In this hypnotic, oft-dazzling homage to old-school childrens’ fantasy such as The Phantom Tollbooth, Wizard of Oz, and Alice in Wonderland, Valente both embraces and subverts genre tropes. September, a resourceful girl from Nebraska, is whisked away to Fairyland one day. There, she enjoys a series of perilous and whimsical adventures, including questing for magical artifacts and defying a tyrannical ruler. With strange new friends at her side, September sets off to save Fairyland, embracing her own strengths and weaknesses. Complex and beautiful, lyrical and poignant, this tale is an instant classic.
Archive for category Fantasy
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland In A Ship Of Her Own Making, by Catherynne M. Valente (Feiwel and Friends,2011)
On the run after the death of the Emperor and the slaughter of her fellow Dragoneyes, Eona is caught in the middle of a rebellion, both figurehead and target. Only one man can teach her how to use her new powers in time to save the empire: Lord Ido, the disgraced Dragoneye who engineered his fellows’ downfall, currently held captive by the wicked false Emperor Sethon. In an epic struggle for survival, Eona must rescue her enemy, master her abilities, and unlock a centuries-old mystery involving her own ancestor. This fascinating sequel to Eon combines Chinese myth, wuxia action, magic, romance, and gender issues, producing a densely-packed, richly-told story.
The Kingdom has been in upheaval for years, plagued by bizarre weather, failing crops, and unnatural creatures. An emissary from the Fae invites human representatives to meet with their Queen, to restore the balance. Among those who are chosen are Kaede, daughter of the Chancellor, and Taisin, a powerful sage-in-training. The perils of the road are many, and slowly the two girls fall for one another, a bond which proves life-saving when they confront the true threat to two kingdoms. This gorgeous fantasy combines heart-pounding adventure and gentle romance. Filled with lush imagery and lovely words, it’s a genuine treat.
For many years, it’s been the custom for the princesses of Ardendale to be locked up in a tower on their fourteenth birthday, guarded by a dragon. Whoever kills the dragon gets to marry the princess and become the next king. Strange as it seems, this Dragon Treaty has kept peace between humans and dragons for generations. However, when the time comes for untraditionally-minded Princess Ivy to take up residence in the tower, she actually runs away … with her dragon guardian acting as companion on her quest to track down her long-missing fairy godmother. It’s the only way to foil the evil plans of the wicked Prince Romil of Glacia, as well as the only way for Ivy to determine her own fate and prevent her new dragon friend from a horrible death. All they have to do now is survive a trip filled with giant spiders, hungry trolls, haunted swamps, and cranky dragons.
This story of a girl and her dragon is sure to remind some readers of other stories told along the same lines, from Patricia Wrede’s Enchanted Forest Chronicles to Jessica Day George’s Dragon Slippers, but it’s still a rather charming, fast-paced, enjoyable story in its own right. It’s easy to cheer for a princess who takes control of her own destiny, a decidedly nonstandard dragon, and all the other subtly twisted fairy tale trappings in attendance here, and it makes for a fun read.
My name is Michael, and, to no one’s surprise, I am a geek. While the manner in which I express my geekitude has changed over the years, from theatre, to writing, to gaming, I’ve always embraced my geekdom. And so I have to say, this is the book I wish I’d had in high school. I really, really wish this anthology had existed back then. Because this book is full of pure whimsical awesomeness, and is a celebration of all things geek. Black and Castellucci have assembled an all-star cast, and encouraged each and every one of them to let their passions and their freak flags fly proudly.
While it’s easy to point at almost any story here and say it’s an excellent piece of work, there are a few which really stand out. First and foremost is Black and Castellucci’s own “Once You’re A Jedi, You’re A Jedi All The Way,” in which a Klingon and a Jedi meet at a convention, have a little too much to drink, and well … the Jets and the Sharks have nothing on Trekkies and Star Wars fans. Can a cross-universe affair work out, or will someone go to the Dark Side? I love the characters, and the situation is both absurd and believable.
Tracy Lynn’s “One Of Us,” about a cheerleader who pays the AV Club to teach her to speak geek in order to impress a guy, is somewhat more predictable in how it turns out, but it’s the good kind of predictable, where you totally root for the characters anyway, and want to see a happy ending. (Hmmm, seems to me this would make a great movie.) It’s a story that really speaks to the importance of owning your passion, whether it’s science fiction, fantasy, or classic romance flicks.
Cassandra Clare’s “I Never” explores the potential for trouble that arises when members of an online roleplaying community meet up in real life … and not everyone lives up to their electronic persona.
Devid Levithan’s “Quiz Bowl Antichrist” shows that just because you’re smart doesn’t mean you have all the answers, while some situations don’t have any answers at all.
Lisa Yee demonstrates that geekery comes in every form, such as baton twirling, in “Everyone But You.” I guess it shows my own geek bias that until now, I’d have sniffed at baton twirling, but here, we see that it’s all a matter of perspective.
Sadly, one story which stands out, does so not because it’s good, but because it’s kind of disturbing. Barry Lyga (an author I love to read, by the way), turns in a strange tale of revenge in “The Truth About Dino Girl.” It’s a cautionary tale: don’t mess with the geeks or bully the outcasts, because you never know when one of them will snap and find a way to ruin your life, but it’s still a fairly ugly piece when you think about actions and consequences. Compared to the other stories, it’s a disharmonious note.
Back to something a bit more reassuring, Wendy Mass’ “The Stars At The Finish Line” is a quirky tale of competition, romance, and astronomy. Here’s another story with sympathetic, believable characters, great chemistry, and a feel-good ending.
Naturally, no collection of geekery would be complete without a Rocky Horror story, and Libba Bray’s “It’s Just A Jump To The Left” satisfies that need, and more.
Scattered between the stories are a number of comic strips, further exploring various aspects of geekdom, written by Black and Castellucci, and alternately drawn by Hope Larson and Bryan Lee O’Malley. These add just that much more flavor to the overall excellent feel of the anthology, and make it truly worth the price of admission. Whether you’re into art, cheerleading, science, theater, science fiction, fantasy, or trivia contests, the message remains the same: embrace that which makes you happy and interesting, stand tall in the face of those who’d mock you, and have fun.
Man, I really could have used this book back then, but I’m damned glad it exists now.
Making good on a promise, Meghan, recently revealed as the half-human daughter of King Oberon of the Summer Fae, has become an uneasy “guest” in the Winter Court of Queen Mab, where she must deal with court politics and prejudice. An on-again off-again forbidden romance with Prince Ash both comforts and confuses her, but even that’s a distraction from the true threat of the newly-discovered Iron Fae, whose very natures will destroy all of Faery if left unchecked. As the wildcard, it’s up to Meghan to change the course of events, but it may cost her her heart and soul. There’re some pleasing twists in an otherwise fairly-predictable storyline, but the entire concept of the Iron Fae elevates this to a worthy level. It’ll be interesting to see how it all pulls together in the next book.
After her partner is killed during a hazardous assignment, thief and spy Digger finds refuge masquerading as a maidservant for a sympathetic noble family, where she can hide her ability to see magic from those who’ve outlawed all magic on pain of death. Trapped by the winter weather in a remote castle, blackmailed into spying on her hosts by a ruthless guest, Digger soon discovers she’s far from the only person harboring dangerous secrets, and the seeds of a long-defeated rebellion may be growing again. Tense and claustrophobic, full of surprises and narrated by a strong new heroine, this gripping fantasy is wholly superb and a must-read.
Having come into her power as the Mistress of Revels, Bertie Smith has left the Theatre Illuminata in search of Nate, her pirate friend who was kidnapped by the sea goddess Sedna. With her as always are the alluring air spirit Ariel, and a gaggle of mischievous Shakespearian fairies. With nothing going as planned, Bertie’s going to have to do a lot of improvising if she wants to rescue Nate, find her true father, discover her true origins, puzzle out the extent of her feelings for both Nate and Ariel, and make sure the show goes on. The sequel to Eyes Like Stars, this is another rousing adventure of literary and theatrical whimsy, filled with sly twists and humorous moments. Bertie’s continuing story deserves multiple encores and a standing ovation.
When Wolf runs away from the monastery he’s called home for years in search of a more fulfilling life, he finds more than he bargained for in the forms of a feral elf-child and a local lord driven by heartbreak, loss and ambition. Taken into service by Lord Hugo of the Red Mound, Wolf befriends his stubborn, spirited daughter, Nest, and takes on the task of civilizing the elf. But what does Hugo want with the elf, and what sort of trouble will arise as a result of his quest? Set in a long-ago Wales where magic and superstition still hold power, this book draws on traditional fairy tales and religious beliefs to tell a creepy, intriguing story where anything is possible.
Teen wizards Kit and Nita have been tasked with uncovering the buried secrets of Mars, but when Kit accidentally activates an ancient artifact, the planet comes to life in unexpectedly mysterious ways, challenging everything they ever believed about the red planet. With the fate of two planets at stake, our heroes and their allies will be stretched to their limits to find a suitable solution. Straddling the fence between science fiction and fantasy, beautifully-written and morally complex, featuring a rich cast of engaging characters and some thought-provoking twists, this installment proves that even after nine books, this series is still going strong.