her life even more complicated, she falls in love – with an immortal god. Olus, the god of winds, believes that he can help Kezi escape her impending fate; together, they risk everything to find a way to be together, and to save Kezi before she must make the ultimate sacrifice.

Told in a style different than the rest of her fairytales, Ever switches back and forth from Kezi’s to Olus’ point of view, giving us an enriched understanding of both characters. Levine’s Mesopotamian setting is also a step away from her usual fairytales, and gravitates more toward ancient mythology. I find it fascinating that Ever was inspired by the Old Testament story of Jephthah and his daughter, found in Judges 11:30-40. This was a fun read, especially if you are already a fan of Gail Carson Levine.

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Title: Fairest
Author: Gail Carson Levine
Genre: Fairytale, Fantasy, Middle Grade, Romance, YA
Publisher: Harper
Release Date: September 19th, 2006

Aza is an unlikely heroine, especially for a Snow White fairytale retelling. She is awkward, clumsy, and convinced she is far from beautiful. But her voice is truly the fairest of them all. Her magical singing gets her noticed by many in the kingdom of Ayortha, including the royal family.

When she goes from being an innkeeper’s daughter to the queen’s lady-in-waiting, Aza realizes her beautiful voice could put her in more danger than she ever could have known. She must navigate the attentions of the charming prince, Ijori, and the jealous new queen, while keeping secrets of her own.

In my opinion, Gail Carson Levine can do no wrong in her magical world of storytelling! I love her books, but my only problem with them is there are not enough.

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The Two Princesses of Bamarre

Title: The Two Princesses of Bamarre
Author: Gail Carson Levine
Genre: Fairytale, Fantasy, Middle Grade, Romance, YA
Publisher: Harper
Release Date: March 1st, 2004

Addie has never been the brave one who dreams of heroic adventures – that would be her sister, Meryl. Quiet and shy, Addie is scared of almost everything. Her biggest fear is losing Meryl to her adventures; but she doesn’t expect to lose Meryl in the safety of their own castle in Bamarre.

When Meryl falls dangerously ill with the Gray Death, Addie realizes that it is up to her to find a cure and save her beloved sister. She must face her fears and venture into the unknown if Meryl even stands a chance. Even though this is a quest she must do alone, she is sent with gifts from her friends – including their sorcerer, Rhys – to help her in times of need. Addie battles specters, gryphons, and a dragon – but will her valiant efforts be enough to save the person she loves most?

As with Ella Enchanted, I fell in love with this book as soon as I read it. Gail Carson Levine is a mater of her craft, with her characters, plots, and voice. If you also love these kinds of stories, you need to add this to your bookshelf!

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Ella Enchanted

Title: Ella Enchanted
Author: Gail Carson Levine
Genre: Fairytale, Fantasy, Middle Grade, Romance, YA
Publisher: Harper
Release Date: 1997

🌹 🌹 🌹 🌹 🌹

Happy 20th anniversary to Ella Enchanted

When she was a baby, Ella received the “gift” of obedience from a fairy. Now, she must obey any command given, great or small. More of a curse than a blessing, this gift controls her, and no matter how much she struggles against it, Ella always obeys in the end. Though many give Ella commands unknowingly, there are some who manipulate her deliberately – namely, her two stepsisters.

Ella suffers countless miseries in addition to the curse: the death of her beloved mother, neglect from her selfish father, abuse from her stepsisters, an insufferable finishing school. But through it all, Ella remains kind, vivacious, and brave, with the help of her friends – her fairy godmother, and the prince, Char. As Ella’s childhood friendship with Char gradually turns into something more, she realizes that her curse could be used not only to harm herself, but Char. Will Ella find a way to undo her curse, or will she be forced to sacrifice her happy ending to ensure the safety of the one she loves?

I read this book for the first time over a decade ago, and it remains one of my favorites to this day. Gail Carson Levine has influenced my writing in a huge way. Her fairytales are one of the reasons that made me want to write in the first place. Re-reading this book reminded me of what I’m looking for in fiction, and what I want to write. If you haven’t read it, read it.

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The Silent Songbird

Title: The Silent Songbird
Author: Melanie Dickerson
Series: Hagenheim / Fairy Tale Romance series, book 7
Genre: Christian, Fairytale, Historical, Romance, YA
Publisher: Zondervan
Release Date: November 8th, 2016

Note: Even though The Silent Songbird is the seventh in a series, it can be read as a stand-alone story, as with the other books in the series. However, the characters that are in this book are featured in some other stories, which is why I recommend staying in order.

A retelling of The Little Mermaid.

Evangeline, the ward of King Richard II, wants nothing more than to be free and to live her life outside the castle. And when the king decides that she will marry his closest advisor, a vile man at least twice her age, she knows she must seize whatever chance she has and flee the castle.

Pretending to be mute to keep herself unknown, she joins Wesley le Wyse and his small band of servants, heading back to their own village. She wishes she did not have to deceive Wesley, especially as she begins to form a friendship with him. But too much is at stake for her to reveal her identity now. Will she win her freedom, and find happiness with the man she loves, or will her ruse not be worth the all the deceit in the end?

I really enjoyed this retelling of The Little Mermaid! I haven’t actually read many retellings of the mute redhead with a fiery spirit, so this was a fun read. At this point, I am wondering if Melanie Dickerson has any more Hagenheim books up her sleeve? Maybe Aladdin, or Little Red Riding Hood, or something? Anything? I’m not ready for this series to come to an end!

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