October 29, 2014

Books Reviewed by Brita Long: Hood & Fae, The Door in the Hedge, Cinder & Ella

Today’s book review column is a little different. Not only are none of these three books by the same author, but they are all stylistically and thematically very different from each other. Hood & Fae, by Tara Maya, is a modern faery adaptation of “Little Red Riding Hood.” The Door in the Hedge, by Robin McKinley, is a collection of four short fairy tales. Cinder & Ella, by Kelly Oram, is a modern retelling of the classic “Cinderella,” but with technology instead of magic.

Hood & Fae is a novella that serves as a prequel to Maya’s upcoming series, Daughters of Little Red Riding Hood. Roxy and Bryn Hood are sisters struggling to pay for their comatose mother’s medical bills. When Roxy finally opens the last birthday present her mother had bought for her before getting sick, she realizes that the family business of talking to the dead wasn’t just a scam. When Roxy puts on the hooded red leather jacket, she can both see people’s souls and the souls of the dead.

Hood & Fae kept me both laughing and on the edge of my seat. Maya has created a completely new faery world with magical realms that are essentially levels of heaven and hell. Add in a werewolf, a sexy and magical park ranger, an honest-to-goodness fairy godmother, and a sexy and magical scoundrel, and the book kept me riveted the whole time. I can’t wait until the first full-length novel is published.

The Door in the Hedge includes two original fairy tales and two retold fairy tales. “The Stolen Princess” describes a mortal kingdom bordering a fairy kingdom, with the fairies sometimes stealing the baby boys and teenage girls from their mortal neighbors. While it’s a beautiful fairy tale, with a satisfying albeit predictable conclusion, I prefer the other original story, “The Hunting of the Hind.” In this tale, the kingdom has lost many young men in pursuit of a beautiful wild animal, the Golden Hind. When finally even the prince has succumbed to fever and madness after seeing the Hind, his sister the princess goes after the Hind. What she finds I will not spoil, but eventually she defeats an evil wizard, and everyone lives happily ever after. McKinley’s retellings of “The Princess and the Frog” and “The Twelve Dancing Princesses” are equally original and breathtaking.

Cinder & Ella tells the story of Ella Rodriguez and Brian Oliver, best friends who have never met in person. Brian doesn’t know that Ella’s car accident left her physically and emotionally scarred. Ella doesn’t even know Brian’s real name, and she definitely doesn’t know that he’s a famous movie star. But when Ella moves to California to live with her absent father, stepmother, and two stepsisters, she and Brian are about to accidentally meet each other offline.

I have read almost all of Oram’s books, and Cinder & Ella is by far my favorite. The characters reach new emotional depths not previously seen in her other writing. Not only are the protagonists well-written and complex, but so are the supporting characters. Even the “wicked stepsisters” eventually show some empathy to Ella, and she discovers exactly why they behaved so cruelly and coolly towards her. While not a true fairy tale, this imaginative retold story is too good not to review. I particularly like the “fairy godmothers” (two gay costume designers) and the “royal ball” (a fantasy version of Comic Con). Cinder & Ella is a must-read for all fans of books inspired by “Cinderella.”

What fairy tales have you read recently? Any requests for what I review next? Let me know in the comments!

Brita Long is a francophile feminist living out her own fairy tale with her husband in Ohio. You can find her online at bellebrita.com, where she writes about her faith, books, and her life as a southern belle in the Midwest.
Brita Long

1 comment

  1. I'm especially intrigued by the premise of Cinder and Ella. Thanks for giving me more books to add to my list!