“A Court of Thorns and Roses” by Sarah J. Maas

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A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas is a loose retelling of the classic Beauty and the Beast fairy tale, but with a much darker twist. When Feyre slays a wolf in the forest she believes she has merely procured the means to help her family survive the harsh winter; until a faerie shows up demanding retribution from Feyre for the death of the wolf which was actually a faerie in disguise. The people of Feyre’s land have long held an uneasy alliance with the High Fae, but now Feyre is given a choice; die or live out the rest of her life with the faerie Tamlin.

Feyre soon learns that although at first glance the faerie realms seem prosperous and beautiful, the various courts are at war with each other and all are threatened by various dangerous creatures controlled by a psychopathic High Fae. As her connection and attraction to Tamlin grows, Feyre’s life is increasingly placed at risk.

Maas’s story clearly owes a lot of inspiration to myth and fairy tales, but influences from recent YA series such as the Hunger Games are also clear. Feyre is a skilled hunter who provides, and sacrifices, for her family. She is a strong protagonist who is willing to go to great lengths to protect those she loves.

A Court of Thorns and Roses is the first time I have encountered the genre classification of New Adult. New Adult books are targeted slightly older than traditional YA, more for 18-21 year olds. A Court of Thorns and Roses is slightly more graphic and violent than many YA books, but it should still be suitable for older high school students. Overall, A Court of Thorns and Roses is an action-packed and romantic fantasy adventure.

-Check this book out or put it on hold.

-Caitlin C.

“Crimson Bound” by Rosamund Hodge

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Cruel Beauty was one of my favorite YA books of 2014 and I have been eagerly awaiting Crimson Bound since I read Rosamund Hodge’s first book almost a year ago. In Crimson Bound, Hodge twists and retells the story of Red Riding Hood. Rachelle was training to be her aunt’s apprentice until she wandered off the path in the forest and was marked as a Bloodbound by a Forestborn.  This left her with a choice: kill someone in three days or die herself. Rachelle chooses to live but it is a choice that still haunts her three years later. As her version of penance, Rachelle joins the King’s Bloodbound guard and fights to protect the people from the creatures of the Great Forest, until she is assigned to protect the King’s son, Armand. As she guards Armand, Rachelle is also trying to find two ancient swords that could help her prevent the Forestborn from causing an endless night to fall.

To me, the novel started a little slowly. Additionally, I was disappointed to see that a lot of the plot was taken up by a rather traditional love triangle. Rachelle is such a strong heroine it seemed out of character that she cannot make up her mind between two men. Hodge’s writing, however, makes the story worth it. The story really picked up in the last third of the book and I did not see some of the twists that led to the climax. One of my favorite aspects of Cruel Beauty was Hodge’s descriptions, and she still excels at this in Crimson Bound. The Great Forest is suitably atmospheric and terrifying and it is clear that Hodge got much of her inspiration for the court Rachelle must navigate from pre-Revolutionary France.

All in all, Crimson Bound is a well plotted fairy tale retelling with plenty of twists and a strong heroine, though Rachelle’s indecisiveness between Armand and Erec did take away from the story for me a bit. I would recommend this novel and I hope that Hodge continues with her retellings.

Check this book out or put it on hold.

-Caitlin Connelly

“The Stepsister’s Tale” by Tracy Barrett

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The story of Cinderella is one that has been told and re-told in countless versions, across many cultures. Yet, Tracy Barrett still finds a way to put a new twist on this classic tale in The Stepsister’s Tale by having one of the “wicked” stepsisters narrate the book. The roles of the stepsister and Cinderella are seemingly reversed in Barrett’s story. Jane Montjoy lives in a crumbling mansion, her family’s fortune long since squandered by her father, and she struggles to keep enough food on the table for her mother and younger sister, Maude. After her mother remarries and her stepfather dies suddenly, Jane is also left with a stepsister to care for. Ella is spoiled, pampered and selfish, and is at odds with Jane and Maude from the time they meet.

The greatest strengths of The Stepsister’s Tale are Barrett’s descriptions of the Montjoy’s once grand mansion that is falling into ruin around them, as well as the forest and the forest people who befriend Jane. A terrific main character, Jane really sets this novel apart from other fairy tale retellings. She is strong and resourceful and you can feel her struggle to hold it together for the sake of her mother and sister, even when she has reached her lowest point. The book also ends with a satisfying change to the traditional encounter between Cinderella and the prince at the ball, and the ensuing search for the owner of the glass slipper. Highly recommended for fans of fairy tale retellings.

Check this book out or put it on hold.

-Caitlin Connelly

“Cruel Beauty” by Rosamund Hodge

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In this twist on the classic fairy tale “Beauty and the Beast,” Nyx has been raised her whole life knowing that it is her destiny to marry the Dark Lord, the evil ruler of her kingdom. On her seventeenth birthday Nyx marries Ignifex with one mission, kill him and free Arcadia, even though she will likely die in the process. Of course, like in “Beauty and the Beast,” things aren’t quite so straightforward once Nyx gets to know her mysterious husband. She is intrigued by and drawn to Ignifex and her commitment to what she has been tasked to do begins to waver.

Hodge has created a unique world in her novel. Nyx’s kingdom is completely cut off from the outside world, thanks to the Dark Lord, and is plagued by demons. The world of Cruel Beauty combines elements of both Greek and Roman mythology. Hodge’s writing is beautiful and I could easily picture the kingdom of Arcadia and Ignifex’s constantly changing mansion as Nyx searches for a way to fulfill her mission. Hodge’s detailed descriptions of setting and of Nyx, a strong yet imperfect heroine, were two of my favorite elements of this book.

For lovers of fairy tale retellings and fantasy, Cruel Beauty will not disappoint. My only quibble is that the ending felt a little rushed, after a lot of build up. But overall, Cruel Beauty is one of my favorite books of 2014, and I will definitely read Hodge’s next novel Crimson Bound.

Check this book out or put it on hold.
-Caitlin Connelly

“Cinder” by Marissa Meyer

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Cinder is a re-imagined Cinderella set in a futuristic China. Cinder, our heroine, is a mechanic cyborg working hard to earn a living to help her stepmother and sisters. While Cinder is at her job, Prince Kai brings her a malfunctioning android to fix. The two develop a relationship which blossoms into a forbidden attraction. Unfortunately the kingdom is not living in an easy time. There is a sickness killing off members of the population, and there is no known cure. Along with this is the looming possibility of war if Prince Kai does not marry Levana, Queen of the Lunars.

Why I picked it up: I’m a sucker for a remake of a fairy tale story. Also I loved the front cover design.

Why I finished it: This book pulled me in from the beginning. I had to know what was going to happen to all of the characters. Meyers even made the stepmother sympathetic.

I’d give it to: Anyone who likes fairy tales, cyborgs, or strong female main characters.

Check this book out or put it on hold.

-Natalie Martinez