It’s fall, which means I’m in the mood for fairy tale and folk lore retellings, along with an entry from my favorite fantasy romance series, and a contemporary urban fantasy for a change. Let’s get into it!
A Touch of Gold by Annie Sullivan
This story instantly grabbed me with its synopses, as it’s a King Midas…I don’t want to say retelling, because it isn’t really. It’s about the aftermath of King Midas’ tale, and his daughter Kora who has been curse because the King didn’t follow the proper instructions to end the curse fully, so while he no longer has the golden touch, the curse still affects him and his kingdom. I thought that was a super interesting take inspired by the tale, and decided to give this story a go. I liked it way more than I figured I would, because along with Kora’s story is an introspective look into our perception of ourselves, finding your own self-worth and identity, and to boot, an awesome pirate adventure that also ties in to those themes, and finding a place to belong. The romance in this is a slow burn, and while there are some fairy tale retelling tropes in here, they’re used optimally to further the narrative of the story and are really well done. There’s tons of action, story and character beats, and a satisfying standalone ending for this story that is also open ended for more stories in this world – and there will be, as Curse of Gold is now released. The world building and magic is great too, just a solid read if you like both fairy tale retelling/reimagining’s, good romance, and solid young adult novels. I’d highly recommend this one, it’s one of my new favorites in the genre.
The Phoenix Princess by Lichelle Slater
And on the other side of the retelling spectrum, we have The Phoenix Princess. This is number 4 in the Forgotten Kingdom series, a set of standalone-ish fairy tale retellings that also have a through line story arc with a central character that appears in each of the books. While this series took a while for me to enjoy, I found this entry to be rather lack luster. It didn’t tie in well enough to the fairy tale it was based on – Snow White – and the main character and her love interest were just so meh to me. It’s a shame, because I liked Tavia in the previous entries of the series. But in this, having her as the first person view just made me really dislike her, and while her being a Phoenix was cool, the entire time I was trying to find any sort of parallel to Snow White to make this interesting. But other than randomly mentioning dwarves and having a huntsman stand in, there really was nothing. It felt like this book was just filler before the final book comes out in December, because there was way more interesting stuff about another character and his backstory then was interesting about Tavia. It’s fine to read if you’re into the series, but if you picked this up thinking it would be a good standalone it really isn’t. It wouldn’t make sense just on its own, so if you want to read this series start at The Dragon Princess. Disappointing entry in the series and in the fairy tale retelling genre if I’m being honest though, pretty meh.
A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow
My first venture into modern urban fantasy, A Song Below Water is a really great look at the racism and inequality issues taking place right now, but through the allegory of supernatural creatures. Tavia is a siren, which instantly got me because I adore mermaids and sirens, but in this world only sirens are black. So not only does she deal with those duel issues, but she has to navigate going through high school, figuring out who she is, and helping her best friend Effie do the same. This story is a duel point of view story, as we switch between both Tavia and Effie’s perspectives and I just really enjoyed all of the story beats, and commentary this book made on race issues. As an African American myself, it really hit a lot of great notes for me and I’m glad I read it. I will say that it’s rather predictable if you know about mythologies and supernatural creatures, but that didn’t take away from the story for me personally. I’ve heard some people say it was written a little young for them, but that also didn’t bother me because we’re looking at life through teenage eyes in this book, and the themes and message the book was going for really hit its mark for me. If you’re into supernatural stuff, or really want an approachable way to see and understand the racial issues going on right now pick up this book. A fast and enjoyable read, as it’s just below 300 pages.
Death Wind by Tara Grace
I saved my personal favorite for last. I love the Elvan Alliance series, and the last book left us on a cliffhanger that this one thankfully concludes. I really enjoyed this book, as we got to see Farrendal away from Essie, and reading his point of view was such a treat. Seeing how he’s grown because of her, and his inner workings was fantastic, and we also get to read from his sister Melantha’s perspective which was great as well. Melantha was a break away character for me in this book, as we got to see her fleshed out in this after seeing her actions in War Bound. I can’t get enough about this series, and can’t really say any more about this entry without spoilers, but if you like fantasy romance and familial bonds in your stories, read this series. It also delivers on action when it needs to as well, just a fantastic book series.
And that does it for this entry of Bite-Sized book reviews. Let me know if you give any of these books a read, I’d love to discuss them in the comments!