Yearning for Wonderland
I have not reviewed many ebooks on my blog, but made an exception in this case as I’d been intrigued by the sample chapter and wanted to read the rest. When A.G.R. Moore (@agrmoore on Twitter) approached me, I agreed to review his book, The Unseen Chronicles of Amelia Black.
The book is a little fantasy and a little steampunk: there are wizards and robots and monsters and a haunted forest. And an airship, naturally. The illustrations were done by Gillian Reid and, honestly, were some of the best I’ve seen. It was a perfect marriage of picture and text. Her interpretations really brought the story to life.
I enjoyed Amelia as a heroine, as she’s exactly the type of plucky little girl I would follow into an adventure like this. There is a great exploration of the shades of grey within us all – not all of the good guys are good and even the bad guys are not as they seem. Amelia has powers that she struggles to control, on her quest to find her parents.
The narrative suffered from a slightly disjointed feeling. The action would occasionally leave Amelia for awhile and focus on the other characters, but none of them had the draw for me that she did. It was a quick read and pleasurable.
Some truly not-so-nice things happen to the characters along the way, a few nightmarish moments, so be prepared. This book would be too intense for young children, but might be just right for tweens and, of course, adults who enjoy Young Adult literature. I recommend this book for lovers of Tim Burton, Neil Gaiman’s Coraline, and dark fantasy.
It’s a very affordable buy on Amazon and totally worth it – support indie authors!
There’s a dark, twisted underbelly to fairytales that modern parents generally do not acknowledge.
Early fairytales were often moralizing, cautionary tales with very real messages: do not walk into the woods alone, do not always trust the honeyed words of strangers, not every fair face is your friend.
In the original tale, the Little Mermaid feels like she is walking on swords when she uses her legs and dies in the end of a broken heart, returning to the sea as foam.
Our contemporary, sanitized and Disneyfied stories are pastel-colored and always have a happy ending. While there are dark moments (notably Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty terrorized me), we are comforted and secure in the knowledge that our protagonist will succeed in their quest, often accompanied by crooning crabs.
Failure, ruin and despair don’t have much play in modern fairytales, except in books like Lies, Knives and Girls in Red Dresses by Ron Koertge (illustrations by Andrea Deszo).
“Do you want to sleep? Find another storyteller. Do you want to think about the world in a new way?
Come closer. Closer, please. I want to whisper in your ear.”
Even the cover promises dark dreams: a lascivious red tongued wolf threatening to gobble a girl in a red dress.
These are true retellings. Do not look here for many happy endings. At best, his characters end up with their expected version of happiness, which isn’t so permanent after all. At worst, maiming, suffering and beautiful death.
If you enjoy the original Grimm Brothers stories, if you like your tales with a razor’s edge, Lies, Knives and Girls in Red Dresses will be your cup of tea. The finely designed laser-cut illustrations from Andrea Deszo give the look of old-world woodcuts, adding a perfect punctuation to the dark-rimmed stories.
Here are twenty reimagined tales, written in free verse ranging from poetic prose to rhymed couplets. It reads like stories rather than poetry, though, and is quite easy to slide into.
My favorite is a series of five stories on Rapunzel, from the point of view of the mother, the father, the witch, the prince and Rapunzel. It will make you rethink Happily-Ever-After.
Lies, Knives and Girls in Red Dresses is available for pre-order on Amazon. It releases July 10, 2012.
Thanks to Candlewick Press and Raquel Matos for the advance copy to review.
The Book of Unwritten Tales begins with a “spirited leap” onto the back of a dragon and doesn’t let go till the very end, some 20-odd hours later.
The action in the game is third person point and click. You play as a number of characters throughout the game: the gnome Wilbur Weathervane, elvish Princess Ivo, Nate the human buccaneer, or his creature Critter who is a…creature.
Some videogames have annoying and repetitive music and voices. This is not the case with The Book of Unwritten Tales. The few times when I had to play in a quiet area, I got my headphones so I didn’t miss a moment.
In fact, the music and vocal work is truly exceptional, the soundtrack nuanced with believable sound effects. Unlike some games that force two voice actors to create five or six different voices, this game has a sizable vocal cast about a dozen and you can tell as you encounter people throughout the world.
The visuals are five star, a dizzying array of locales. There are icy mountains, underground caverns, and dark forests.
The pacing of the plot dynamic and keeps you interested. The puzzles range in challenge from easy to ‘scratch your head difficult.’ The game raises the difficulty by disguising objects so perfectly into the background that you can’t perceive them.
Several mini-games require a series of quick key presses to progress, which creates a little urgency in a linear game since you cannot progress otherwise. Like most adventure games, the player has to combine unexpected elements. Fasten the rubber chicken to the torture device to create a makeshift slingshot? Check.
You also often have to switch characters during cooperative play as you often need to use a character’s specific skill to solve a puzzle.
Lots of humor is written into both the dialogue and the tiny reaction animations. The designers don’t take anything too seriously, a great deal is tongue-in-cheek. There are countless gaming and geek references: Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Advanced Dungeon & Dragons, Lord of the Rings, Alice in Wonderland, Magic: the Gathering, Mission Impossible…and those are just the ones I caught on the first go-thru.
The game, however, is not without a few issues. The animation to switch characters is odd; they half walk in a circle around each other to swap instead of instantaneous, which gets old when you have to constantly switch. The same half-circle happens when going in and out of doorways and entrances.
Though the script is very good, the last few lines of dialogue in the game is in untranslated German. It was an odd way to finish, but a small mar of the face of an otherwise excellent game-playing experience.
Some lessons to take away from The Book of Unwritten Tales:
• Don’t tee off the trolls.
• If you can’t see the solution to the puzzle, it’s likely under your nose.
• Individually, tiny creatures are no threat. Collectively, they can cart you off and toss you into the bushes.
The Book of Unwritten Tales definitely gives you your money’s worth. The game is presented as a book, divided into five chapters. I’m quite adept at adventure games and I found myself stuck in several places for a day or two. I opted not to use the walk-thru, as that takes all the fun out of it.
Like any good tale, I did not want it to end and didn’t want to leave these characters behind. Does plucky little Wilbur have the courage to adventure forth and be a true mage? Do Ivo and Nate end up floating off into their own sunset in a gnome balloon? Well, I’ll let you play and write the story on your own.
There are strong hints of a sequel–“Maybe there’s another adventure out there for us,” says Wilbur–and there’s definitely room for more creative adventure games like The Book of Unwritten Tales.
The Book of Unwritten Tales is rated T (Teen) by the ESRB
The Fairy Ring by Mary Losure tells the well-known story from the girls’ point of view, first from the perspective of Frances on her arrival in England (Part I), then from the perspective of Elsie (Part II) and then the story intersects to weave the tale of both girls and how their own personal fairytales ended. Losure consults primary sources like previously undisclosed personal letters to build her narrative.
You should read this book if you love fairies and wish there was a touch more magic in the world.
What if falling in love cost you your life? Would you be able to resist?