Oh hello. Betcha forgot I even existed, didn’t you?
You heartless beast.
Since I last wrote . . . I successfully completed another semester of college; toured with my college’s chorale and handbell teams for three weeks altogether; swam in the Atlantic ocean for the first time; re-started my job at Dairy Queen for the summer; had my first gig as a wedding musician for a dear friend; took and passed the CLEP Biology exam; . . . oh, and got engaged. It’s been a very good few months.
But all those things aren’t the reason I’m writing. (Though I bet you’re dying to hear allllllllll about the joys of the biology exam, aren’t you?). I had another of those “Yay-I-want-to-read-this-book-so-I’ll-volunteer-to-be-a-reviewer!”-and-the-review-deadline snuck-up-on-me moments. Actually, the deadline isn’t even for a week or so, but I’ll be busy pretending I’m homeless in the north woods with my family, so all this interwebbing needs to be done tonight. Wait. Camping! That’s what it’s called.
So. On to the review!!!
As you may remember, I had the privilege of being published in the Five Glass Slippers collection last summer, the first in a series of similar fairytale retellings. This year was Five Enchanted Roses--a compilation of “Beauty and the Beast” stories. Ms. Stengl opens the book with a quote from G. K. Chesterton which sums up well the entire anthology (can I use that term in this context?):
“There is the great lesson of ‘Beauty and the Beast’;
that a thing must be loved before it is loveable.”
The authors (Kaycee Browning, Savannah Jezowski, Jenelle Schmidt, Dorian Tsukioka, and Hayden Wand) included truly did a wonderful job exploring and re-imagining that theme, and I thoroughly enjoyed each story. Five Enchanted Roses took me from a pirate ship, to a semi-haunted castle, to a traditional fairytale country, to a mysterious jungle, and finally . . . to Scotland. A note on each story, and then my thoughts on the book as a whole.
Espirit de la Rose by Kaycee Browning
“Spirited” is a good word for this story and its heroine. Cecilia is just your average privateer’s daughter until she finds herself stuck on a ship full of waterlogged sailors doomed to eternal punishment unless they can find redemption. . . you know, just the usual. Oh, and the captain is dashing. And offers to help her escape. If the Fee will let her . . .
I’m giving this story the “Least Furry Beast” prize, because he wasn’t the typical wolf-like prince. The redemption theme was clear, and the ending–while not quite what I expected or wanted, really–made me eager to hear about Cecilia’s next adventure.
Wither by Savannah Jezowski
I think this was my favorite story in the book–which was surprising, as it included zombies, ghouls, and the like. . . which are normally not my preferred style. However, something about this dark and intriguing fairytale land drew me in. Lilybet (whose name I love, for starters) braves the spooky, deadly Neverway to find the castle of a mysterious beast who has demanded the life of her little sister, and discovers that her ideas of the world weren’t quite accurate. Both the beauty and the beast were endearing, interesting characters, and I look forward to hearing more about them–Mrs. Jezowski promised a sequel in her ending, and After, Book 1 of the Neverway Chronicles, will be released in December.
Also, her dream cast includes Samantha Barks, so props for that.
I’m awarding this story the “My Personal Favorite” award. Good and evil were thoroughly explored, the love story was sweet, and the world of the Neverway was simultaneously unreal and believable.
Stone Curse by Jenelle Schmidt
Firstly, Mrs. Schmidt looks like my friend Rebekah (one of my favorite people on the planet), so obvious bonus points there. Secondly, this was a wonderful story. Of all the novellas in this collection, Stone Curse was set in the most traditional fairytale realm, but the tale itself was far from traditional! It begins at the cursed castle itself: mostly deserted, with only the beast, a few devoted servants, a host of frozen nobles, and the occasional brave (or financially aspirational) lady who visits in an attempt to fall in the love with the princely beast and break the curse, all of whom are unsuccessful, and becoming fewer and fewer as time passes. (Sorry ’bout that run-on sentence.) But. . . why is the Beast even cursed, and where has the Beauty been kidnapped to, and how can everything be righted again? That is the question Karyna sets off to answer, but the answer she finds is quite the opposite of what she had expected.
This tale gets the “My Favorite Love Story” prize. Read it and you’ll see why. (Especially if you’re familiar with my own love story.) (That could be referring to either my imaginary one, What Eyes Can See, or my real-life one. They have some similarities.)
Rosara and the Jungle King by Dorian Tsukioka
Of all the tales in the collection, this story is least like the “Beauty and the Beast” I’ve always known. However, it’s still the same tale at its heart. Rosara is the daughter of a jungle chieftain whose principle goal at the beginning of the story is simply to aviod becoming the town’s drunk’s third wife. (I don’t think he was particularly drunk, actually, but I can’t think of the word I want.) Things change rather drastically when a talking jaguar suddenly befriends her.
This novella wins the “Most Unique Setting” award. (Yes, even unique-er than the pirate ship. And that’s saying something.) Also, Mrs. Tsukioka is from Missouri, so yay for that.
The Wulver’s Rose by Hayden Wand
I loved this tale so much. Set in ancient Scotland, this story has an evil witch and an enchanted castle, but it also has some good old Scottish Protestantism, wild moors, bankrupt barons, and self-sacrificing maidens. (Ok, so the last two really should be singular. I just wanted the list to be matchy. Sorry.) It wasn’t spooky; it wasn’t mysterious; it wasn’t particularly surprising, even, but it came together as a sweet, simple tale of love and faith.
This story will get the “Most Endearing Beauty” prize. I liked all the beauty characters. . . but Bonnie’s sweetness was, well, the sweetest.
Now that this has officially taken an hour longer than allotted–I have a camping trip tomorrow to pack for, after all!–I’m going to be rather quick about the summary. I’ll give this collection 4/5 stars: its a unique, wholesome, imaginative, fun little book which I would pick up again for a light afternoon read. I’m holding back the 5th star because I like reserving that for those really special books–the ones that entertain, teach, and become friends.
So. Go. Pick up one for yourself and debate my opinions. And then go write your own fairytale and be part of next summer’s Five Magic Spindles. I’ve got a pretty good idea for that, myself-–but it’s a mystery story and I don’t know if I’m quite skilled enough to write that. Also, I have a bachelor’s degree to finish and a wedding to plan and that sort of takes precedence right now. Someday I’ll do some more writing. Maybe someday I’ll write down my real-life love story in all its sappy glory. But not now.
Now I’m going to go pack for a wild camping trip.
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.