Fabulous Fiction Firsts #787, Fantasy Debuts
Tue, 08/17/2021 - 9:03pm by muffy
For the Wolf * * * * by Hannah Whitten, the first in the Wilderwood series, (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook) is “a dark, dazzling reimagining of the Brothers Grimm’s Little Red Riding Hood” (Publishers Weekly)
For centuries, the Kingdom of Valleyda kept a bargain : to hold the monsters of the Shadowlands at bay, the second daughter born to the queen would be sacrificed to the Wolf of the Wilderwood, a magical forest. Now, Red(arys), as she approaches her 20th birthday, is almost eager to embrace her fate, plagued by a secret power she could not control.
The Wolf, as it turned out, is a man - Eammon who offers to release her. But Red chooses to stay. As real danger lurks round them, Red’s magic makes her a powerful ally as Eammon struggles to repair the woods, keeping out the dark creatures from the Shadowlands.
“Whitten weaves a captivating tale in this debut, in which even secondary characters come to feel like old friends. The novel seamlessly blends "Little Red Riding Hood" and "Beauty and the Beast" into an un-put-down-able fairy tale that traces the boundaries of duty, love, and loss. A masterful debut from a must-read new voice in fantasy.” (Kirkus Reviews)
Malice * by Heather Walter (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook) is imaginative retelling of Sleeping Beauty with sly references to Cinderella.
Princess Aurora, the last in a long line of princesses cursed by a wicked Vila, an evil race of magical beings, is the last heir to the Briar’s throne. Now the Vilas have all died out, except of Alyce, called "Malyce" by the Graces she lives with at Lavender House. The Graces, gold-blooded and gifted with Fae magic, is part of an alliance between the humans of Briar and the Fae of Etheria, while Alyce, known as the Dark Grace, is rejected publicly, even as the rich and powerful solicit her dark magic in secret.
Thus, it is assumed that the invitation to Princess Aurora's 20th birthday ball does not extend to Alyce, but she attends anyway. There she meets the princess, who is desperate to break the Vila curse that will kill her on her 21st birthday if she hasn't found true love. As their friendship grows, Alyce agrees to help Aurora lift the curse, even if it would destroy her own power.
"The story grows deliciously darker at every turn, though the youthful protagonists still ensure plenty of YA crossover appeal. Fairy tale lovers of all ages will be thrilled." (Publishers Weekly)
She Who Became the Sun * * * by Shelley Parker-Chan, the first in the Radiant Emperor duology, an epic high-fantasy series, gives the historical Red Turban Rebellion a grimdark twist (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook). The author was awarded a Otherwise (Tiptree) Fellowship for a work of speculative narrative that expands our understanding of gender.
1345. In Mongol-ruled China, the Zhu family, starving peasants in the Central Plains , at great expense they could ill afford, consulted a local fortune teller who proclaimed that their eight-born son, Zhu Chongba was destined for greatness while second daughter - nothingness. Yet, when a bandit attack orphaned the two children, Zhu Chongba succumbed to despair and died while the girl assumed her brother's identity to enter a monastery as a young male novice. Propelled by a burning desire to survive, She learned she was capable of doing whatever it took. When her monastery was burned for supporting a rebellion against Mongol rule, Zhu threw herself into her brother's path for greatness.
In this Mulan meets The Song of Achilles, “The characters are bold and complex in this story of fealty, family, and self. Epic worldbuilding, high action, and ruthless shades of love and desire make the tale at turns tragic and inspiring. Parker-Chan's debut is forceful, immersive, and unforgettable. This inspired queer retelling of Chinese history is an exciting read.” (Library Journal) For fans of The Poppy War.
* * * * = 4 starred reviews
* * * = 3 starred reviews
* = Starred review