February 3, 2015

Book Review Column by Brita Long: Good Fairy Tales That Could Have Been Great

 
 

Based on my previous reviews, you might have concluded that I love absolutely every fairy tale I ever read. After all, my other columns are basically nonstop gushing over Jim C. Hines, Alex Flinn, Holly Black, and more.

Today’s column is a bit different. I received a complimentary Kindle copy of The Mound by Brendan P. Myers in exchange for my review. I also stumbled across Jane Yolen’s Curse of the Thirteenth Fey: The True Tale of Sleeping Beauty at my local library. Prior to reading these books, I was not familiar with either author. While I definitely enjoyed reading each book, they did not reach the same level of pure magical perfection of the other books I’ve reviewed.

The Mound is very different than any modern-day fairy tale I’ve read. Like most modern fairy tales, it takes place in the present day, but most mortals are unaware that magic is real. Levi Hogan is the new police chief in small-town Bixbie, Massachusetts, trying to escape an alcoholic past and to rebuild a relationship with his estranged daughter, Dani.

What Levi doesn’t know is that his daughter is destined to become the next queen of a fairy kingdom, right there in, or rather, under, Bixbie.

Myers is a vivid storyteller. An early part of the book involves the prophetic artwork of teenage Ian, the heir to the throne. A distinguishing feature of the Bixbie is an ancient, mysterious mound. I love the colorful language Myers uses to describe these plot elements.

The co-existence of the mortal and immortal, the temporary resurrection of the dead, and the magical blending of the past and present are all unique fantastical details that kept me at rapt attention during the entire book.

Unfortunately, Myers’s attempt to explain all these details in a logical manner didn’t quite work. I still don’t know if the fairies disguised as mortals are known to the real mortals surrounding Bixbie. I don’t know if the fairies once lived as mortals and pretended to die. I don’t know how the evil fairy prince lived among mortals in the present-day. I don’t understand how Levi went back in time and started over.

I really enjoyed the majority of The Mound, but I was disappointed that so many parts didn’t come together at the end.

I love the concept of Yolen’s novel. I’m a sucker for fairy tales told by the villain’s POV. In this version, Gorse is the thirteenth child in a family of fairies who are tied to the king’s land and sworn to do his bidding. Her father is an elf, and they are the only ones in the family to share a love of books and learning.

My favorite part of the book was learning the family’s history. With the exception of her father, Gorse’s family are all Shouting Fey, fairies who shout magical spells. Gorse’s love of books is just one reason she’s different than her family. She also falls ill quite often, and she’s accident prone. I also enjoyed learning about their exile from the fairy courts and how an ancient magical oath still ties their family to the land.

The bulk of the story, however, is supposed to be the riveting excitement that eventually leads to Sleeping Beauty’s curse. Instead, it’s a slow-paced account of Gorse trying to escape a magical cave that imprisons the cruel fairy prince Orybon and his magically-beholden cousin Grey. And at some point Gorse’s brother Dusty stumbles into the cave too. While they eventually escape, the cave experience is very drawn-out and barely sets up a back story to Gorse cursing the princess. Oh, and Grey magically reverts back to being a teenage fairy, which just conveniently shoehorns in a romance between him and Gorse.

Have you ever been disappointed in a great book’s conclusion? What books have you read lately? Leave a comment!

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

3 comments

  1. There's nothing quite like reading a book that didn't live up to it's potential. I have not read either of these, though I certainly would have been as intrigued by them as you were when you picked them up.

    I am currently re-reading Robin McKinley's "Beauty" for probably the fifth time. What I love most about fairy tales, I believe, is there timelessness. They never get old and there are so many ways to tell them.

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  2. I really enjoyed Beauty as well, Tiffany, and need to re-visit it sometime:)
    I'm currently reading Jack Zipes' translation of the Grimms' first edition. Very interesting stuff, and some versions I definitely prefer the first edition. So it's great to be able to be finally reading them.

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  3. Beauty is the first book I ever read by Robin McKinley! I've also read it many times. I reviewed a collection of her short stories a few months ago. She does such a wonderful job with both retelling fairy tales and creating new ones.

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