Tag Archives: transformation

Rose Daughter

McKinley, Robin. Rose Daughter (1998). 287 Pages. Ace. $6.99

Robin McKinley is known for her fairytale retellings; Beauty and Rose Daughter both retell Beauty & the Beast, while Spindle’s End retells Sleeping Beauty, and Deerskin retells Donkey Skin, which is a lesser known tale, I believe. All of her books exist in worlds steeped in magic, full of amazing things, which is part of why they (and the characters who inhabit them) are so very interesting.

It’s always hard to know what to say about fairytale retellings; everyone knows the basic story, the beginning, and the end. Beauty is taken from her family, and eventually she falls in love with the Beast. It’s that middle part, the part that can vary, the way they get from A to B that really makes the story unique.

Rose Daughter is about Beauty, Jeweltongue, and Lionheart, three sisters who were not very close while they lived in the city– there were too many other things to do. Each girl comes into her own when they move out to Longchance– and Rose Cottage. Jeweltongue learns to sew, and make beautiful clothing, Lionheart disguises herself as a boy and tends to horses, and Beauty gardens. When their father gets a message saying that one of his long lost ships has arrived, he departs, and it is upon his return that he encounters the Beast.

Beauty’s time at the castle is special, and a bit unique. Every day when she wakes up, there are more animals, moving back in thanks to her. There is a mystery– revolving around cheese, though it is not a silly mystery as that statement makes it sound– and some danger. The Beast has hidden depths, and ultimately, Beauty must make a very important choice which changes the course of their life together.

First Lines:

Her earliest memory was of waking up from the dram. It was also her only clear memory of her mother. Her mother was beautiful, dashing, the toast of the town. Her youngest daughter remembered the blur of activity, friends and hangers-on, soothsayers, and staff, the bad-tempered pet dragon on a leash– bad tempered on account of the ocarunda leaves in his food … — the constant glamour and motion which was her mother and her mother’s world.

Thoughts

Rose Daughter may be another Beauty & the Beast retelling, but it is very different from Beauty, this story’s predecessor.

Beauty is, in fact, a beautiful girl, whose talents are mostly of the quiet variety; she is good with plants, roses will grow for her, and she seems to radiate calm and peace, helping her entire family stay together through the worst of it all. Her sisters are flashier, and more vibrant; Jeweltongue is known for her wit and cleverness, Lionheart for her temper and bravery (though each discover more traits which lead to greater happiness), but without Beauty, they would have been lost. Even Beauty’s father discovers a quieter sort of happiness, and his own talent.

The time Beauty spends at the castle is interesting; she is overwhelmed by the silence of the place, and tries to understand (at least a little) the magic which keeps the place running. Her relationship with the Beast is complicated from the start, which somehow makes it easier to accept her feelings for him; she sees early on that there is some humanity in him. Even more interesting is the idea that the Beast is not a Beast because of an enchantress’s curse, but rather because of something else.

Most of the book is very good; we get a lot about Beauty and her family, which makes them feel real. We get less about the Beast, but we still get a fair amount of his story. We lack a lot about the residents of Longchance, which is mostly ok, because the story isn’t about them, but they do play a major role in plot development. There is a difference in chronology between the Beast’s castle and the mundane world, and it is never questioned or explained, just allowed to be. There are a few more things which could have strengthened the story, but it is not bad because they are lacking.

Despite its flaws, it is a good book with a solid story, and is well worth reading. (It also stands up to multiple reads, which is important, as I am known to re-read favorites.) It gets a 4/5.

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Filed under Book Review, Fairy Tales Retold, Fantasy, High Fantasy, Historical Romance, Romance, Young Adult Fiction

The Extra-Ordinary Princess

Ebbit, Carolyn Q. The Extra-Ordinary Princess (2009). 324 Pages. Bloomsbury. $7.99

From the Back Cover:

In the peaceful land of Gossling, there are four princesses. The three older girls are beautiful and talented and very good at everything they do– but not the fourth. Amelia’s unruly red hair, imperfect schoolwork, and disdain for anything prim and proper make her a most unlikely princess.

Then a plague sweeps through the land of Gossling, taking the lives of the girls’ parents. With Amelia’s eldest sister too young to rule, the kingdom is left in the hands of their terrifying uncle, Count Raven. But before Count Raven can cast a spell over them to protect his reign forever, Amelia escapes. Now it seems the fate of her sisters– and the kingdom of Gossling– is in the hands of a girl who will prove she is much more than ordinary.

First Lines:

On the sixth day, the queen lay dying. The afternoon was bright, and the sun peeking through the tightly drawn curtain was strong, though outside the heat of the past ten weeks has broken and it was finally fall.

For four months a terrible illness had spread through the small country of Gossling; it spread quickly through the tiny towns and villages, traveling down the long rivers and over high hills, through the country’s dense forests and into its cities. No scientist, doctor, or scholar knew how the sickness spread or how it might be cured. ….

Thoughts:

If the book had been what was suggested by the back cover, then it might have been brilliant. Indeed, the concept was a solid one; Amelia, youngest of four, struggles with a sense of self, and feelings of inadequacy. Where her sisters are talented, and everything seems effortless to them, Amelia has to work hard. She is not particularly smart, not particularly graceful, and not particularly anything. She is ordinary, and cannot handle her ordinariness.

When the plague comes to the country, Amelia’s parents send her and her sisters away to their summer home in the mountains. Finally, her parents succumb to the disease, leaving Merrill only 7 weeks shy of the 18 years-old that she needs to be in order to rule. Why they could not have disregarded this rule, I do not know. Seven weeks is not so very much difference, frankly.

So anyway, the Evil Uncle comes– you know he’s evil from the beginning, and it only gets more obvious from there. He turns Merrill into a tree, and Lily and Rose into swans. He misses Amelia, because she is still in the summer palace with chicken pox. From here, things take a steep downturn.

Amelia runs off with her friend Henry and her enemy Meg and begins her adventure in a place called the Sunflower Forest. From there, they travel quite a bit, seemingly unperturbed by the forty-day limit they have in which to save her sisters. Eventually, they end up in the Night Forest, a magical place, where Henry is given a prophesy saying that he will save the kingdom (which he never does), and Amelia gets three magical rocks which she can wish on. I put emphasis on the three because she uses it four times. (Once for Henry, once for Meg, twice for different transportation.)

When Amelia and Henry are in the Mountains, they are distressed that there are only three days left, but when they meet their allies after traveling two days, they state that there are 48 hours remaining until the curse becomes permanent.  Time remains an issue through the end of the book, as numbers are simply thrown around “two hours later” “four hours later”, “at two-fifteen in the morning” etc.

On top of all of this, there are many, many fruitless side-plots. Meg is not evil, but spoiled, and she becomes “good”, sort of. Amelia is dyslexic, but it only shows up in one chapter. The plague ends after her parents die, but nobody ever speculates as to its source or purpose, and later in the book, someone mentions checking the progress of the plague. The title “White Queen” is thrown around quite a bit, but at times it seems it is meant to be secret, and at times it seems to be public knowledge. Amelia and her sisters have their own magic, but it rarely manifests itself, except when convenient. Henry is a gardener’s son, but the queen took an interest in him and nursed him herself, making him Amelia’s “milk twin” but this is never really explained.

There is so much going on in this book that at times it seems to lose track of itself, which is unfortunate, because it has a lot of potential. The concept is good, and with a few less distracting side-plots, and some more focus on fixing inconsistencies, it could have actually been a good book. In part, it was the writing, and in part it was the editing which doomed this book to score a 2/5.

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Filed under Children's Fiction, Fantasy, High Fantasy

Beastly

Flinn, Alex. Beastly (2007). 336 Pages. HarperTeen. $16.99

I got Beastly from the library*, though I can’t for the life of me remember why I even thought of checking it out. It was a pretty good story, and though there were some moments which felt cheesy, I didn’t find it hard to suspend reality and get into the book.**

In an exclusive school full of the ultra-rich children of New York millionaires, Kyle Kingsbury is the top. His father (a newscaster) is one of the richest of the rich,*** he’s the most handsome boy in school, and he’s about to become Prince of the “Spring Dance,” which is not prom. I’m not sure why it’s not prom, because it should be, but whatever. Kyle is a jerk who gets away with anything because of his good looks.

In a moment of ultimate jerkitude, Kyle asks an unpopular goth girl to go to the dance, intending to stand her up. He has a date– the hot, slutty, dumb girl– and she’s in on the joke. Of course, Kendra (the unpopular goth girl) is more than she seems. Angered by his callousness, she curses him to become a beast. Not an animal, like a lion or a bear, but a Beast. He has two years to find his true love, and get a kiss, or he will be a beast forever.

Kyle’s father is hellbent on restoring his son to his former beauty. They visit doctor after doctor, meeting anyone who has even the slightest chance of finding a cure. When that fails, Kyle’s father loses interest in his son, and sends him to a Brooklyn brownstone with Magda the maid. Kyle begins his transformation here, when he calls his father and demands a tutor, and internet access.

Time passes, and Kyle grows closer to Will– his blind tutor– and Magda (the maid). Kyle and Will create a back yard greenhouse in which they grow roses, and things seem peaceful (though hopeless) until a drug addict breaks in. Kyle scares the man senseless, and threatens to take video footage of the break-in to the police unless he hands over his daughter. A few days later, Lind(a?, y?)**** is delivered to his door.

The progression from there is not exactly surprising. Kyle grows to care for Linda, and his plans go from trying to convince her to not hate him, to genuinely wanting to make her happy. The two seem like good friends, and they have fun together being nearly-normal teenagers. It is Beauty and the Beast, so it does follow the standard path of her leaving for her father, him nearly dying because of it, and them getting a happily-ever-after, but the setting was not all that was changed, so it manages to still be a little surprising.

Stylistically, there is one thing which bothers me; the chat sessions. Interspersed throughout the transitions in the novel are support-group “chats” for transformed teens. They didn’t add anything, and were rather annoying. I don’t care about the “little mermaid” in Denmark (or Norway, or wherever she is) or the frog prince. They were an unnecessary distraction, and did not even manage to be funny. The novel would have been better without them. Despite that, or perhaps in spite of, this novel managed to be surprisingly good.

In Conclusion:

With strong writing, and excellent narrative, this story manages to survive the transplant from “Once upon a time” to 21st century New York City without falling apart. The characters are great, and getting the story from Kyle’s perspective helps make the transformation from spoiled prince to good person very interesting, and strong. The book gets a 5/5, and I’ll have to buy a copy, since I picked this up from the library.

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*I need to rant about what I found when I opened this book. There are a lot of different types of security tape for libraries. I know, I’ve put a lot of them in a lot of books. I spent a lot of time dealing with mag strips, which we installed in different spots depending upon the binding. For hard-covers, we put it in the spine. (Stretch your book out, so the gap appears between the block and the cover, we used a metal rod to put it in there.) For paperbacks, we sandwiched it between a few unimportant pages, as close to the spine as possible, so it did not interfere with reading. Well, for this particular library book, they failed miserably at that. It’s on page 1, and it’s hanging out.

** I always picture me hanging up a pair of suspenders and jumping into a book when I say “suspend reality” or “suspend disbelief.” I suppose that makes me a bit weird, but there are much worse fates, I think.

*** Are prime time news reporters really that rich?

**** She is originally introduced as Linda (when we first get her name on p. 77), but is later called Lindy (by her father, on p. 152). The two names are used interchangeably throughout, and the girl doesn’t seem to care which one she is called. This bothered me a lot, and I really could not figure out whether her name was Linda or Lindy. It’s  not like one is a reasonable nickname for the other, either.

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As I was browsing Ye Olde Internets, I found out that Beastly got produced as a movie, due Spring 2011. It looks… interesting.

This is a part of the Local Library Reading Challenge.

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Filed under Book Review, Contemporary Romance, Fairy Tales Retold, Urban Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction