Tuesday, June 28, 2016

3 x Dark Magic Fairytale Retellings from Rosamund Hodge

Cruel Beauty, Rosamund Hodge
Well this was evocative! *fanning face with hand*  Also...
  • Immediately the narrative is coloured with heavy foreshadowing and references to unwanted and violent sex (after an unwanted marriage).  This means my guard was up and I was concerned...but it also means this book isn't ideal for younger YA readers I know.  Usually these things can see me tap out, but thankfully it didn't turn ugly.
  • I was intrigued by Hodge's slant on the interwoven fairytales and lore.  Add this to my sense of urgency about an imminent threat and I was hooked.  Particularly with her angle, I really like the brand of villain she constructed for the Beast character.
  • I wouldn't say the book ever crosses over to become erotic or even scandalous (there are no sex scenes, but there is a fade-out), but the emphasis on physical pulls inside characters, the currency of the human body, and the sexual references are steamy; the sensuality is set to simmer, and stays there.
  • As the protagonist's relationships develop, I cast initial eye rolls about Stockholm syndrome to the unforgiving wind and embraced the black comedy of her interactions.  I can't explain it, when done well, I've always found the interplay between worthy emissaries who are attracted to each other very appealing.  And when I say done well, I'm not talking about when they are truly and unflinchingly cruel to one another and that somehow leads to them making out (I'm looking at you, Uprooted / City of Bones).  Being a jerk isn't hot.  But when two characters have been carefully constructed to have dual senses of purposes that are at odds with each other, but they somehow find love, I'm cheering.  It's like being star-crossed, only more personal.  Stop if you don't want a spoiler: There is one scene in particular I grinned through where the Beauty character is making attempts to attack the Beast over dinner and he bears it all with a smile, and some amusement at the futility of her efforts.  There's something so entertaining about him finding her perseverance admirable, even though he is still her mark.
  • I was surprised to find the second half got quite dark, and to be reminded a little of Stiefvater!  (and of course Gaiman, thereby.  If you've read this and Anansi Boys, let's discuss).
Gilded Ashes, Rosamund Hodge
This novella is set in the same universe as Cruel Beauty but it can stand alone as a retelling of Cinderella (in case you hadn't decoded the ashes reference as easily as the previous title's link to things Grimm).  In fact, I think reading it before Cruel Beauty could give you some idea (with less time commitment) if you'll enjoy a darker, more sensual, longer story in the same style.  The novella is not as heavy, but is conversely more contrived, but I found it to be a thoroughly enjoyable hour or so, reading it.
Crimson Bound, Rosamund Hodge
Again, Hodge has stirred multiple tales in the pot to brew a riveting retelling of tales we know well (and those we don't).  "The Girl Without Hands" makes more sense penned by Hodge than it ever has for me as one of Grimm's collectables, I might add, and her spin on it is genius (and yes, this crimson title is also referencing Little Red).
  • This one is steamy again.  Simmering to hot with a lot of sensual references.
  • I think it is stronger than Cruel Beauty...although they're both memorable.
  • I love the way she writes thought processes.
  • It's dark again.  Fairly violent.
  • This is a fairly strong read-a-like for Throne of Glass, only with a faster start and fewer refrains.  Still has some things that remind me of Stiefvater, but a very different style and setting.
  • Overall: I was quite enthralled.
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