by Marissa Meyer
Read: February 1-2, 2015
Published: January 27, 2015 by Feiwel & Friends
Source: Hardcopy Purchase
Category: fairytales, villain backstory, YA, science fiction
Series: The Lunar Chronicles #0.5 (prequel)
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Description: Mirror, mirror on the wall,
Who is the fairest of them all?
Fans of the Lunar Chronicles know Queen Levana as a ruler who uses her “glamour” to gain power. But long before she crossed paths with Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress, Levana lived a very different story – a story that has never been told . . . until now.
Marissa Meyer spins yet another unforgettable tale about love and war, deceit and death. This extraordinary book includes full-color art and an excerpt from Winter, the next book in the Lunar Chronicles series.
In Fairest we finally get Queen Levana's side of the story, and it was certainly enlightening in a horrifying way. That cover is only the tip of the iceberg in how creepy and disturbing Levana's tale is. Thanks to this book, I am now even more terrified of her and what is to come in Winter. Levana is a zealot to her cause, willing to do anything to accomplish it. Not because she's trying to be cruel, but because she believes in her mission and convinces herself that she is right. Even more frightening, Levana has no real understanding of human emotions, even while she has the power to manipulate others' thoughts and feelings. Although there were brief moments when I felt pity for Levana, they were overshadowed by my skin crawling revulsion at her behavior. Author Marissa Meyer has done an excellent job at building Levana's character throughout this book by degrees of horror: from lonely, disfigured child to a Queen so focused on overtaking the galaxy that she will let nothing or no one get in her way.
We do get glimpses of a lot of characters that come to play in the future of the series, and after reading this, all my hope and fears are centered on them. I am even more anxious for the final book to release.
Love Triangle Factor: I'm not going to rate the triangle factor as the 'romance' in this book is disturbing at best, and Levana is incapable of knowing what a true relationship is - even friendship. But I do think this is a valuable addition to the series, and a fascinating look at the mind of a villain (who would never see herself as such).
Cliffhanger Scale: Fairest is the prequel to the Lunar Chronicles. The following books are Cinder, Scarlet, Cress and the upcoming Winter.
by Cat Hellisen
Read: January 26 - 31, 2015
Published: February 3, 2015 by Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Source: ARC from Macmillan (Thank You!)
Category: Fairytales, Beauty and the Beast, Middle Grade
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Description: Sarah has always been on the move. Her mother hates the cold, so every few months her parents pack their bags and drag her off after the sun. She’s grown up lonely and longing for magic. She doesn’t know that it’s magic her parents are running from.
When Sarah’s mother walks out on their family, all the strange old magic they have tried to hide from comes rising into their mundane world. Her father begins to change into something wild and beastly, but before his transformation is complete, he takes Sarah to her grandparents—people she has never met, didn’t even know were still alive.
Deep in the forest, in a crumbling ruin of a castle, Sarah begins to untangle the layers of curses affecting her family bloodlines, until she discovers that the curse has carried over to her, too. The day she falls in love for the first time, Sarah will transform into a beast . . . unless she can figure out a way to break the curse forever.
I generally dislike the phrase "it's not you, it's me," but I'm going to use it to describe my feelings about Beastkeeper by Cat Hellisen. The idea of a Middle Grade Beauty and the Beast retelling with the girl as the beast is an interesting one, but it just didn't work for me as it played out. I think one of my issues was the lack of a proper romance. My favorite thing about this fairytale is the slowly building love story, and I didn't connect as well to a retelling without it. There really isn't any romance in this story, and what is here is more the type to teach a lesson. It's definitely not the kind anyone would swoon over.
I actually connected well to the protagonist Sarah right away. Sarah's mother unexpectedly walks out on her family one day and Sarah is caught in her own grief, while also facing the neglect of her father in his inability to cope with the situation. Sarah doesn't understand what happened and is basically left to fend for herself, as the house falls apart without her mother to care for it, and her father can't be bothered to buy groceries or even wash their clothes. I felt Sarah's isolation and confusion over the situation. Then she meets an older boy in the empty lot near her house that she calls Not-A-Woods, and I could imagine why she would feel drawn to the first person who had shown her any notice or kindness in a while. He's mysterious and maybe a little bit magic, and I can definitely see why that appealed to her.
However, then this book switches locations, when Sarah's father brings her to live with her grandmother in the forest and leaves her there with little to no explanation. I got really annoyed at the idea of this poor girl being left on the doorstep of someone she'd never heard of before. This is also where the story became much more overtly magical and strange, and somehow that led to my lack of interest. I can't even really articulate why I wasn't invested anymore, but I was mostly just bored through the second half. Thankfully, this book is only 200 pages long and a quick read.
I enjoy looking at fairytales from different angels and and exploring the idea of what happens after the happily ever after is declared. After all, life - and love - aren't easily wrapped up in a neat package. Maybe I just wasn't in the mood for that kind of tale, or it was the lack of romance in a beloved fairytale, but this story wasn't a good fit for me. I do wonder if I'd have felt the same if I'd read this when I was younger, though.
That said, Hellison is a gorgeous writer. I love the way she uses words in her books, including this one. I'm also a big fan of her young adult series (which becomes decidedly adult in book two), When the Sea is Rising Red and House of Sand and Secrets are filled with twisty relationships and strong, imaginative world building. They are seriously under the radar YA. And I'll definitely be on the lookout for what she writes next.
Love Triangle Factor: N/A - little to no romance
Cliffhanger Scale: Standalone