Magic Ex Libris: Libriomancer (2012)
The Stepsister Scheme (2009)
As you may or may not know, I love folk tales and fairy tales. I also love things derived from folk and fairy tales, which is why I love Fables, and Sandman, and Hellboy. Authors who work myth and characters from folklore into their works.
So when John Scalzi had Jim C. Hines on for his Big Idea post and it was about The Stepsister Scheme, I immediately added the book to my wishlist.
Then I decided I really wanted to read it and just went ahead and ordered it. (Note to Amazon: If I am ordering something off my own wishlist, why do you force me to choose a shipping address? Why can’t you be smarter than that?)
Cinderella (real name Danielle) has returned from her honeymoon and is adjusting to life as a princess when a series of unfortunate events leads her to the discovery that she’s not the only princess hanging around the castle, and these princesses believe that you need to be able to take care of yourself.
Which is how Danielle meets Sleeping Beauty and Snow White.
What I enjoyed most about the story was how he drew upon the less familiar versions of those fairy tales, and didn’t hesitate to add his own twists to those stories. (His Sleeping Beauty seemed to borrow a good deal from Charles Perrault, but them diverged wildly, which did throw me for a loop at first. But it was a good loop, and made more sense than where Perrault went, actually.)
Additionally, these princesses have more in common with the princesses in Fables than with Disney (especially Cinderella)–they’re assertive (eventually) and stand up for themselves, and won’t sit by and allow someone else to control their destiny.
All in all, I loved the story. I loved the independence of the princesses, I loved the realm they inhabited (as unreal as it may be, hey, it’s fantasy), I love where the story went, and I really enjoyed the secondary characters.
I also liked Danielle’s doubts and fears and how those doubts and fears and her past tempered her actions in the present.
If you like Fables, then you will definitely want to check out The Stepsister Scheme. And I’m not telling you whether there’s a happily ever after. :)
The Mermaid’s Madness (2009)
I thoroughly enjoyed The Stepsister Scheme, and so was looking forward to reading The Mermaid’s Madness. Snow (Snow White) and Talia (Sleeping Beauty) are again helping Danielle (Cinderella), this time to deal with a mermaid who has gone mad (hence the title). The mermaid in question is of Hans Christian Anderson’s tale, “The Little Mermaid” if you’re looking for the roots of the story.
As with the first story, we learn a little more about the pasts of Talia and Snow, and of course there is the take off on “The Little Mermaid”, and the characters are complex and multi-dimensional, with their own quirks and faults, so there was plenty there for me to like.
Except that I simply had a hard time getting through the story. In fact, I put the book down for more than a month, grabbed it to take to an appointment, and was going to put it back down for something else when I realized I was almost finished with the book.
It’s not like a hated the book or the story, I just found myself having a hard time caring what happened. It’s possible I would have preferred another main character for the story–Danielle is perhaps too nice and too good. Snow and Talia seemed to have far more interesting stories, so the focus on what Danielle’s growth and maturity into her position as princess was just not fascinating.
And for some reason, the mermaid portion of the story never really grabbed my attention. There weren’t any gaping flaws or errors or anything that threw me out of the story, but it also seemed to lack the certain something that grabs me and keeps me in the story. Perhaps it’s because I have not had much interest in high adventure fantasy recently–I used to love it, but in recent years, it’s done nothing for me.
So, for me, a disappointing continuation of the series, bust I still recommend going back and reading The Step Sister Scheme.
Magic Ex Libris
I really, really wanted to love this story. Instead, I just liked it, but came away with a vague feeling of disappointment–not because the book was bad–it wasn’t–but because I had wanted so much more out of the story, and it didn’t deliver.
Isaac Vainio is working as a librarian in a small town in the U.P. of Michigan. But he’s way more than meets the eye–he’s a libromancer. A Magician who can reach into books and pull out items that exist only between those pages, from a laser gun to a magical sword to an invisibility cloak.
And that’s what immediately sucked me into the story–the idea of being able to reach into a book and pull out anything that would fit through the pages.
Unfortunately, the story fell flat for me in a couple ways. First, the romance just didn’t work at all for me. I felt like it could have been removed completely from the story and nothing would have been missing.
Second, I never quite got the feel for the magic and what it couldn’t do. That may seem a somewhat strange issue, but with magic, limits are important. If someone can do anything, it gets… boring. And I started to get a little bored with the magic. Which was just WRONG.
But there wasn’t anything particularly wrong with the story, nothing made me mad, and I tore through the story in a couple hours, so it was obviously readable.
It just could have been more than it was, and not meeting my possibly unrealistic expectations left me with that feeling of vague disappointment. But I still think it’s a book well worth reading–just don’t let your expectations get to high, and I think you’ll enjoy it.
Published by DAW
Places to Be, People to Kill (2007) edited by Martin H. Greenberg & Brittiany A. Koren
I really like short stories, so I’m a sucker for anthologies. I’ve been burned a couple of times, but for the most part, anything that Martin H Greenberg has a hand in will most likely contain a majority of stories I’ll enjoy. The fact that the stories were about assassins was an added bonus. (For some reason I love to read about characters I would want absolutely nothing to do with if I read them in life: assassins, thieves, and scoundrels. Places to Be, People to Kill contains all three.
As with most anthologies, there were some stories I especially liked, and some I cared for less.
Exactly - Tania Huff
Bloodlines - Jim C. Hines
Hang Ten - Jean Rabe
Fealty - S. Andrew Swann
Breia's Diamond - Cat Collins
While Horse and Hero Fell - Sarah A. Hoyt
Deadhand - John Helfers
All in the Execution - Tim Waggoner
Money's Worth - Bradley H. Sinor
Substitutions - Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Drusilla - Ed Gorman
The Hundreth Kill - John Marco
Bloodlines by Jim C. Hines was one of the story I particularly liked. It somewhat uncommon to find a man who does a decent job of writing a female protagonist, but Jim Hines did a pretty good job with Valerica, especially since she turns out of be a complex and somewhat flawed character. I especially liked the part that the role of destiny plays in this story. As a firm believer in free will, stories that question the idea of destiny I always find particularly interesting.
Although the cover isn’t bad, I just am not convinced that the boy on the cover is an assassin. He’s slouching in such a way that makes me think of moody teenager rather than stealthy cold-blooded killer. But really, that’s picking nits, since the overall feel for the anthology was correct.
If you enjoy short stories–especially short stories about scoundrels and assassins, then I recommend that you check out Places to Be, People to Kill.
The only thing I didn’t like, is I wish the anthology hadn’t ended on such a dark and depressing story.
Mind you, the dark and depressing stories were good–very good–but these tales ran very true to the original stories, with a not insignificant amount of rape and incest and general horribleness. Just like the original tales.
But there’s also a good amount of humor as well, and I just wished the collection had ended with one of the funnier stories.
Jim C. Hines‘ story, “The Red Path” was another Little Red Riding Hood story, but one completely unlike the original, or any other Red Riding Hood tales I’ve read.
Curiosity had always been Roudette’s weakness, whether it was exploring the woods or reading the “adult” books her father kept locked away in the church. As far as she could tell, they were the same as the books she had studied when she was younger, only her father’s versions had more begatting.
That paragraph cracked me up.
Please note, as previously mentioned, the stories have rape and incest and lots and lots of sex in addition to evil stepmothers and other such killers.
There were also a fair number of very dark and very depressing tales that were very good, but that I didn’t enjoy at all.
Published by Night Shade Books