Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Shadow Thieves

It has been far too long since a review has been posted on this blog and that, sad to say, is entirely my fault. I completely dropped the ball when it was my turn to review. I shall endeavor to do better next time. In the meantime, here's a review!

My sister gave me The Shadow Thieves by Anne Ursu for Christmas. Well, when I read it, I wondered (as I often do) why it had taken me so long to read it. The book is utterly delightful!

The book tells the story of middle-schooler Charlotte Mielswetzski (pronounced Meals-wet-ski) and her cousin Zee who find themselves knee-deep in mythological mayhem when they discover that someone is stealing the shadows of the all of the local children. As they are the heroes of our story, they decide to do something about it and, before long, find themselves on an unusual adventure into the Underworld.

The book is laugh-out-loud hilarious from start to finish. Ursu's quips and sarcasm bring a fun and wacky element to the mythological world that is very enjoyable. There are some pretty creepy moments that would be a lot creepier if they weren't coated with Ursu's fresh sense of humor. Both of her main characters are unique and completely likeable. I've read several mythologically-inspired books lately and I especially like Ursu's take on the myths and the characters.

Which Greek god do you wish were immortalized more often in fiction?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow

This absurdly cold weather has made me alternately long for stories of heat and sun for contrast and those in frigid settings, possibly to make the weather seem less wearying and more romantic. So I reread Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow - a perfectly freezing tale that fits the cold mood.

It is a gorgeous retelling of the Nordic fairy tale, East of the Sun, West of the Moon, which is on the more complex end of the fairy tale spectrum. Jessica Day George introduces the heroine only as 'lass' because her cruel mother refuses to name her when she was born. Despite her namelessness (which, in Nordic legend, makes her an easy target for trolls), the lass becomes famous in her town because of her gift of understanding animals. This talent attracts an isbjørn, an 'ice bear,' to her village; he asks her to live with him in an ice palace for one year to break the curse placed on him. Between that moment and the 'happily ever after (and yes, there is one),' the lass endures many adventures, from troll weddings to enchanted wine to riding the North Wind.

This book is so wonderful. I love fairy tale retellings anyway, and this particular one is fascinating and under-told. Ms. George creates a beautiful and frightening story but one with a delightful dose of humor and spirit. Her heroine is much more three-dimensional than I think many fantasy heroines are and the language is gorgeous.

If you are looking for a classic fairy tale with a wintery feel, this is your perfect story.

What books do you read when it's freezing outside?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Runaway Dragon

Happy February everyone!

Today I'm going to review The Runaway Dragon by Kate Coombs, a sequel to The Runaway Princess. Now, it's a fact universally acknowledged that sequels sometimes fall short of their predecessors (maybe even most of the time - but that's a matter of opinion). Sequels run the risk of changing the characters' personalities too much, changing the mood from the first book. If an author writes a really wonderful book, we wish she would write a sequel so that we can get more of these wonderful characters and this wonderful world she's created; yet, when sequels are written, we hold them up to a magnifying glass and compare and contrast. It's a tricky line to toe.

Anyway, all of this to say that Coombs's sequel to The Runaway Princess was absolutely delightful. I was laughing out loud for a majority of the book (which was slightly embarrassing as I was reading it at work!). The characters were just as great as they were the first time around - and we get more of them too! My favorite character is Lex and I was very happy to see more of him in this book.

The story line picks up where the first one left off. Meg's been receiving all of those wonderful lessons she was promised, Cam has his own section of the garden, and Laddy is contentedly lodged with Cam's sister. Unfortunately. Meg really only enjoys a few of her new lessons, Cam's love for his gardens has strained the friendship a tad, and Laddy isn't quite content living on a farm. When Laddy flies away from home, Meg persuades her father to let her go on a quest to find him - and the adventure wouldn't be complete if all of her friends didn't join in! The quest is so much fun - there's an evil sorceress, a princess named Spinach who was trapped in a tower, a giant family, and a magical forest! I have to say that Coombs has done it again with this book... and when I say, "it," I mean another memorable, laugh-out-loud, adventure that breaks all of the rules! Coombs's rule-breaking brilliance is what made me so adore her first book and I was very pleased to see her back in full swing for the second one. I can't wait to read more! Maybe we'll be lucky enough to get a third adventure soon?

Any other sequels that you loved just as much as the original?