4 stars · fairy tale · Fantasy

The Bear and the Nightingale

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The Bear and the Nightingale

Winternight Trilogy #1

author : katherine arden

pages : [hardcover] 323

memorable quote :

Nothing changes, Vasya. Things are, or they are not. Magic is forgetting that something ever was other than as you willed it.

favorite character : vasilisa

summary :

At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind—she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.

After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.

And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.

As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed—this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales.

review :

This is one of those books where I constantly wonder why it took me so dang long to read it. The Bear and the Nightingale is beautifully written. It starts off a little slowly, but I absolutely love the old-style fairy tale tone that dominates this book. It’s the kind of long book that you just sink into without wanting it to end–which is why I was excited to see that it was a series after I finished this one!

This is one of those stories I absolutely recommend to the fairy tale retelling fan who feels like they’re read everything out there (aka someone like me, hello let’s be best friends). This is new, exciting, and gives you that delightful retelling feeling without absolutely knowing where the plot is going or what will happen with all of the characters. There’s no room for the mundane, only magic.

I highly recommend this book and can’t wait to reread it (and get my hands on the next one)!

4/5 stars

 

 

5 stars · fairy tale · young adult

A Curse So Dark and Lonely, more like A CURSE SO DANG LOVELY

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A Curse So Dark and Lonely

A Curse So Dark and Lonely #1

author : brigid kemmerer

pages : [hardcover] 496

memorable quote :

I am always surprised to discover that when the world seems darkest, there exists the greatest opportunity for light.

favorite character : harper

summary :

An instant New York Times Best Seller! In a lush, contemporary fantasy retelling of Beauty and the Beast, Brigid Kemmerer gives readers another compulsively readable romance perfect for fans of Marissa Meyer.

Fall in love, break the curse. 

It once seemed so easy to Prince Rhen, the heir to Emberfall. Cursed by a powerful enchantress to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year over and over, he knew he could be saved if a girl fell for him. But that was before he learned that at the end of each autumn, he would turn into a vicious beast hell-bent on destruction. That was before he destroyed his castle, his family, and every last shred of hope.

Nothing has ever been easy for Harper Lacy. With her father long gone, her mother dying, and her brother barely holding their family together while constantly underestimating her because of her cerebral palsy, she learned to be tough enough to survive. But when she tries to save someone else on the streets of Washington, DC, she’s instead somehow sucked into Rhen’s cursed world.

Break the curse, save the kingdom. 

A prince? A monster? A curse? Harper doesn’t know where she is or what to believe. But as she spends time with Rhen in this enchanted land, she begins to understand what’s at stake. And as Rhen realizes Harper is not just another girl to charm, his hope comes flooding back. But powerful forces are standing against Emberfall . . . and it will take more than a broken curse to save Harper, Rhen, and his people from utter ruin.

review :

I love fairy tale retellings, to the point that I honestly can’t say how many Beauty and the Beast retellings I’ve read. A Curse So Dark and Lonely is now not only one of my favorite retellings, it’s one of my favorite books.

The story is typical Beauty and the Beast for about . . . ten pages. There’s a curse. There’s the beast. And Harper is taken away to fall in love with him and break the curse. Except . . . she was never the one who was supposed to be brought to the Beast’s castle–she only ends up there because she tries to stop someone else, a stranger, from being taken.

Harper is from our world and one of my favorite contemporary characters I’ve ever read about. She’s thrust into another world filled with magic and royalty (and thankfully, refreshingly, HARDLY ANY SEXISM. three cheers for a magical world that doesn’t make a big stink about a girl wearing pants). Harper Stays Sexy and Doesn’t Get Murdered, though, because she’s determined to get home to her family and rightfully wants nothing to do with these emotionally stunted nerds who’ve kidnapped her. Finally, a Beauty who acts the right way to being stolen away from everything she’s ever known. Her reactions were so realistic? And I was immediately on her side.

I also loved how this book was dual POV, so we get to see from the Beast’s point of view as well. Rhen is verrrrry quickly made out to be a lesser villain in this book. He’s arrogant and sort of has no idea of how to be an actual person instead of a prince, but he was never TOO terrible. The story surrounding his curse, however, quickly gets very intense. Surprising (and amazing) for a retelling. Also surprising, we get beautiful worldbuilding. There are plots in this book outside of the curse. The stakes are higher–more characters are involved. I’m so glad that this is going to be a series because it feels like it needs at least one more book to explore all of the plot lines introduced here. Plus . . . I just want more of these characters okay.

There is a love triangle which I’m not the hugest fan of usually, but I love all of these characters so I didn’t even mind. More importantly there’s fantastic cerebral palsy rep with Harper (I love that it’s just a part of who she is, not her entire storyline) and some LGBTQ rep through minor characters. I want more. I need more. AH.

I can’t recommend this book enough and I’m so glad that I read it! I’ll eagerly be waiting for the sequel.

5/5 stars

 

5 stars · Fantasy · middle grade

Nightbooks by J.A. White: a magical middle-grade novel

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Nightbooks

author : j.a. white

pages : [hardcover] 304

favorite character : lenore

summary :

Alex has loved scary stories his whole life.

He never imagined he be trapped in one.

When Alex sneaks out in the middle of the night, he becomes imprisoned by the witch Natacha in her magical apartment. Another child in the apartment, Yasmin, assures Alex that she’s already tried every means of escape. Only Natacha holds the bonekeys that lead back to their world, and she’ll never part from them.

But Natacha likes stories. And Alex’s only chance for survival is to keep Natacha satisfied by reading her one of his own hair-raising tales each night. But Alex is running out of time—and original stories—and he’s desperate for a way out of this twisted place.

review :

All of us know the power of a story.

When Alex sneaks out at night to destroy his stories, instead he ends up trapped in a witch’s lair–er, apartment. To keep her from cursing him, or worse, he must tell her a different scary story each night.Nightbooks is like a combination of 1001 Nights and Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Alex needs to please the witch with his horror stories long enough to escape, or he’ll be permanently trapped in the witch’s apartment.

This story was so unique and magical and absolutely lovely. It’s a middle-grade book and exactly the sort of story my middle school self would have loved. It was very creepy; there were moments that freaked out present-me as well. I think readers will appreciate having Alex as a main character, too, because so many readers are interested in the creation of stories, even if they aren’t writers themselves. Alex experiences many of the struggles typical writers do, and maybe that only occur to horror writers. Plus there’s the whole cursed-by-a-witch threat hanging over his head, which would be sure to give anyone writer’s block.

The setting and the way magic interacts with it is so cool and vivid that I could picture it all. Honestly, I could see them turning this into a neat children’s movie. The way that the setting itself feels like a character and influences the plot so much is done incredibly well.

The writing is fun, too, and I love that we actually get to read Alex’s stories as he tells them. It’s a testament to J. A. White’s skill that Alex’s stories have a completely different voice and feel to them than the rest of the plot. We know when we’re reading Alex the narrator, and we know when we’re reading Alex the writer.

I think that readers will absolutely adore Nightbooks. It’s a standalone and a very quick, magical, creepy read. It’s completely unique, and middle-grade readers will love getting something new on their shelves.

5/5 stars

 

1 star · Fantasy · fiction

Kill the Farm Boy: more like kill my interest in this book

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Kill the Farm Boy

authors : delilah s. dawson and kevin hearne

pages : [hardcover] 364

summary :

In an irreverent new series in the tradition of Terry Pratchett novels and The Princess Bride, the New York Times bestselling authors of the Iron Druid Chronicles and Star Wars: Phasmareinvent fantasy, fairy tales, and floridly written feast scenes.

Once upon a time, in a faraway kingdom, a hero, the Chosen One, was born . . . and so begins every fairy tale ever told.

This is not that fairy tale.

There is a Chosen One, but he is unlike any One who has ever been Chosened.

And there is a faraway kingdom, but you have never been to a magical world quite like the land of Pell.

There, a plucky farm boy will find more than he’s bargained for on his quest to awaken the sleeping princess in her cursed tower. First there’s the Dark Lord who wishes for the boy’s untimely death . . . and also very fine cheese. Then there’s a bard without a song in her heart but with a very adorable and fuzzy tail, an assassin who fears not the night but is terrified of chickens, and a mighty fighter more frightened of her sword than of her chain-mail bikini. This journey will lead to sinister umlauts, a trash-talking goat, the Dread Necromancer Steve, and a strange and wondrous journey to the most peculiar “happily ever after” that ever once-upon-a-timed.

review :

I’ve never DNF’d a book so fast. I’m sure that this is someone else’s cup of tea, but Kill the Farm Boy is not for me.

As something compared to The Princess Bride, possibly one of the greatest, funniest takes on fairytale tropes that still manages to tell a fantastic story, Kill the Farm Boy is nothing like that. I read slightly less than fifty pages and then, when I found out this had a sequel coming, decided to end things there. I have too many other books to read to commit to . . . this.

I’m genuinely confused because I feel like if this book was scaled back–like if the lewd jokes disappeared and the characters were aged down, this would work so well as a middle grade book. In all seriousness, I think readers would love that. Because in the 40-50 pages I read, there were at least a dozen poop and fart jokes. In an adult novel. Ooooooooookay.

Besides that, the rest of the humor wasn’t for me either. Like, there was a lady running around in an armored bikini, I think just because it would be ‘funny’ to have her do certain things in a bikini? The bulk of the rest of the jokes felt like I was reading a mash-up parody of The Three Stooges. And that sort of humor doesn’t work on the page.

That said, I’m sure someone will like this. But if this sort of humor isn’t for you–maybe skip it, because Kill the Farm Boy is more about the jokes than the plot anyway.

1/5 stars

 

fairy tale · poetry · young adult

the princess saves herself in this one

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the princess saves herself in this one

author : amanda lovelace

pages : [paperback] 156

memorable quote :

repeat after me:
you owe
no one
your forgiveness.

– except maybe yourself.

summary :

A poetry collection divided into four different parts: the princess, the damsel, the queen, & you. the princess, the damsel, & the queen piece together the life of the author in three stages, while you serves as a note to the reader & all of humankind. Explores life & all of its love, loss, grief, healing, empowerment, & inspirations.

review:

I don’t read much poetry, but I had some spare time and my library participates in a digital sharing service called Hoopla. I downloaded the princess saves herself in this one and I read, and I read, and I read.

It’s hard to compare to other poetic piece I’ve read. For one, poetry is possibly the most subjective literary form. Poetry is so personalized, which is amazing, but it does a disservice to everyone to compare them to, say, Shakespeare, and not consider how different HIS poetry would have been had he lived in this time period. One of the things I loved most about this collection was how steeped it is in the contemporary. The flow, wording, even this certain type of feminism, all ground it solidly in the present.

It’s all so very relatable. Even though the writing is very simple, vying for message rather than complex symbolism, it’s powerful. And it successfully conveys not only the poet’s story, but her thoughts, her wishes–and she makes it easy for you to have an emotional connection as well.

Of course, I’m excited about any sort of extended metaphor that involves fairy tales–or, perhaps more interestingly, the breaking down of our expectations of those stories. It just makes me so happy to see how the normative narrative can be subverted in such a clever way. To do it as an extended metaphor in such short poems DOES come off as clever.

I want to read more by this poet, really sink my teeth into her writing. It’s different, original, and I can see why it is popular even in the mainstream. I don’t think that detracts from the writing at all.

I’d recommend picking this up and reading to see for yourself what all of the fuss is about. It’s worth it, and you never know what you might find in these poems.

4/5 stars

 

5 stars · fairy tale · fiction

Stardust by Neil Gaiman: everything I need in life

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Stardust

author : neil gaiman

pages : [paperback] 266

memorable quote :

Have been unavoidably detained by the world. Expect us when you see us.

favorite character : tristran

summary :

Young Tristran Thorn will do anything to win the cold heart of beautiful Victoria—even fetch her the star they watch fall from the night sky. But to do so, he must enter the unexplored lands on the other side of the ancient wall that gives their tiny village its name. Beyond that old stone wall, Tristran learns, lies Faerie—where nothing, not even a fallen star, is what he imagined.

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Neil Gaiman comes a remarkable quest into the dark and miraculous—in pursuit of love and the utterly impossible.

review:

WORDS CANNOT EXPRESS HOW MUCH I LOVED THIS BOOK.

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Not that I can ever underestimate Neil Gaiman anymore. After The Ocean at the End of the Lane and The Graveyard Book (just to name two), I’m ready to devour everything he’s ever written. Luckily for me, Stardust has been on my mental TBR for years. My physical TBR for a pile. Now I’m kicking myself because, after reading it, I realized that this is one of my absolute favorite books for the year–if not of all time.

It’s that amazing.

If you love fairy tales, or retold fairy tales, you’ll love this one. It’s like a fairy tale for adults–but not, you know, those adult themes. It’s the kind of perfect you want to go into knowing almost nothing about, just so you can fall headlong into the story and fall in love with Tristran Thorn.

Apart from the fact that I kept thinking “Tristran” is just a really complicated way of saying “Tristan”, our hero was amazing. Mostly because he isn’t perfect. He’s a little foolish, making promises to people he barely knows about things he hardly knows about. Running off to lands he knows absolutely nothing about and accepting help from people he’s just met. But he has such a kind heart, such good humor, and such a loving soul that you can’t help rooting for him and desperately hoping that the people he meets along the way will root for him, too. Because, of course, he’s entered the land of Faerie, where nothing is ever quite as it seems and most creatures aren’t as nice as you would like them to be.

But it’s oh so magical.

I don’t know why I love stories about Faerie so much when the creatures aren’t so nice. Maybe because it means most of the characters will be inevitably witty or clever. Tristan is kind of accidentally both of those things, which makes him even more endearing.

And then there are the other characters. I can’t delve much into them, because I don’t want to give anything away. I want you to step into this book, into this world, and be sucked in as deeply and immediately as I was. You’ll want to own this book, re-read it immediately, and share it with everyone you know.

I don’t think you’ll be surprised to hear I’d recommend Stardust to literally anyone. So what are you waiting for? Go take a trip to Faerie.

5/5 stars

 

3 stars · fairy tale · young adult

Spelled by Betsy Schow is a fun mashup of fairytale madness

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Spelled

author : betsy schow

pages : [paperback] 345

favorite character : kato

summary :

Fairy Tale Survival Rule #32: If you find yourself at the mercy of a wicked witch, sing a romantic ballad and wait for your Prince Charming to save the day.

Yeah, no thanks. Dorthea is completely princed out. Sure being the crown princess of Emerald has its perks—like Glenda Original ball gowns and Hans Christian Louboutin heels. But a forced marriage to the brooding prince Kato is so not what Dorthea had in mind for her enchanted future.

Talk about unhappily ever after.

Trying to fix her prince problem by wishing on a (cursed) star royally backfires, leaving the kingdom in chaos and her parents stuck in some place called “Kansas.” Now it’s up to Dorthea and her pixed off prince to find the mysterious Wizard of Oz and undo the curse…before it releases the wickedest witch of all and spells The End for the world of Story.

review :

If you’re someone who doesn’t have the patience for unlikable narrators, then Spelled isn’t the one for you. If you’re like me and can put up with Dot’s shenanigans, then I think you’ll really enjoy this book.

Spelled is the first in a series about fairy tales ranging from The Wizard of Oz to Cinderella to Greek mythology. There’s a little bit of everything in here, and it’s kind of awesome that even major fairy tales will just have a minor shoutout in the background of a scene. How casually it’s all thrown together just shows how usual this is for Dot, when her entire life revolves around these magical things and the so-called ‘rules’ of story that ensure the good guys win every time. All until Dot ruins the magic holding her world together and everything about happily ever after seems to become its opposite.

Dot is forced on a wild adventure with extremely unlikely (and also kind of unlikable) companions. It’s a little strange that out of three main characters, not a single one of them is inherently pleasant. I wasn’t sure of how to feel about that at first, but this isn’t your typical fairy tale. Just like Dot is fighting to get her normal life back together, she’s also fighting the magically satisfying character growth that’s coming her way.

And the worldbuilding was excellent! I love the nods to original stories, like Dot’s magical heels. Familiar but unique, all at once. The patchwork quality of the land was great as well, because you never knew which story connected with the other and would cause more magical mayhem.

This is a very quick and fun read that doesn’t take itself too seriously. I’ll definitely be reading more of the series!

3.5/5 stars

5 stars · fairy tale · Fantasy · horror · Uncategorized

Through the Woods — a graphic novel that will terrify you

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Through the Woods

author : emily carroll

pages : [hardcover] 208

summary :

‘It came from the woods. Most strange things do.’

Five mysterious, spine-tingling stories follow journeys into (and out of?) the eerie abyss.

These chilling tales spring from the macabre imagination of acclaimed and award-winning comic creator Emily Carroll.

Come take a walk in the woods and see what awaits you there…

review :

I’ve been looking forward to reading this book ever since I spotted it on a Barnes & Noble shelf, coveted it, and never thought that I’d ever be able to afford it. Which ended up being true, because I happily found that my school library had procured a copy of this book recently and I was the first person to check it out. With how long I’ve been waiting to get my hands on Through the Woods, it did not disappoint. In fact, these five horror stories left me shivering long past when I was supposed to get to sleep.

These are no normal retold fairy tales. They’re the kind of things you’d rather not hear, because more often than not there are no happy endings, and no guarantees that the characters you fear are not walking among you–or maybe waiting underneath your bed. That’s the kind of story Carroll is not only great at crafting, but illustrating. Yes, this graphic novel isn’t exactly ‘graphic’ in its horror, really, but sometimes the creatures it leaves up to your imagination is far worse than what is pictured on the page. I love how she turns that around on the reader, so in the end you aren’t sure of what, exactly, you’re afraid of, just that something is very wrong. Much like most of the protagonists in the stories feel. Before terribly creative and terrifying things happen in their lives.

Some of the tales reference easily recognizable fairy tales and others seem to have emerged on their own with no immediate influences, though through the tone and artistry they feel as ancient and warning as some of the oldest known fairy tales. I love that Carroll was so easily able to adapt an approach that brought back some of the gruesome aspects of original fairy tales but spun it all so that this storytelling is wholly her own.

I could gush about it forever, really, because the illustrations are amazing, too. I love the way the text itself because an image in the story, playing with the figures depicted. Sometimes changing color and size to indicate what is speaking and how the reader should feel about what is said. It’s such a layered book that I feel has been severely overlooked, and now I’m going to go and push it on all of my friends.

So, yes, of course, I recommend Through the Woods–just don’t read it on a dark and stormy night, when you’re home alone.

5/5 stars

 

3 stars · fairy tale · series · young adult

Reign of Shadows was a Rapunzel retelling that’s both amazing & disappointing

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Reign of Shadows

Reign of Shadows #1

author : sophie jordan

pages :  [hardcover] 304

memorable quote :

Life is full of regrets.
They’ll cripple you if you let them.

favorite character : luna

summary :

Seventeen years ago, an eclipse cloaked the kingdom of Relhok in perpetual darkness. In the chaos, an evil chancellor murdered the king and queen and seized their throne. Luna, Relhok’s lost princess, has been hiding in a tower ever since. Luna’s survival depends on the world believing she is dead.

But that doesn’t stop Luna from wanting more. When she meets Fowler, a mysterious archer braving the woods outside her tower, Luna is drawn to him despite the risk. When the tower is attacked, Luna and Fowler escape together. But this world of darkness is more treacherous than Luna ever realized.

With every threat stacked against them, Luna and Fowler find solace in each other. But with secrets still unspoken between them, falling in love might be their most dangerous journey yet.

With lush writing and a star–crossed romance, Reign of Shadowsis Sophie Jordan at her best.

review :

There were some parts of this story that I loved so much. Parts where I wanted to toss the book in the air while I celebrated how wickedly awesome that new detail or plot point was. And then something would happen that would be utterly predictable, or just a little cringe-worthy, so, slowly, my enthusiasm waned.

So. Rapunzel is my favorite fairy tale, hands down. From the creepy old versions right up to Tangled, it’s my thing. I’m kind of even working on my own version of it.

Luna is awesome as a Rapunzel heroine. She can handle her own in any situation, even though she’s barely left her tower throughout her life. Basically, if I had to be stuck in this terrible world filled with a perpetual night, I’d want her as an ally because I’d probably get out of it alive. Unfortunately, as soon as tall and brooding Fowler showed up, there was insta-love all over the place. The kind where Fowler, in his half of the chapters, gets very angst-y about how he’s never going to even care for someone again, much less love them. You’ll see how well that turns out.

However, I did enjoy the dual narration. They each had their different life experiences in this horrible world so it was interesting to get a more complete view of it by cobbling together their thoughts and memories. But there were a few plot twists dealing with them that were so heavily foreshadowed, I was not surprised in the least. I was actually kind of surprised that I was right about what was going to happen because I was hoping I was being tricked, in some way.

The thing I have most of a problem with, I think, is that this is supposed to be a duology and it could all be one book. I reached the ending and feel like I didn’t get to the meat of Reign of Shadows yet. It still felt like an introduction to only the superficial problems this kingdom is facing. It makes me worried that too much is going to be packed into book two. The cliffhanger ending here is frustrating because it reads more like a chapter ending with a cliffhanger than an actual conclusion to a book.

I’m definitely going to read the sequel, just to see where things go, but I won’t be purchasing it for myself.

3/5 stars

5 stars · fairy tale · young adult

Stars Above by Marissa Meyer reminds me to get a boyfriend

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Stars Above

The Lunar Chronicles short story collection

author : marissa meyer

pages : [hardcover] 369

memorable quote :

I will accept any amount of monsters my mind wants to give me, but I will not become a monster myself.

favorite character : scarlet & wolf, always

summary :

The enchantment continues….

The universe of the Lunar Chronicles holds stories—and secrets—that are wondrous, vicious, and romantic. How did Cinder first arrive in New Beijing? How did the brooding soldier Wolf transform from young man to killer? When did Princess Winter and the palace guard Jacin realize their destinies?

With nine stories—five of which have never before been published—and an exclusive never-before-seen excerpt from Marissa Meyer’s upcoming novel, Heartless, about the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland, Stars Above is essential for fans of the bestselling and beloved Lunar Chronicles.

review :

I can’t believe that The Lunar Chronicles is over. I remember waiting for years for new installments to come out, for cover reveals and sequel names and anxiously wondering if my beloved characters could possibly be okay at the end of all of this. And now, it’s over. And I’m forced to be okay with it.

Stars Above is a collection of short stories featuring most of the same characters and some of the same stories that have previously been published in this series. If you’ve read or purchased any of the paperback versions of the books, there might have been a bonus story tacked onto the end of it. Luckily this collection doesn’t just try to capitalize on having all of those in one pretty package. There are so many extra, new stories here that it’s definitely worth the purchase. And, to cap it all off, there’s a story that takes place after Winter. Is now when I admit that I immediately skipped to that story? Don’t judge me. I was listening to Marissa Meyer herself! When I had the chance to meet her at a signing, and told her of my undying love for some certain characters, she mentioned how much I would love this story.

The Lunar Chronicles have never made me cry but this epilogue nearly did, probably because I was so happy. There are so many things going on. It kind of reads like a fanfiction “what if the story continued?” but the best part about it is that it’s completely canon. (Please excuse my internal excited screaming.)

Some of the other stories crushed my happy little heart afterward, of course. Not all of the characters have had happy childhoods and it was interesting to see what brought them to the people they are today. There was also an interesting little story, “The Little Android”, a The Little Mermaid retelling that didn’t seem to feature any returning characters that I know of but touched me nonetheless.

If you love Marissa Meyer, you’re going to love this collection. But, please, read the series first and don’t spoil yourself with the ending before you get the thrill of the beginning.

5/5 stars