Mini-Reviews: Fantasy Novels

Friday, June 21, 2013

Every Day by David Levithan

I read this book for the FYA book club, and to be honest, I didn't have very high expectations. Different people had told me that they didn't care for it, and the premise, a nameless, genderless spirit who occupies different bodies each day but falls in love, seemed bizarre and a little hokey. Still, I have never escaped my obedient school days in which I never failed to complete a reading assignment, and the lure of book club made me feel obligated (even though I didn't actually attend the meeting where the book was discussed). Also, all (two) of my experiences with David Levithan have been positive. He is pretty experimental, but he is also a fantastic writer, particularly at transmitting emotions. So, I gave it a chance.

And the verdict? I really enjoyed Every Day. A's transformation into different bodies each day was interesting, despite the bizarreness. In addition, despite the fact that the experience of possessing a different body each day is at the very least uncommon, the story still held powerful themes that almost anyone could relate to -- letting people go, making sacrifices for the people you love, what love really is. I think it's a worthwhile book that will bend your brain a bit.

4 stars

Warnings: Some language, brief drug references, brief referral to sex

Heir to Sevenwaters by Juliet Marillier

If you've been reading this blog for the last year or so, you've probably gathered that Juliet Marillier can do no wrong in my opinion. Having recently finished her first Sevenwaters trilogy, I was very excited to dive into the second trilogy (although like the Jane Austen books, I can't stand the thought of being finished forever, so I am puttering around a bit). In Heir to Sevenwaters, Aisling and Sean have finally had a son -- only to have him ripped from them days later and replaced by a changeling creature of the forest. Meanwhile, unrest in the region is threatening Sevenwaters. Clodagh decides to rescue her brother by entering the land of the Fair Folk -- a land where nothing is certain and risks abound.

While I didn't love Clodagh as much as some other Sevenwaters heroines, this book just brutally shredded my heart. Motherhood is a theme in most of the Sevenwaters books, but for some reason it was particularly wrenching in Heir to Sevenwaters. There were scenes that literally felt as if I had been kicked repeatedly in the stomach. One of the reasons I love to read is to experience a powerful range of emotion, so I found Heir to Sevenwaters to be evocative and satisfying. I plan on reading every book Marillier has ever written, and I will probably reread all the Sevenwaters books. She is definitely elevated to favorite status.

4.5 stars

Warnings: Violence, referrals to sexuality (off the page)

Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George

I read the sequel to Princess of the Midnight Ball a long time ago, and you know me -- I can't leave anything unfinished. I actually enjoyed Princess of the Midnight Ball more than Princess of Glass, although it had a few moments of dullness for me. 

The story is a retelling of the twelve dancing princesses. Rose and her eleven sisters (all named after flowers -- I'm impressed that Jessica Day George came up with all the names) are forced to dance for an evil fairy king each night to pay off a family debt. They can't escape, and no one can help them, til a brave soldier and gardener, Galen, takes matters into his own hands. 

Initially, I felt that the story was slow moving and I found it hard to relate to the characters. The backstory dragged on a bit and I was ready to put the book down. However, in the second half the action picked up and I found myself eager to return to the adventures of Rose, Galen, and the rest of the princesses. I'm a sucker for a fairy tale retelling, and Princess of the Midnight Ball provided a light, enjoyable story. 

3 stars

Warnings: None

Sabriel by Garth Nix

This is another FYA book club assignment (but I did go to this meeting). I actually read this book when I was much younger, having randomly picked it off the shelf at Barnes and Noble when I had a giftcard. I remembered being completely unimpressed, but now, over ten years later, I knew that Sabriel had a huge fan base, and I was curious to see if maybe I had missed a gem. The good news is that I had! I think only rarely do fantasy books improve with time, but the book that left me completely unimpressed as a pre-teen charmed me (in as much as a story about the dead can be charming) as an adult. 

Sabriel and her father have the power to visit the land of the dead -- to help spirits go past the seventh gate to their eternal destiny. However, often spirits find their way to earth and cause harm -- and it has been happening a lot more frequently. Suddenly, a huge weight of responsibility rests on Sabriel's shoulders, and she has no idea what she is doing. 

I loved the world-building and the fact that the creatures could be considered zombies (closet zombie story lover). And while Sabriel herself was a bit stiff and unlovable, I respected her strength and her journey. There was even a bit of romance, albeit somewhat bumbling. I have the second book in the trilogy out from the library and I am curious to see what Garth Nix does next.

4 stars

Warnings: Scary images, violence, innuendo

Italian Folktales retold and edited by Italo Calvino

This was a beast for me to conquer, but it was enjoyable as well. I love mythology, fairy tales, folktales -- you name it. I saw this book mentioned and was intrigued for two reasons -- first of all, the Italian background, which intrigued me because my husband used to live in Italy, and second of all, the fact that it is by Italo Calvino, an author that I have always wanted to read because he is mentioned in my favorite book, Kartography. Checking in at 200 stories and well over 700 pages, it literally took me months to read, but it was rewarding. It was interesting to see the different take on traditional fairy tales as well as the similar threads and tropes running through the tales. It won't appeal to everyone, but I think Italian Folktales is a true masterpiece. I only wish I could remember more of the stories so I could share them with my children.

3.5 stars

Warnings: Fairy tale violence (evil stepmothers in boiling oil, cut off hands, etc.)


  1. The Calvino folktales looks amazing! I'm very familiar with the Grimm brothers, Charles Perrault, and Hans Christian Andersen but less so with other cultural fairy tales. I will definitely want to invest in this book and start paging my way through the stories.


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