Book Review: Rogue Princess

Rogue Princess – B.R. Myers – Swoon Reads – Published 21 January 2020

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Synopsis

Princess Delia knows her duty: She must choose a prince to marry in order to secure an alliance and save her failing planet. Yet she secretly dreams of true love, and feels there must be a better way. Determined to chart her own course, she steals a spaceship to avoid the marriage, only to discover a handsome stowaway.

All Aidan wanted was to “borrow” a few palace trinkets to help him get off the planet. Okay, so maybe escaping on a royal ship wasn’t the smartest plan, but he never expected to be kidnapped by a runaway princess!

Sparks fly as this headstrong princess and clever thief battle wits, but everything changes when they inadvertently uncover a rebel conspiracy that could destroy their planet forever.

My thoughts

I love fairytale retelling and Rogue Princess was such a wonderful surprise. It’s fresh, clever, unique, romantic and has such a fantastic cast of strong, diverse characters.

Princess Delia knows her duty. Choose a husband that will benefit the kingdom. That doesn’t mean her heart doesn’t long for a love match. Determined to find another way to secure the energy source her planet needs, she attempts to steal a space ship and broker a deal. Aidan wants to find a better life away from the control of his stepfather and step brothers. Stealing items while working at the palace has enabled him to secure a new future for himself. But when he steals a valuable item from a prince he must run, and finds himself on Delia’s spaceship. The two don’t make it far, intercepted by pirates. Delia must return to the palace and face the wrath of the queen, Aidan to his stepfather. But the two have a connection and together begin to uncover a plot to over throw the monarchy.

Rogue Princess is a sci-fi romantic adventure, with themes of sustainability issues and equality. Advanced technology means there are servant androids and mini personal flying craft, spaceships and mentions of other planets, but the story remains firmly grounded on Delia’s home planet.

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Book Review: Uprooted

Uprooted – Naomi Novik – Pan Macmillan – Published 12 May 2016 (first pub 2015)

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Synopsis

Agnieszka loves her village, set in a peaceful valley. But the nearby enchanted forest casts a shadow over her home. Many have been lost to the Wood and none return unchanged. The villagers depend on an ageless wizard, the Dragon, to protect them from the forest’s dark magic. However, his help comes at a terrible price. A young woman must serve him for ten years, leaving all she values behind. 

Agnieszka fears her dearest friend Kasia will be picked at the next choosing, for she is everything Agnieszka is not – beautiful, graceful and brave. Yet when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he takes.

My thoughts

Loosely based around a Beauty and the Beast retelling, Uprooted is gloriously imagined, with intricate storytelling and a world where witches and wizards must fight against the ever encroaching and corruptive powers of the Woods.

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Book Review: The Blood Spell

The Blood Spell – C.J. Redwing – Ravenspire #4 – Balzer+Bray – Published 12 February 2019

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Synopsis

Blue de la Cour has her life planned: hide the magic in her blood and continue trying to turn metal into gold so she can help her city’s homeless. But when her father is murdered and a cruel but powerful woman claims custody of Blue and her property, one wrong move could expose her—and doom her once and for all. The only one who can help? The boy she’s loathed since childhood: Prince Kellan.

Kellan Renard, crown prince of Balavata, is walking a thin line between political success and devastating violence. Newly returned from boarding school, he must find a bride among the kingdom’s head families and announce his betrothal—but escalating tension among the families makes the search nearly impossible. He’s surprised to discover that the one person who makes him feel like he can breathe is Blue, the girl who once ruined all his best adventures.

When mysterious forces lead to disappearances throughout Balavata, Blue and Kellan must work together to find the truth. What they discover will lead them to the darkest reaches of the kingdom, and to the most painful moments of their pasts. When romance is forbidden and evil is rising, can Blue save those she loves, even if it costs her everything?

My thoughts

The Blood Spell is the fourth book in C.J. Redwine’s series of fairytale retellings. As she has with each of the three previous instalments, The Blood Spell is a wonderful fantasy novel in its own right with threads of the familiar fairytale cleverly woven through the plot to create a unique and thrilling tale.

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Book Review: A Curse So Dark and Lonely

A Curse So Dark and Lonely – Brigid Kemmerer – A Curse So Dark and Lonely #1 – Bloomsbury YA – Published 29 January 2019

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Synopsis

Prince Rhen is cursed. He spurned the wrong woman and is now forced to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year until he can convince another to love him. His fate would be bearable, but at the end of every season, he transforms into a dangerous monster. After his subjects learned to fear the castle on the hill, Rhen sent Grey, the last member of his guard, to find young women in other worlds.

Harper is cursed by reality. Her father left and her mother is losing her fight with cancer. When Harper sees Grey abducting a woman from the streets of D.C., she intervenes, only to get sucked into Rhen’s world. Now, Harper is trapped. But when Harper proves to be more than just another girl to charm, Rhen realizes he can do more than break the curse . . . he can save his kingdom once and for all.

My thoughts

A Curse So Dark and Lonely is an absolutely incredible fantasy novel. Fantastical, thrilling, unique, and so very cleverly plotted, I was entranced from the first page to the last. I love Brigid Kemmerer’s writing and all her books, so I knew I would enjoy A Curse So Dark and Lonely, but I was totally blown away. This Beauty and the Beast retelling is the very best retelling of this, my favourite, fairytale I have ever read – and I have read a few. It is clever, original and, well, I’m seriously impressed.

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Book Review: Ogre Enchanted

Ogre Enchanted – Gail Carson Levine – Ella Enchanted #0.5 – HarperCollins – Published 16 October 2018

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Synopsis

Evie is happiest when she is healing people, diagnosing symptoms, and prescribing medications, with the help of her devoted friend (and test subject) Wormy. So when Wormy unexpectedly proposes to her, she kindly turns him down; she has far too much to do to be marrying anyone. And besides, she simply isn’t in love with him.

But a certain meddling fairy named Lucinda has been listening in, and she doesn’t approve of Evie’s rejection. Suddenly, Evie finds herself transformed from a girl into a hideous, hungry ogre. Evie now has only sixty-two days to accept another proposal—or else be stuck as an ogre forever.

My thoughts

Ogre Enchanted is as enchanting and humorous as its predecessor Ella Enchanted, and will delight old fans and new readers alike. Ogre Enchanted is a modern-day fairytale, with a strong and independent lead character, and threads of friendship and romance. Simple and unique, this twist on a loose retelling of Beauty and the Beast will delight (and possibly disgust) young readers.

Evie, though only fifteen, is a gifted healer. Her passions are herbs, healing tonics and devoted attention to her patients. In Wormy, Evie has a dear friend and willing subject upon whom she tests all her new cures and tonics. But when Wormy proposes, Evie is quick to turn him down – she has no intention of marrying young. Unfortunately the fairy Lucinda hears Evie’s refusal and transforms Evie into a hideous, very smelly and eternally hungry ogre as punishment. Evie has just 62 days to accept another proposal or she will remain an ogre forever.

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Book Review: Damsel

Damsel – Elana K. Arnold – Balzer+Bray – Published 2 October 2018

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Synopsis

The rite has existed for as long as anyone can remember: when the prince-who-will-be-king comes of age, he must venture out into the gray lands, slay a fierce dragon, and rescue a damsel to be his bride. This is the way things have always been.

When Ama wakes in the arms of Prince Emory, however, she knows none of this. She has no memory of what came before she was captured by the dragon, or what horrors she has faced in its lair. She knows only this handsome prince, the story he tells of her rescue, and her destiny to sit on the throne beside him. Ama comes with Emory back to the kingdom of Harding, hailed as the new princess, welcomed to the court.

However, as soon as her first night falls, she begins to realize that not all is as it seems, that there is more to the legends of the dragons and the damsels than anyone knows–and that the greatest threats to her life may not be behind her, but here, in front of her.

My thoughts

A deeply dark and twisted fairytale reimagining, Damsel takes all the usual fairytale gender roles and dials them up to eleven, creating a shockingly reflective story about the worst of gender roles and subjugation.

From the cover and synopsis of Damsel I expected a sweet and adventurous novel about a girl who didn’t fit the damsel mould, who was brave and fought and showed the world how awesome strong girls can be. I expected a celebration of female strength. Instead, going into this book with nothing but the cover and synopsis as a guide, I found a deeply disturbing story about the worst of human behaviour. When Ama is rescued from a dragon by Prince Emory, she must accompany him back to his castle and prepare to become his wife. But Prince Emory is not a kind nor gentle man and Ama wants to discover the truth about the way he freed her from the dragon.

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Book Review: West

West – Edith Pattou – East #2 – HMH Books – 23 October 2018

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Synopsis

When Rose first met Charles, he was trapped in the form of a white bear. To rescue him, Rose traveled to the land that lay east of the sun and west of the moon to defeat the evil Troll Queen. Now Rose has found her happily-ever-after with Charles—until a sudden storm destroys his ship and he is presumed dead. But Rose doesn’t believe the shipwreck was an act of nature, nor does she believe Charles is truly dead. Something much more sinister is at work. With mysterious and unstoppable forces threatening the lives of the people she loves, Rose must once again set off on a perilous journey. And this time, the fate of the entire world is at stake.

My thoughts

West is a delightful fantasy novel, gorgeously pieced together with adventure and folklore it is sure to please fans of East and new readers alike.

East (though it will always be North Child to me) is one of my most favourite books. I love its beautiful writing, elegant and so very imaginative in its simplicity. I love the fairytale remix. I love the strength of Rose, her curiosity, wandering spirit and determination. I love the short chapters written from the perspectives of multiple characters which detail the story. I love the White Bear and I love Rose’s love for him. And so, when a sequel was announced, some 15 years after the publication of East, to say I was excited might have been a huge understatement. And yet, sometimes a new title after so many years, an extra part of a story which you thought completed, can sometimes be a disappointment. Fear not, because West is every bit as beautiful, magnificent and wondrous as East. It continues Rose and the White Bear’s story as if the ink on the pages of East had only freshly dried. It carries the same heart, the same creative storytelling in its unique and simple way. It doesn’t undo any of the happy ending of the first book, but simply continues the story. And it has made this reader very, very happy.

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Book Review: The Traitor Prince

The Traitor Prince – C.J Redwine – Ravenspire #3 – Balzer+Bray – Published 13 February 2018

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Synopsis

Javan Najafai, crown prince of Akram, has spent the last ten years at an elite boarding school, far away from his kingdom. But his eagerly awaited return home is cut short when a mysterious imposter takes his place—and no one believes Javan is the true prince.

After barely escaping the imposter’s assassins, Javan is thrown into Maqbara, the kingdom’s most dangerous prison. The only way to gain an audience with the king — and reveal Javan’s identity — is to fight in Maqbara’s yearly tournament. But winning is much harder than acing competitions at school, and soon Javan finds himself beset not just by the terrifying creatures in the arena, but also a band of prisoners allied against him, and even the warden herself.

The only person who can help him is Sajda, who has been enslaved by Maqbara’s warden since she was a child, and whose guarded demeanor and powerful right hook keep the prisoners in check. Working with Sajda might be the only way Javan can escape alive — but she has dangerous secrets.

Together, Javan and Sajda have to outwit the vicious warden, outfight the deadly creatures, and outlast the murderous prisoners intent on killing Javan. If they fail, they’ll be trapped in Maqbara for good—and the secret Sajda’s been hiding will bury them both.

My thoughts

With The Traitor Prince, C.J. Redwine once again delivers an epic fantasy, with aching romance, adventure, heart-pounding injustice, and high stakes as the characters fight for their survival.

Prince Javan has spent the last ten years away at school, working harder than all his classmates to fulfil the promise he made to his mother to be the best, learn the most, so that he can become a just and strong ruler. But when he is attacked on the eve of his return home, Javan knows he must now fight for his future and the safety of his kingdom. Thrown into the treacherous prison, Maqbara, while a traitor takes his rightful place, Javan tries to befriend the prison slave girl, Sajda, who has her own dangerous secret to protect. Forced to fight against monsterous creatures and defend himself against the other prisoners, Javan and his few allies put into place a plan to return him to his throne, but it will not be without sacrifice.

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Book List: Beauty and the Beast Retellings

Beauty and the Beast Retellings in Young Adult Fiction

Updated June 2019: With the release of Brigid Kemmerer’s A Curse So Dark and Lonely, I just had to update this list.

2017: It is a tale as old as time, and much loved. Beauty and the Beast is my favourite fairytale. I love the original tale, the first animated Disney movie, and I love YA retellings of this great story. To celebrate the release of Hunted by Meagan Spooner, which nicely coincides with Disney’s release of their live-action film, I have created this list of my favourite YA Beauty and the Beast retellings. I have also included a few ‘East of the Sun’ retellings. The only thing I need to make my list complete? A Beauty and the Beast retelling by E.K. Johnston…. here’s hoping.

 Click on the covers for full reviews.

A Curse So Dark and Lonely – Brigid Kemmerer – Bloomsbury Children’s – Published 29 January 2019

Harper is barely scraping by. Her mother is sick and needs treatment they can’t afford and her brother is being forced to work as a violent debt collector to pay off their own debts. Workings as a lookout for her brother one night, Harper intervenes when she sees a man carrying an unconscious women. The man and Harper both receive a shock – he with a blow to the head and Harper when he magically transports her to another world. Commander Grey has done everything he can to help Prince Rhen break the curse that binds them both. While Harper wasn’t his ideal choice as the last maiden to attempt to break the curse, she continues to surprise them all with her caring heart and determined and independent ways, especially when Rhen’s kingdom is threatened by external forces.


HuntedHunted – Meagan Spooner – HarperTeen – Published 21 March 2017

It’s been years since Yeva hunted in the woods with her father. Her muscles have grown soft and her training lax after her father moved her family to town and determined that Yeva would be best served playing lady to the baronessa, sewing and wearing fine clothes. But a turn in fortune sees Yeva, her two sisters, and her father removed from their home and returning to the little cabin in the woods. Yeva secretly rejoices at her chance to once again roam the woods with her bow and arrows and traps. But a strange madness overtakes her father, who is sure a beast rules the forest, and, after her father disappears, Yeva goes after him and discovers a world that has previously only belonged in the legends she was told as a child.


Uprooted – Naomi Novik – Pan Macmillan – Published 12 May 2016

Agnieszka loves her village, set in a peaceful valley. But the nearby enchanted forest casts a shadow over her home. Many have been lost to the Wood and none return unchanged. The villagers depend on an ageless wizard, the Dragon, to protect them from the forest’s dark magic. However, his help comes at a terrible price. A young woman must serve him for ten years, leaving all she values behind.

Agnieszka fears her dearest friend Kasia will be picked at the next choosing, for she is everything Agnieszka is not – beautiful, graceful and brave. Yet when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he takes


A Court of Thorns and RosesA Court of Thorns and Roses – Sarah J. Maas – Bloomsbury – Published 5 May 2015

Feyre hunts to feed her family. Fulfilling an oath she made to her dying mother, she protects and cares for her crippled father and two sisters. Her family do not value the sacrifice Feyre makes on their behalf. That is, until the night the beast appears at their cottage. He is here to claim retribution for his friend, whom Feyre killed while hunting. A life for a life, Feyre is taken across the wall that separates the human lands from the Fae’s. Now surround by those she most hates and fears, she is trapped in a world of great opulence, beauty and cruelty. As she spends more time at the beast’s home, she learns of his struggle with the blight that is creating destruction across the faerie lands and learns to see the man behind the beast.


Cruel Beauty Cruel Beauty – Rosamund Hodge – Balzer+Bray – Published 28 January 2014

Since birth, Nyx has been betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom-all because of a foolish bargain struck by her father. And since birth, she has been in training to kill him.

With no choice but to fulfill her duty, Nyx resents her family for never trying to save her and hates herself for wanting to escape her fate. Still, on her seventeenth birthday, Nyx abandons everything she’s ever known to marry the all-powerful, immortal Ignifex. Her plan? Seduce him, destroy his enchanted castle, and break the nine-hundred-year-old curse he put on her people. Continue reading

Book Review: Hunted

Hunted

Hunted – Meagan Spooner – Hunted #1 – HarperTeen – Published 14 March 2017

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Synopsis

Beauty knows the Beast’s forest in her bones—and in her blood. Though she grew up with the city’s highest aristocrats, far from her father’s old lodge, she knows that the forest holds secrets and that her father is the only hunter who’s ever come close to discovering them. 

So when her father loses his fortune and moves Yeva and her sisters back to the outskirts of town, Yeva is secretly relieved. Out in the wilderness, there’s no pressure to make idle chatter with vapid baronessas…or to submit to marrying a wealthy gentleman. But Yeva’s father’s misfortune may have cost him his mind, and when he goes missing in the woods, Yeva sets her sights on one prey: the creature he’d been obsessively tracking just before his disappearance. 

Deaf to her sisters’ protests, Yeva hunts this strange Beast back into his own territory—a cursed valley, a ruined castle, and a world of creatures that Yeva’s only heard about in fairy tales. A world that can bring her ruin or salvation. Who will survive: the Beauty, or the Beast?

My thoughts

Beauty and the Beast has always been my favourite fairytale. Perhaps it’s because of the magic, used for more than making a fancy ball gown or carriage. Or maybe I like that it is a redemption story, about a selfish man made good. Maybe it’s because the heroine is strong and resourceful but still kind, or because of its similarity to the tale East of the Sun and West of the Moon. Whatever the reason, I love the original fairytale and I equally love Beauty and the Beast retellings. Hunted has all of the elements of the original that I love, with a haunting writing style and gorgeous setting. It is more detailed and clever than a simple Disney tale, but it retains that ethereal quality, with a sharp, deadly edge that offsets the beauty.

It’s been years since Yeva hunted in the woods with her father. Her muscles have grown soft and her training lax after her father moved her family to town and determined that Yeva would be best served playing lady to the baronessa, sewing and wearing fine clothes. But a turn in fortune sees Yeva, her two sisters, and her father removed from their home and returning to the little cabin in the woods. Yeva secretly rejoices at her chance to once again roam the woods with her bow and arrows and traps. But a strange madness overtakes her father, who is sure a beast rules the forest, and, after her father disappears, Yeva goes after him and discovers a world that has previously only belonged in the legends she was told as a child.

This story is gently woven, exactly as a fairytale should be. Yeva is no fainting damsel, but she is understanding and kind. She loves her family and wants to protect them, despite being the youngest. I found Hunted to be one of those books that you are desperate to get to the end so you know how it ends but when you near the last pages you want it to go on forever.

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