Thursday, 30 June 2011

Book Review: The Sevenfold Spell by Tia Nevitt



Title: The Sevenfold Spell
Author: Tia Nevitt
Release Date: 27 September 2010
Length: 23,000 words
Publisher: Carina Press
Source: review copy provided by publisher via NetGalley
Purchasing Info: Goodreads, Amazon, Author's website

Grade: 4 stars

Novellus superbus!

Goodreads appetizer: Have you ever wondered what happens to the other people in the fairy tale?

Things look grim for Talia and her mother. By royal proclamation, the constables and those annoying “good” fairies have taken away their livelihood by confiscating their spinning wheel. Something to do with a curse on the princess, they said.

Not every young lady has a fairy godmother rushing to her rescue.

Without the promise of an income from spinning, Talia’s prospects for marriage disappear, and she and her mother face destitution. Past caring about breaking an arbitrary and cruel law, rebellious Talia determines to build a new spinning wheel, the only one in the nation, which plays right into the evil fairy’s diabolical plan. Talia discovers that finding a happy ending requires sacrifice. But is it a sacrifice she’s willing to make?

My Thoughts: I have to say The Sevenfold Spell is the fairy tale retelling I have read which is the most original and which deviates the most from the classic fairy tale. I loved Tia Nevitt's unique perception of what really happened in the Sleeping Beauty tale. There are two main arcs where The Sevenfold Spell differs from the original Sleeping Beauty: the arc regarding the heroine Talia and the other one concerning the princess.

Let me first start with Talia's story.

The story grips the reader right from the start and sucks you in, making you curious to learn more about this alternate universe and version of Sleeping Beauty. The story starts with magistrates walking the town and destroying all spinning wheels due to a royal decree, which tries to circumvent the princess' curse this way. However, we never saw before how such an act could affect other people, and here we are on the side of the others: Talia and her mother as well as their neighbours have lost their living, their despair and uncertainty at the future was jarring.

We get our very first shock at the beginning when it is revealed that the heroine is a poor and ugly young woman who has warts! *gasp* Yes, not the usual beginning we are used to where the heroine's spellbinding beauty and musical laughter are described. Oh no, Talia, our heroine is a realist and she is her own most severe critic: men only deem her plain, but it is her own view that she is ugly. But she has accepted that fact since a long time. She has resigned herself to her fate, and knows she has not much chance at matrimony, and at love none whatsoever.

Besides the physique of the heroine her attitude towards love and romance was also unusual. When a young man who she considers a friend of her mentions they should get married it is not a passionate proposal and speech of undying love, oh couldn't be further from that:
On one such day, shortly before I turned eighteen, he interrupted his own description of the birth of a calf to say, “We should get married, you know.” I gawked at him.
“Why?”
He shrugged, and then blushed to the tips of his ears. “We get on well. You don’t seem like a henpecker, and I’m not likely to be an adulterer.”
I understood what he was trying to say. I was plain and he was homely. Neither of us was likely to find anyone else. 

And her reason for accepting him? Not butterflies and damp palms either:
He was plain, certainly, but he had other things in his favor. At the top of the list was his interest in me.

But this lack of passion and love at first sight wasn't enough for Tia Nevitt, no, she still had to jumble it up a bit more :-) Unfortunately it seemed Talia would not get her happy ending and marriage and her own cottage and children all became a distant dream. And seeing so much hopelessness, resignation and unhappy endings in a fairy tale was shocking to say at least. But Talia is a strong and determined heroine, different from the usual simpering princesses who just wait for their princes to come and save them. Talia is independent and takes matters into her own hand, she tries to take charge of her own destiny.

The other element which I found stunning since it deviated so much from the usual fairy tale canons was that the heroine had needs, sexual needs. And she wasn't sorry or ashamed of them. She even risked being called a tramp and being shunned by society for the short moments of companionship she could get this way.
My infrequent confessions went something like this: “I have not been chaste, as a maiden ought,” I would say to the priest.
“With whom have you not been chaste?”
“A butcher. A baker. A candlestick maker.”

The Sevenfold Spell is a steamy story with sensual sex scenes that you most certainly wouldn't find in your usual fairy tale :-p

Then let me tell you how this story deviates from the original when it comes to the princess:

Her curse was sevenfold:
"The spell awaits the seventh part, still. It goes like this: “Beloved by all, with Beauty the most perfect, Elegance the most graceful, Temperament the most amiable, Judgment the most sensible, Music the most lyric, And wit the most keen."
And since it was interrupted by the evil fairy before the seventh and last part could be announced, the princess was simple! She had the maturity and intellectual of a child even when she became 16! (but have no fear it is a fairy tale, so all is well, which ends well... ;-)

The ending nicely ties off all the loose ends and satisfies all fairy tale fans. The light and happiness really came through and I was happy to see that Talia after so much suffering and bleak years got to be happy.

Tia Nevitt finished The Sevenfold Spell with the perfect humourous ending:
“Talia shall indeed have all the things you have granted her,” she said. “Love, marriage, children, wealth, health and long years. However, she will never—” Swat! A broom smacked her out of the air and dashed her to the marble floor, senseless. “—be troubled by fairies again,” Mother concluded as she leaned on a broom. All of the fairies, including the stunned evil fairy, vanished from sight. Mother turned to me. “Gawd! I’ve wanted to do that for seventeen years.”


Verdict: The Sevenfold Spell was a unique and completely original spin on the classic fairy tale. Tia Nevitt created an interesting alternate universe and the unexpected twists and turns will definitely keep you guessing (and hoping) until the end.

I usually dislike novellas because I always find the story rushed and deem it would have served the author, the reader and the story better if it were longer. However, it wasn't the case with The Sevenfold Spell. It was well developed, the ending was lovely, and all fairy tale lovers could sit back with a sigh that all the characters got their happy ending :-)

Plot: 9/10
Characters: 8/10
Ending: 8/10
Writing: 9/10
Cover: 8/10

Buy it:











Fairy Tale Recommendations: Sleeping Beauty variations


Today's post is the first in a series of book recommendation posts compiling the different versions and retellings of classic fairy tales I found.

I had no idea before I researched it for this event how popular the classic fairy tale of Sleeping Beauty was. It seems it is the fairy tale having the most retelling stories right after Cinderella!

So here are a few I have seen, if you know about more please let me know and I'll add them to the list.


A choose-your-own-path kind of action packed Sleeping Beauty story:


In this thrilling story full of adventure and romance, Sleeping Beauty is more than just a lonely princess waiting for her prince—she's a brave, tenacious girl who never backs down from a challenge. With vampire-slaying talents that she practices in secret, Sleeping Beauty puts her courage to the test in the dark of night, fighting evil as she searches for a way to break the spell that has cut her off from her family. In a special twist, readers have the opportunity to make key decisions for Sleeping Beauty and decide where she goes next—but no matter the choice; the result is a story unlike any fairy tale you've ever read!

Sleeping Beauty: Vampire Slayer is an entirely new type of fairy tale–one that will keep today's kids guessing and offer them hours of magical fun.

A steamy version of Sleeping Beauty:


Have you ever wondered what happens to the other people in the fairy tale?

Things look grim for Talia and her mother. By royal proclamation, the constables and those annoying "good" fairies have taken away their livelihood by confiscating their spinning wheel. Something to do with a curse on the princess, they said.

Not every young lady has a fairy godmother rushing to her rescue.

Without the promise of an income from spinning, Talia's prospects for marriage disappear, and she and her mother face destitution. Past caring about breaking an arbitrary and cruel law, rebellious Talia determines to build a new spinning wheel, the only one in the nation—which plays right into the evil fairy's diabolical plan. Talia discovers that finding a happy ending requires sacrifice. But is it a sacrifice she's willing to make?

A fantasy retelling of Sleeping Beauty:


Heavy is the head—and the eyelids—of the princess who wears the crown…

In Rosamund's realm, happiness hinges on a few simple beliefs:

For every princess there's a prince.
The king has ultimate power.
Stepmothers should never be trusted.
And bad things come to those who break with Tradition….

But when Rosa is pursued by a murderous huntsman and then captured by dwarves, her beliefs go up in smoke. Determined to escape and save her kingdom from imminent invasion, she agrees to become the guinea pig in one of her stepmother's risky incantations—thus falling into a deep, deep sleep.

When awakened by a touchy-feely stranger, Rosa must choose between Tradition and her future…between a host of eligible princes and a handsome, fair-haired outsider. And learn the difference between being a princess and ruling as a queen.

The moral of the story? Sometimes a princess has to create her own happy endings….

A YA version of a modern Sleeping Beauty:


Nineteen-year-old Rose Brier is in love with Fish Denniston: but Fish, struggling with abuse issues in his past, holds her at arms’ length until an old danger and a tragic accident threatens Rose’s life. A modern retelling of the story of “Sleeping Beauty,” and the third novel in the Fairy Tale Novel series.

A magical retelling of Sleeping Beauty:


All the creatures of the forest and field and riverbank knew the infant was special. She was the princess, spirited away from the evil fairy Pernicia on her name-day. But the curse was cast: Rosie was fated to prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel and fall into a poisoned sleep-a slumber from which no one would be able to rouse her.

A Sleeping Beauty tale interwoven with the Holocaust:


Ever since she was a child, Rebecca has been enchanted by her grandmother Gemma’s stories about Briar Rose. But a promise Rebecca makes to her dying grandmother will lead her on a remarkable journey to uncover the truth of Gemma’s astonishing claim: I am Briar Rose. A journey that will lead her to unspeakable brutality and horror. But also to redemption and hope. A Tor Teen edition of the modern classic by critically-acclaimed author Jane Yolen.


If you know of any other Sleeping Beauty retelling (be it picture book, paranormal, erotica, historical romance, etc.), please let me know and I'll add them to the list.

Guest post: Pride and Prejudice – a Cinderella Retelling by Tia Nevitt + Giveaway

Today I have the pleasure of welcoming Tia Nevitt to Ex Libris, who is the author of The Sevenfold Spell, a retelling of the classic Sleeping Beauty unlike any others (for starters the heroine is ugly, has warts and is a poor spinster). When I saw that Tia decided to do a P&P - Cinderella comparison in her guest post I was more than excited and happy! As a die hard P&P fan and whose favourite fairy tale is Cinderella, I was in heaven! So enjoy Tia's casting of the P&P retelling of Cinderella, and you can enter to win a copy of Tia's own Sleeping Beauty retelling: The Sevenfold Spell.


Pride and Prejudice (Restored Edition)
Pride and Prejudice – a Cinderella Retelling
by Tia Nevitt

Although THE SEVENFOLD SPELL is based on Sleeping Beauty, I’m focused on Cinderella because I’m currently working on my Cinderella retelling. And I know it’s been said that every romance is a Cinderella story in disguise. It’s probably the most retold story ever. And comparisons between Cinderella and Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice probably already exist. But I’ve never read one, so I thought I’d have some fun by drawing parallels between my favorite romance novel, Pride and Prejudice, and Cinderella.

Cinderella – Of course Cinderalla is Lizzy. Or Elizabeth Bennett. A no-brainer.

The Prince – um … Wickham? Just kidding. It’s a no-brainer again. The name is Fitzwilliam Darcy. A name that is exciting even to write.

The Wicked Stepmother – Mrs Bennett. I bet you thought I’d say Lady Catherine de Bourgh, did you? No, it’s Mrs Bennett. How is she wicked? Well, she’s awfully cruel to poor Mary, simply because she had the misfortune of being born plain. And Mrs Bennett’s one purpose in life is to get all her daughters married off—and happily is optional. She pressured poor Lizzy to accept Mr Collins, and only backed off when Mr Bennett told Lizzy the best line in the novel:

“An unhappy alternative is before you, Elizabeth. From this day you must be a stranger to one of your parents. -- Your mother will never see you again if you do not marry Mr. Collins, and I will never see you again if you do.”

So yes, Mrs Bennett is undoubtedly the wicked stepmother.

The Ugly Stepsisters – Lydia and Kitty. They are ugly, of course, in their thoughtless behavior. They think only of themselves and men, they have ulterior motives for every good deed they commit, and they care not a fig if anyone gets hurt. Except maybe themselves.

The Fairy Godmother – Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Huh? Lady Catherine is the fairy godmother? That old crone? How so? Well, she was quite the fairy godmother to Mr Collins, even if the eventual Mrs Collins thinks Lady Catherine is the bane of her existence. And she is the means by which Darcy eventually returns to re-propose to Lizzy—even if it is the exact opposite of what she intended. Think of her as a malevolent, bumbling fairy, granting happily ever afters despite her own wishes.

The Ball – Bingley’s ball at Netherfield is, of course, the ball. It is when Lizzy reluctantly dances with Darcy. There are two other balls in the book (at least) but this is the special one, the one we remember. And the one where Darcy fell in love with Lizzy after snubbing her. Aaah – fate is such sweet justice.

The Glass Slipper – In Cinderella, the slipper brings the two of them together. The prince searches the land, with only the slipper for a clue. There is no glass slipper in the story, but the thing that brings them together has to be Darcy’s letter. Lizzy keeps it for months, rereading it over and over. We don’t truly know Darcy as a reader until we see this letter, which gives us a glimpse of his thoughts.

Ok. So that was a stretch.

The Plot – Ok, so the plot isn’t much like a Cinderella story except at its bare essentials—poor and overlooked girl (remember the snub!) wins the heart of a handsome and rich gentleman by means of dancing. And witty conversation.

Ok, my brain hurts.

The Sevenfold SpellWhat I’m trying to say is we love to tell the same stories over and over. When I retold Sleeping Beauty as THE SEVENFOLD SPELL, I did so because I became intrigued by the idea of telling it from the spinster’s point of view, where she owned an illegal spinning wheel. And I did my best to wind the fate of the beautiful princess together with an ugly spinster. I gave them both names found in two versions of the original stories—Aurora and Talia. And I made Talia a study of opposites against Aurora.

What stories have you read that seem to retell a famous fairy tale?

Tia Nevitt had her head in the clouds as a girl, but she was yanked down to earth at the tender age of eighteen when she was standing nose-to-nose in front of a yelling drill sergeant in Basic Training. She found her prince while turning jets as a flightline mechanic, and their happily-ever-after continues to this day. Her prince introduced her to fantasy gaming, which reunited her with fairy tales, and which eventually inspired her to write. Now, her head is back in the clouds.

You can reach Tia at her website, her blog, or on her Twitter, Goodreads or Facebook accounts.


GIVEAWAY RULES:

Tia has generously offered an ebook copy of her novel The Sevenfold Spell to a lucky commentator.

The Sevenfold Spell
All you have to do is:

1) answer Tia's question: What stories have you read that seem to retell a famous fairy tale?
2) leave me a way to contact you (e-mail address, Twitter handle, etc.)

Giveaway is open worldwide and ends on 13 July 2011!

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Guest post: The Story within the Story by Melissa Lemon + Giveaway

Today my special guest is author Melissa Lemon, whose debut novel Cinder and Ella tells you the story of Cinderella like you have never heard it before! Did you know that there were fours sisters and that they had a loving family? And that sisters Cinder and Ella were two separate persons? Thought you didn't. So if you want to discover more about this version of Cinderella, make sure to pick up a copy of Cinder and Ella when it hits shelves in November. But if you don't want to wait until then, read on, because thanks to Melissa's generosity, you have the chance to win yourself a copy months before its release date! Yay! 


The Story within the Story
by Melissa Lemon

There are moments inside of stories that are magic. Today I would like to share two of those with you that just happen to come from two of my favorite books: Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens and At the Back of the North Wind by George McDonald. Neither of these books are really fairy tales, but each of them contains one. And the fairy tales held within these books are stories that I love as much as the whole works.

Little DorritIn Little Dorrit, Amy Dorrit (sometimes called “Little Mother”) is telling a story to Maggie, who is a woman that is stuck inside her child mind because of an illness that took hold of her when she was young. The story is about a little woman who keeps a shadow in a secret place. One day, the princess comes by. She knows that the woman is keeping something and so she asks her to show it to her. The little woman shows the princess the shadow and tells her that she keeps watch over it every day because there had never been anybody so good and kind. She justifies this by explaining that nobody missed it. The princess tells the woman that when she dies, the shadow will be discovered. But the little woman says that when she goes to her grave, the shadow will follow. The princess looks in on the little woman each time she passes until, one day, the little woman is gone. She has died, and so the princess looks for the shadow. But it is as the little woman had said. Nobody had missed it and the shadow had gone to the grave with her. Maybe it’s not much of a fairy tale, but if you understand Amy Dorrit and what she’s experiencing at the time, you know that the story is about how her own happy ending seems impossible to her, but that doesn’t keep her from holding on to that shadow.

In George McDonald’s book At the Back of the North Wind, a man at a hospital tells a story to a group of children. The story is the most beautiful rendition of Sleeping Beauty that I have ever read. It is about the Princess Daylight, who is cursed at birth by an evil fairy to sleep every day. Luckily, the good fairies had planned for this and ensure that she can wake at night. Then the ridiculous, wicked fairy curses her further, so that in her nightly wakefulness, she will wax and wane with the moon. One last fairy makes it so that when a prince kisses her, the spell will be broken. So it is. The princess is vibrant and full of life under the light of the full moon, but resembles an old, wrinkled woman when the moon is as a sliver or is not seen at all. But a prince comes. He sees the princess in her full glory, but does not know who she is or where she came from or why she dances in the moonlight, her beauty increasing every day. Then one night, when the moon is absent, he finds an old woman lying at the base of a birch tree. The woman is crying and so mournful that it almost brings the prince to tears. He lifts her, wanting to find help for her, and can’t help but kiss her lips in his pity for her. The sun is beginning to rise as he sets her down. He sees her transform into the beautiful Princess Daylight, and she sees the light of the sun for the very first time.

Sometimes, the best fairy tales are hidden. Do you have a favorite story within a story?

Melissa is married to her own prince charming and spends most of her time doting on three lovely princesses. When it comes to fairy tales, she likes to run over the pumpkin and throw the glass slippers to the wind. Oh, and happy endings—they’re optional.



GIVEAWAY RULES:

Melissa has generously offered a copy of her book Cinder and Ella, a new retelling of the true story behind Cinderella, the one you never heard.


All you have to do is:

1) answer Melissa's question: Do you have a favorite story within a story?
2) leave me a way to contact you (e-mail address, Twitter handle, etc.)

Giveaway is open worldwide and ends on 13 July 2011!

Book Review: Cinder and Ella by Melissa Lemon



Title: Cinder and Ella
Author: Melissa Lemon
Release Date: 8 November 2011
Number of pages: 208 pages
Publisher: Bonneville Books
Source: review copy provided by publisher via NetGalley
Purchasing Info: Goodreads, Author's blogAmazon
Gist of the book: A loving family gets visited by an evil prince who spreads lies where ever he goes. Unfortunately these evil lies caused a once loving family to become strangers to each other. When the father suddenly one day disappears his two daughters Cinder and Ella are left to keep their family together with no help from their depressed mother. Cinder takes a servants job at the castle which leaves Ella alone to maintain the house hold duties. Sadly Ella’s mother doesn’t even acknowledge her existence calling “Cinderella” when her other two spoiled sisters need tending to. Finally fed up Ella runs away finding herself in a whole load of mysterious circumstances when the evil prince requests her presence at the castle. Will Ella be strong enough to stand up to the evil prince and save her family?

Guest review by Steph

My Thoughts: This is not your typical Cinderella story so if that is what you are expecting you might be disappointed. Yes there are similar aspects like daughters being treated like servants, the name Cinder and Ella and perhaps the ball but other than that not really similar at all.

The plot was very chaotic and I found myself very confused because my questions weren’t being answered. I still pushed through the story like a sleuth trying to find clues to what was going on but *sigh* I just gave up and accepted whatever the story was.

Honestly with this story you have to just accept that the Prince is evil with little knowledge of why and that most of these characters are just simply gullible. I hate to discourage anyone from reading this book but I personally thought it was just not for me. I have read reviews where people absolutely loved it so maybe give it a try.

Verdict: This is not your typical Cinderella story so if that is what you are expecting you might be disappointed.

Buy it: You can preorder Cinder and Ella on Amazon


You can catch a glimpse of Steph at her blog Paper Cut Reviews, on Twitter, or on Goodreads.


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