Monthly Archives: May 2014

Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow

Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow

Pika (meaning girl), or “lass” (as she is known to her family), is the youngest of nine.  Her mother, who has no use for girls, didn’t bother to name her.  This, and a talent for understanding animals, sets Lass apart.

One day, an Isbjørn (ice bear – i.e. polar bear) seeks her out.  Assured by promises that she will not be harmed, and that her family will become rich if she agrees, the Lass consents to accompanying the bear to his castle, to live there for a year.  All she has to do is wait.

But the lass is a curious girl, and she is determined to find out what enchantments bind Isbjørn and his mysterious ice castle filled with strange servants and rooms of everyday objects.  Slowly she tries to decipher the strange symbols carved onto the pillars and doorways, and to unravel the mysteries of the palace and it’s inhabitants.

When her curiosity goes too far, the lass must undertake a lengthy journey to find the palace East of the sun and west of the moon.  There, she must find a way to free her prince before he is forced to marry the Troll princess and is lost to her forever.

Brilliant!! Jessica Day George keeps proving to me that she’s a fantastic teller of tales!  I loved this book – I loved it’s references to the tale of Cupid and Psyche (and it’s relations to “Beauty and the Beast”).   This book is apparently based on the Nordic legend East of the Sun, West of the Moon.  Although I hadn’t actually read or heard that legend before, it binds together many elements of tales that I am familiar with.

The lass is a strong female character. Her curiosity is totally understandable and justifiable.  Who wouldn’t be curious?  I like that she’s not passive or biddable.  I love that she can speak with animals, and has a kind heart. I would be just as curious if it was me!

I appreciated the secondary love story – that of Hans-Peter (elder brother to the lass) and his lost love, Tova.

I loved that the lass has a good, kind father who loves all his children

I also loved the descriptions of the Trolls, and their desire to be like humans (which was ultimately their downfall).

This was a clever book, neatly written and full of good feelings!

5/5

 

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Filed under Fairy Tales, Young Adult Books

The Clockwork Scarab (Stoker & Holmes #1)

The clockwork Scarab

Colleen Gleason has written a lovely late-Victorian era steampunk tale of mystery and adventure!

Mina Holmes, niece to the famous Sherlock Holmes, and Evaline Stoker, sister of Bram Stoker and descendant of a long line of vampire hunters, are both eager to live up to their respective family legacies.  Mina has inherited her uncle’s keen powers of observation and deduction, while Evaline has the supernatural strength, speed, and rapid healing ability bestowed by her Vampire-Hunting ancestry. When two society girls go missing, Evaline and Mina are called in to help investigate by Irene Adler, representing the crown.

Though Mina and Evaline don’t exactly hit it off, they must find a way to work together to solve both murder and mystery, starting with a strange clockwork scarab as the first clue.  The stakes are high and they are not the only ones following the trail.  The ladies must also deal with the strange and “foreign” Dylan Eckster, the intelligent and logical Inspector Grayling, and the mysterious and mischievous Pix. Can they solve the mystery and find the nefarious person behind it all – before it is too late?

I highly enjoyed this tale of 1889 London – a steam-powered place where electricity is outlawed and “sky-hooks” secure the towering buildings.

Mina is intelligent, logical, and secretly lacks confidence.  Since the departure of her mother, Mina has been largely unsupervised by her parents, which means few social functions and a lack of experience with both young men and parties. She’s tall but clumsy, and although she puts on a brave face, she hides behind her wit and intelligence.

Evaline took me longer to like.  Fierce and strong, she too is plagued by dwindling confidence and an inability to see blood without freezing up. She also puts up a brave front – it’s no wonder she and Mina don’t hit it off.  Beautiful and certainly no stranger to society, Evaline is more interested in dodging potential suitors and hunting the Undead during the night than in enjoying the company of the upper-crust.

Irene is working for the British Museum and apparently the Princess of Wales, and although she pushes the young heroines into action, she herself remains mostly in the background.  I, for one, have a few suspicions about her.

Then the young men!  First there is Dylan, who clearly comes from the future, however improbable that sounds. He’s a little ignorant of the expectations for gentlemen in London 1889, and mostly just wants to go home.  That won’t stop him from getting involved in solving the mystery or causing Mina to blush a lot.

Inspector Grayling is tall, Scottish, and rides around town on a brilliantly fast steam-powered contraption.  Investigating the deaths of several young women on behalf of Scotland Yard, Grayling is keenly intelligent and seems an excellent match for Mina’s mind. Grayling and his partner are not too pleased with Mina and Evaline barging in on the investigations.

Pix keeps running into Evaline – in all sorts of unlikely places. He seems to be able to fit in to all sorts of unexpected roles, much like a chameleon. With a cockney accent and a lot of swagger, he seems forward, frustrating, and unexpectedly chivalrous.

Solidly young-adult, this is a charming steampunk tale.  Better yet, it’s the first of a series!  The second book, The Spiritglass Charade, appears to be coming out … sometime this year?

4 / 5

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Filed under Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Steampunk, Young Adult Books

Keeping the Castle

Keeping the Castle

Althea Crawley is seventeen and determined to marry well.  She must, as she is the sole supporter of her entire family (i.e. her mother and brother; she has two step-sisters but they have their own fortunes which they will not share).  Althea, her family, and her step-sisters reside in a worn-down castle (built by their impulsive Grandfather) that is plagued by rickety furniture, rust, a leaking roof, and a host of other repairs. Perched on the edge of a cliff, it looks as if the whole thing could come tumbling down at any moment. Unfortunately, as Althea lives in out-of-the-way north England, there are few wealthy suitors to be found.  Nevertheless, she has her beauty as an advantage and her frank tongue as a deterrent.

Young, attractive, and to all appearances very rich Lord Boring arrives and opens up the playing field. Althea sets him in her sights – in fierce competition with her step-sisters, Charity and Prudence. Lord Boring brings with him a host of characters, including his cousin and friend Mr. Frederick, both their mothers, and a Marquis (who is a family friend as well).  The party is later joined by the Vincy family, where Miss Vincy is added to the playing field.

It’s a story of determined plans, match-making, and determination.

I did enjoy this book.  It nods to Pride and Prejudice in lively Althea and the whole marriage-hunting business (which is pretty much the whole plot).  It’s a shiny surface kind of book – one without layers or great feeling. Althea is clever in some ways, but extremely blind in others. If it wasn’t short, I think I would find the intrigues a little dull, or perhaps worn.

A tiny bit of spoilers:

okay ready?

It found it pretty predictable that Lord Boring was in fact pretty destitute and in need of a wealthy bride himself. Of course Mr. Frederick, who came over very disagreeable to start, would turn out to be not only extremely wealthy but also possessing of a fine character.  That plot thread was a parody of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy, and unfortunately it was not as well executed.  You could believe that Althea and Mr. Frederick were falling for each other – mostly – but it was a scratchy kind of romance.

The only surprise was Miss Vincy, to be honest.

I’m painting a poor picture of the book, because even despite it’s faults I did enjoy it and would probably even read it again in the future. Which is why I’ll give it a 3.5/5 (which is bordering on a 4/5 when you consider rounding anyway).

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Filed under Historical Fiction, Romance, Young Adult Books