Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Book Review: Princess of the Silver Woods

Title: Princess of the Silver Woods
Author: Jessica Day George
Genre: Fantasy/ Fairytale retelling
Rating: 5

Princess of the Silver Woods is the third book in a fairytale retelling series that Jessica Day George has been penning. George, author of some of my favorite titles like Dragon Slippers, and her recent children's novel Tuesdays at the Castle, is a beautiful talent in the world of fantasy.

Like Princess of the Midnight Ball, a novelization of the Twelve Dancing Princesses, and its sequel Princess of Glass, a somewhat more subtle version of the classic Cinderella; Princess of the Silver Woods is a fairytale done over, refurnished, and painted over with colorful and lush strokes. Which classic tale this novel embodies is made clear by the summary in the front pages: “When Petunia, youngest of the dancing princesses, is ambushed by bandits in wolf masks on her way to visit and elderly neighbor, the line between enemies and friends becomes blurred...” It is made even more apparent by the sweeping red cloak which Petunia wears throughout the story.

Silver Woods is a story not unlike Midnight Ball, but it's interesting to see where the author has chosen to take her characters in these three novels. First, they are at home in the palace, yet swept to a dark and cursed land of enchantments in the space of a night. In Glass, the central character is in a foreign court, with a change in the peoples and customs. Here, the story delves into the more mystic qualities of the natural setting surrounding Petunia's home: the wild and the woods between her palace and the estate of a widowed duchess.

It mirrors the changes some of George's other stories have gone through: Dragon Slippers, Dragon Flight, and Dragon Spear visited the alternating worlds of dragon caverns, political courts, and mysterious islands. That being said, I think this series of three is better than the Dragon trio. While Midnight Ball is certainly my own favorite, the latter two books have kept up the intrigue and the momentum, something which seemed to slip in the Dragon books.

As for the story itself, I loved the way George played with the original tale to glean her own, although I was wondering exactly where the typical 'red riding hood' feel would come in about halfway through. I was not disappointed. The rich way the common fairytale is woven into a new craft is cause for marveling, and among those writers who rework the old tales into their own, Jessica Day George is one of the best.

Con's to the story are very few: There is some brief language. I know people have heard me rant about language in books, but as this is not a children's work, I show a great deal more leniency in that area.

Secondly there is the small issue that many of George's male characters, specifically those who are the 'love interests', appear to be cut from the same cloth. They share some remarkable similarities in character and while their characters are wonderful the first time you come across them, they become less so once you've met them a third time—especially if more than one of these characters then appears together, as has happened in Silver Woods. Although I may be exaggerating this effect, the bandit Oliver shares more than a passing resemblance to the person of the gardener Galen, from Midnight Ball, and both of them are conspicuously similar to Prince Luka from the Dragon books.

Without doubt, George is one of my favorite authors to read and I heartily recommend Princess of the Silver Woods, as well as the other two titles in this series.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

A Day in the Life of a Bibliophile: The Book-Sale

Some time has passed since I posted a regular blog article. This has something to do with limited Internet access, a terrible allergy season, my Pinterest addiction, a gigantic book-sale, general procrastination, and an ever-growing stack of library books—currently including eight novels.

I have acquired, over the course of the past two months, approximately sixty-five books. I just counted them. Part of me reacted by slumping in my chair and staring alternatively at my computer and my bookshelves. Another part of me wanted to jump into the air, fist to the sky, and shout “YES!” I have also just realized that I have added an approximated eighty books to my collection since the start of the year. For a bibliophile, that’s cause to party. For someone with limited space, it’s cause to weep.

Fortunately for me, this huge number of books about doubles the number I owned before, which might not sound like reason to celebrate, but this means I had some room to spare where books are involved. Now, emphasis on the word ‘had’, as I no longer have that luxury. Not only are my shelves filled, but the tops of my dresser and a disused desk have now been transformed into book hotels.

Enough complaints though. Now I’m going to brag.

If asked to pick a favorite from my most recent accumulations, I’m not certain I would be able to make a concrete decision, but I can list my favorites—plural.

First we’ll mention the book that I somehow managed to win in a random-drawing contest, courtesy of Gillian Adam’s Hobbit Birthday. Andrew Peterson’s On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness. This title easily fits into three selective categories: Favorite Children’s Book, Favorite Christian Fantasy Book, and Favorite All-Time Book. Needless to say, I love it. You should have seen the expression on my face when I opened my mail that day. (Thanks again, Gillian!)


And I have to list the oddest books I found. I doubt I ever would have paid money for these books alone, but when you’re at a sale hosting a Dollar-A-Bag deal, then how can you refuse the little curiosities you happen to find? 

1.One is the Official Guide to Old Books and Autographs, by William Rodger—a little paperback of a ripe age itself, concerning old books and their values and all sorts of notes on keeping old, rare books, and etc.
2.Then there’s The Book of Irish Lists and Trivia, by John Gleeson. This little paperback is exactly what it sounds like, including lists of everything from the most common first and surnames in Ireland; to (opens random page in book) ‘Cheating the Executioner’, Irish people sentenced to be executed but survived and what became of them. Ironically, the first name listed is a Lady Betty whose trade, the list claims, became the Public Hangwoman, Roscommon.
3.The last oddity of the book-sale is The Toastmaster’s Treasure Chest, by Herbert V. Prochnow and Prochnow, Jr. This is a book of quotations, ‘wit and wisdom of famous persons’, stories, anecdotes, famous toasts, unusual facts, and a hundred other tidbits that I feel certain I will make good use of in my writing in days to come. Two quotes on the same page: “Gardens are not made by singing ‘Oh, how beautiful!’ and sitting in the shade.” ~Rudayard Kipling. (and) “Fame is proof that people are gullible.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson.

My three favorite ‘Classic’ finds: (The first two of which, along with On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, are the only titles here listed that did not come from a recent library book sale.)

1.Best Loved Poems of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, a book of a most ingenious poet that caused my eyes to light up the moment I laid hands on it. Some of my favorite poems include Whither, The Day is Done, The Christmas Bells (which is made a popular hymn), and Travels by the Fireside.
2.A Treasury of the Familiar, edited by Ralph L. Woods. This contains one of my new favorite poems; the enchantingly strange ‘The Barrel-Organ’, by Alfred Noyes, author of the infamous ‘Highwayman’ lyric. Not only does this collection contain poetry, but also presidential addresses and inaugural speeches, famous quotes and historical documents, various biographical tales and essays, and etc.
3.I also managed to snatch up a copy of The Two Towers, by Tolkien. It’s a large, hardback edition illustrated by Allen Lee and is quite an imposing presence on my shelf. I am holding out hope of someday acquiring the other two parts of The Lord of the Rings in such fine form.

And now for two from the Children’s genre:

1.A slightly battered copy of The Dark Hills Divide, the first title in the Land of Elyon series penned by Patrick Carman. This series is among some of the best of Christian Fantasy, especially for children. (It also inspired me to write my first novel, however horrid that endeavor turned out.)
2.The Deep Freeze of Bartholomew Tullock, by Alex Williams was probably the first steampunk-esqu book I ever read. An enduring favorite of mine and one of the few novels I’ve somehow made time to read more than once.

Last-but-not-least, there’s my latest and greatest book fitting into the category of Miscellaneous Reference:

1.It is called Window Seat, by Gregory Dicum and is precisely what it sounds like, a guide to the landscape of the earth (focusing on North America) from the perspective of an aerial sweep. This fantastic little flight handbook expounds upon the geography of the United States and Canada, plus a look at the sky and the science of flying through it. The book contains maps, colorful topographical photos, interesting factoids of different places, and a narrative on how to distinguish from the air what you are seeing on the ground. I’ve never flown, personally, but that doesn’t stop me from loving this book and I think it, too, will come in mighty handy when I’m writing.

Besides these, I acquired a number of encyclopedia and dictionaries, more of my favorite children’s books, classic literature collections, and some writing books.

This bibliophile is looking forward to amassing a fantastic private library and has made a pretty good start of it, if I do say so myself.

And, yes, that Pinterest account comes in handy. :)