In June, I managed to read eighteen books in total, fourteen by Australian authors, and all but one of those were Australian women authors. Fifteen of the eighteen were by women authors from Australia and the United Kingdom, and my reading crossed all kinds of genres and audiences this month as I work towards my yearly reading goals.
Towards the end of the month, I participated in an Emma versus Pride and Prejudice read-along with some blogger friends – it seemed several of us went with Emma- perhaps because we had not read it yet and had already read Pride and Prejudice – and two of us found we could use it for a classics book bingo square.
I’m moving slowly through my stacks of books to read, and will hopefully be on top of all of them soon.
Title: Roxy and Jones: The Great Fairy Tale Cover Up
Author: Angela Woolfe
Publisher: Walker Books
Published: 1st July 2020
Synopsis: A hilarious modern fairy-tale mash-up set in a world in which witches are real, magic is real and fairy tales are not only real … but recent history.
Once Upon a Modern Time, in the city of Rexopolis, in the Kingdom of Illustria, lived twelve-year-old Roxy Humperdinck, half-sister to Hansel and Gretel (yes, THE Hansel and Gretel, not that she knows it). Enter Cinderella (“Call me Jones”) Jones, who most definitely does NOT want to marry ghastly Prince Charming and is far too busy hunting for lost relics of the Cursed Kingdom. But now she needs Roxy’s help. And Roxy’s about to discover the truth about her world and her family: that witches are real, magic is real and fairy tales are not only real … but recent history.
• Shrek meets Once Upon a Time meets The Princess Bride with a pinch of Pratchett.
• A hilarious adventure story featuring two sassy heroines and a lot of witches.
• Full of clever storytelling and sharp, witty dialogue, perfect for smart readers of 9+
The Kingdom of Illustria is a fantasy world that feels like it could be a version of England – if fairy tale folk existed and there was a secret organisation trying to hide the truth of the world from people and prevent the evil fairy tale witches from coming back and taking over the world. It is a fairy tale mash-up, a bit like Shrek, where all our favourite and most beloved fairy tale characters exist – just not as we know them.
Roxy Humperdinck’s father has remarried yet again – stepmother number eleven, she thinks – and she’s be sent away to live with her sister, Gretel, who works for the Soup Ministry as a loo cleaner. When Roxy discovers a book that was meant to have been destroyed, she sets a series of events in motion, where she meets Jones – who is really Cinderella – that almost bring the evil witches – the Diabolica into the world. As Roxy travels across the kingdom (against her sister’s orders), she finds out more about the fairy tales she read as a child, and the truth behind them and her family. Roxy’s life is about to get much more complicated!
Roxy and Jones is a delightful novel with echoes of Shrek, and other humourous takes on fairy tales. It has plucky girls on an adventure to find out what is going on, secret identities, and a fairy godmother whose spells go awry at the worst times but often have amusing outcomes and consequences. Roxy can’t quite believe that fairy tales and witches are real, but Angela Woolfe brings this to life in a unique way, with humour and sensitivity. As she puts these characters in the modern world, it is believable – the modern-day world makes readers feel like they know the world Roxy and Jones live in and can relate to the characters.
I studied fairy tales at university, the originals and retellings. I always find all kinds of retellings interesting – they all look at the original tales in different and unique ways, and each one reveals something new beneath the surface of these tales that began in the oral traditions across the world, in a variety of cultures – so each culture has their own tales, as well as their own versions of tales with common themes – there are many more Cinderella tales across the world, but the Western world is most familiar with the Grimm version. In this story, the characters we know from fairy tales have their reasons for wanting to hide the fact that they are from fairy tales – and I think this was done very cleverly and in a way that is fun, accessible and entertaining for all readers.
This book felt like it could be a standalone, yet at the same time, there was a sense that it would be good as a series -or at least a trilogy. Either way, it is a delightfully fun story that all readers will have lots of fun engaging with.
I’m moving through this challenge a bit slower than I’d like – for several categories I do have the books, I just need to read them. For others, I’m waiting for the right or specific book to arrive. One square I might struggle to fill is the book I keep putting off, as I don’t intentionally put a book off if it’s on my TBR or shelves. In a way I am because I have been working on a strategy to get through everything.
Back to this post though, I had a few ideas of what I was going to read, and I finally settled on the latest in the long-lost fairy tale collection by Kate Forsyth and Lorena Carrington, Snow White and Rose Red – And Other Tales of Kind Young Women. This fulfilled several challenge categories, and was a much-anticipated book. It was released at the height of the pandemic, and so I invited Kate and Lorena to appear on my blog in an interview – I am biased in saying it is one of my favourite interviews of the series, because we chatted about fairy tales, writing and illustration processes and many other things about writing and Kate’s books.
This book is lovely – from the stories chosen and retold, to the beautiful layered, photographic and digital illustrations Lorena created to be paired with Kate’s magical and spellbinding words. It is a fantastic fairy tale book and I am glad I chose it for this square.
In May, we seemed to settle into a lockdown routine, so I got a bit more reading done. This month, I read 20 books – the vast majority of those – seventeen – were by Australian women writers – some for review, some my own reads and one or two that I read alongside Isolation Publicity interviews. Below is a breakdown of my current numbers, and a table with each read and the challenge they worked for. Some categories are easier to fill, as always, and some have multiple entries. I’ve got plenty to read – the books keep coming so I’m trying to keep on top of everything as best I can.
The Modern Mrs Darcy 11/12
Book Bingo – 11/12
The Nerd Daily Challenge 45/52
Dymocks Reading Challenge 22/25
Books and Bites Bingo 15/25
STFU Reading Challenge: 10/12
General Goal –89/165
Title: Snow White and Rose Red: And Other Tales of Kind Young Women
Author: Kate Forsyth and Lorena Carrington
Genre: Fairy tales, Fantasy,
Publisher: Serenity Press
Published: 1st May 2020
Synopsis: An enchanting collection of little-known fairy tales about young women who prevail because of their kindness and compassion
1. Snow-White & Rose Red save an enchanted bear from an ungrateful goblin
2. Marushka is sent to find strawberries in the snow by her cruel step-sister but wins the help of the Twelve Months
3. Ailsa climbs Mischanter Mountain to rescue her sister, armed with nothing more than her sewing kit and her parents’ blessing
4. Reinhilda outwits a witch and saves her sweetheart
5. A kind henwife helps Morag find a home for her family with the help of a magic pot
6. Agnes and a young Romany woman together overcome the curse of an enchanted cup
7. Brigid honours a promise she made, even though it takes her to the underworld and back
With an introduction by Isobelle Carmody, Snow White, Rose Red & Other Tales of Kind Young Women contains tales from Germany, Slovenia, Ireland and the Scottish Travellers.
It will transform the way you think about fairy tales.
For the third time in the past few years, superstar author and illustrator team, Kate Forsyth and Lorena Carrington have collaborated on amazing collections of fairy tales. These fairy tales come from all traditions, and often have several versions across different countries and cultures, that fit into one of the Aarne-Thompson classifications that categorises fairy tales and folk tales thematically under numbers and a brief description of the type of archetypes and characters present in the tales collected from all cultures across the world. Under this classification system, each fairy tale or folk tale type and then each folk or fairy tale, is listed for comparison and is an easy way – once you’ve learned the system – to find all the tales that come under something like Tale Type 313 – ‘The Magic Flight’. This tale type is one of the world’s most widely told stories, and Kate retells an example in this collection, called ‘Tricking the Witch’.
From the first story retold, ‘Snow White and Rose Red’, is another common tale to the last – ‘The Corpse Watchers’ – Kate has drawn on fairy tales from lesser known traditions, but also, fairy tales collected by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm that aren’t as well-known as some, and in some cases, literary Victorian fairy tales written or recorded by women. In these retellings, Kate has given the female characters agency, and carefully removed pejorative terms from one or two where she has been able to, in order to make them inclusive whilst still capturing the oral magic of these tales, and the beauty behind the tales. They capture the historical periods they were recorded in or originated from (at the point we can trace to) perfectly, whilst still evoking a sense of wonder and magic that comes with fairy tales. They are in lands far, far away yet at the same time, in familiar places that live deep within us – even if we have not been there physically.
Kate’s magical and evocative words are accompanied by the delightful illustrations by Lorena Carrington, who uses photography and everyday objects to create her images – in the author and illustrator notes after each tale, Kate and Lorena describe their process for each tale, which adds to the richness of the book, the stories and the illustrations. Each illustration is layered with texture and colour, with silhouetted figures against colourful and textured backdrops, or framed in a door or window against a white background. I found it really hard to choose a favourite – they were all lovely and fit very nicely with the rest of the series. Kate and Lorena are currently working on the fourth book in the series, and I’m eager to see what they do with that one, and if they are able to, any others. Each book has seven stories – a magic number in fairy tales!
This is one of those books that will be treasured and adored, and will set well with other fairy tale collections and fairy tale retellings. I love Kate and Lorena’s work, and hope that there will be many more of these collections to come.
Due to recent events, many Australian authors have had to cancel book launches and festival appearances. For some, this means new novels, series continuations and debut novels are heading into this scary, strange world without much publicity or attention. The good news is, you can still buy books – online or get your local bookstore to deliver if they’re offering that service. Buying these books, talking about them, sharing them, reading them, reviewing them – are all ways that for the next six months at least, we can ensure that these books don’t fall by the wayside.
Over the next few months, a lot of us will be consuming some form of art – entertainment, movies, TV, radio, music, books – the list goes on. It is something we will be turning to take our minds off things and to occupy vast swathes of free time. One of the things I will be doing to support the arts, and specifically, Australian Authors, will be reading and reviewing as many books as possible, conducting interviews like this where possible, and participating in virtual book tours for authors.
Kate Forsyth has written over forty books for all ages. Lorena Carrington is an illustrator, who works with photographic mediums and digitally to create her fabulous illustrations for the Lost Fairy Tale series, published by Serenity Press. The third book, Snow White and Rose Red, is published today, the first of May 2020. I decided I wanted this interview to appear on release day, and will be posting my review as close to it as possible. Kate and Lorena, like many authors, had launches, bookstore appearances, art gallery appearances and other events cancelled in the wake of COVID-19. As a result, much of this publicity is moving online at this time. I’ve read Kate and Lorena’s previous books and have a special edition of Lorena’s art – and they are much treasured books. Kate and Lorena have appeared together for this interview.
Hi Kate and Lorena, and welcome to the Book Muse!
First of all, how did you two meet each other and was Vasilisa the Wise the first project you collaborated on?
KATE: We first met when I wanted to buy myself a piece of fairy tale art as a present to myself for having completed my doctorate in fairy tales. A writer friend of mine Allison Tait sent me a message on Twitter with a link to Lorena’s website, essentially saying ‘Kate, have you seen this? I think you’d like it’. It was a complete coincidence – Allison didn’t know I was actively looking to buy some art, she just thought I’d like what Lorena creates. And I did! I loved it! I bought one of her pieces at once, and we began to communicate via social media, and just found we had so much in common. After a while, we realised that we were both working on very similar projects, quite independently of each other, and we decided to collaborate. We worked in secret for quite a long time, exchanging stories and images, and slowly Vasilisa the Wise came together.
LORENA: I think our serendipitous meeting is an example of the good that social media can do. At its best, social media create communities in which extraordinary connections can be made. Without that one tweet from Allison to Kate, my work life today would be completely different, and I’m so grateful for it!
Snow White and Rose Red comes out at the end of April – did you have any launches or events planned for this book, and if so, what were they?
KATE: Lorena and I have done a tour together with every book so far, and we had so much fun planned for this book! A launch, art gallery showings, school visits, and so on. It was heart-breaking that everything had to be cancelled. Apart from anything else, it means we won’t get to see each other! We live so far away from each other, our launch tours were always a lovely excuse to get together, drink champagne, throw around ideas, and talk for hours. Now we shall just have to do it all virtually.
LORENA: I desperately miss the chance to sit on Kate’s balcony with a glass of champagne this year! But that time will come again, and for now we’re having a fabulous time putting together videos and plotting our online book launch on May 1st. There will be champagne involved.
Are there any future Lost Fairy Tale anthologies planned for the two of you, and will the series hit the magic fairy tale number of seven?
KATE: We are working on Book 4 right now! We chose the stories together, and I have re-written them, and now Lorena is creating the art for them. The book will be called ‘The Gardener’s Son, the Golden Bird & Other Tales of Gentle Young Men.’ And, yes, we like to imagine seven …
LORENA: At least seven! I just started work on The Gardener’s Son this week, and I’m reminded (as I always am) of how much fun it is working with Kate, and with her incredible words.
Do you have a favourite tale that you have worked on?
KATE: All of them! We don’t retell a story if we don’t love it. Though of course (speaking very quietly) some are more beloved than others. It’s made me very happy to bring the beautiful stories of Mary de Morgan to a wider audience, and I particularly love the Grimm stories ‘The Singing, Springing Lark’, ‘Six Swans’ and ‘Snow White & Rose Red’. ‘Tam Lin’ is one of my favourite stories to retell in an oral performance, while ‘Katie Crackernuts’ is another old Scottish tale I just adore.
LORENA: I’m with Kate. Every story I’m reading or illustrating at the time is my favourite. I do have a soft spot for some too though: ‘The Stolen Child’, ‘A Mother’s Yarn’ and ‘Strawberries in the Snow’… And ‘The Pot Who Went to the Laird’s Castle’ is so much fun to read aloud.
Lorena, when did you start illustrating, and what was the first medium you experimented with?
LORENA: Before I moved into illustration, I was a photographer and photographic artist. I began as an absolutely purist to the photographic form: I formulated my own photographic chemistry, printed from large format negatives onto fibre-based paper, and only in black and white of course… This all came crashing down when I had children! I suddenly couldn’t justify locking myself in the darkroom for days at a time. So, I moved slowly into digital, but if I was going to adapt to this new medium, I wanted to take full advantage of it. I began montaging photographs together in Photoshop, and having young children inspired me to start thinking more deeply about fairy tales and the stories we tell them. It. was a natural progression then to move into illustration.
When did you decide the photographic layering method you have used in Vasilisa the Wise, The Buried Moon, Wiser than Everything and Snow White and Rose Red was the most effective method for this series of books?
LORENA: The layering method works so well because I’m working with a world reflected in but different to our own. Photography captures what is it front of the camera, but with digital montage I can build something new from it. I can create lions and griffins out of sticks and leaves. A girl can sprout a mermaid’s tail, or tight rope walk over a single hair. I can make a forest from blades of grass, and the ocean from a fish tank. It feels magical, even as I sit at my messy desk with a rapidly cooling cup of tea.
Of all the illustrations you have created so far, Lorena, which have you had the most fun with?
LORENA: The most fun are probably the illustrations where I have to build a creature from scratch. I really enjoyed creating the goblin getting tangled in a fishing line for Snow White and Rose Red. He’s just so delightfully wicked and cranky! I had a fantastic time finding tangles of hair and wigs to make his ridiculous beard.
Kate, you’ve loved fairy tales for a long time – your whole life. What was it about fairy tales that attracted you to them, and was there one in particular that you loved?
KATE: I spent quite a lot of time in hospital when I was a little girl, and so books and stories were enormously important to me, offering me an escape from the physical constraints of being so sick and afraid and alone. My mother bought me a copy of Grimm’s Fairy tales when I was seven, and I read it to absolute tatters. There was something about the darkness in the tales that spoke very powerfully to me. The heroes of fairy tales have to face profound dangers – being turned into toads, being fattened up to be eaten – and that sense of peril resonated with me in a way that most sugary-sweet children’s stories did not. I too was in danger. I too was facing insurmountable odds. Fairy tales gave me hope that I too could triumph, just like the young men and women who defeated the witches and ogres and dragons of their world.
Of all the tales I read, ‘Rapunzel’ was the one that resonated with me most powerfully. This is because my lonely hospital ward was a metaphorical tower, I realise now; and also, because Rapunzel’s tears had magical healing powers, while I was in hospital because I had lost my tear duct in a savage dog attack. I ended up writing a whole novel inspired by ‘Rapunzel’, and a poem, and did my doctorate on the history of the tale, so you can say a great deal of my life has been shaped by seeking to understand this one story’s magnetic pull on my imagination.
Your love of fairy tales is evident in your novels – whether it is the themes or tropes, or the use of a particular fairy tale infusion to tell a story from history – such as the Singing, Springing Lark in The Beast’s Garden – how do you go about choosing which fairy tales work with which historical events?
KATE: That is a very hard question to answer, Ashleigh, because it’s never as mechanical as that. Each book comes to life in my imagination in a different way, and sometimes it’s the fairy tale that inspires the historical events. For example, the idea for The Beast’s Garden came to me in a kind of dream, as I was awakening from sleep. The dream showed me a girl in a golden dress singing to a room full of SS soldiers as she tried to save the man she loved. The setting and the fairy tale were fused together from the start (a golden dress is a key motif in ‘The Singing, Springing Lark’.) I draw upon a number of different fairy tales in The Wild Girl, but all of them were tales told to the Grimm brothers by Dortchen Wild, a real-life woman who was my protagonist in that book. What tales she told, and where and when, became the thematic structure of the book, and revealed to me her story. The Blue Rose is the only book of mine where I went out actively searching for a fairy tale to fit my story, and even then, I stumbled upon it most serendipitously and when I was not actually looking for it.
Can you tell my readers anything about your next fairy tale infused historical fiction, Kate?
KATE: I’m working with an ancient Greek myth this time! The book I am writing is set in Crete, in contemporary times and during the Nazi occupation of 1941-1945, and it draws upon the story of Ariadne and the Minotaur. The novel will be called The Crimson Thread, which is a reference to the ball of red thread that Ariadne gives to Theseus, so that he may find his way out of the labyrinth after he has slaughtered the Minotaur. I’m only in the early stages, but I’m very much loving the writing of it!
This is for both of you – do you have a favourite artist or style of art, and why?
KATE: I am a passionate lover of art, and artists feature in quite a few of my books. The Venetian artist Titian in Bitter Greens, for example, or the Pre-Raphaelite artists at the heart of Beauty in Thorns. I particularly love figurative art which has a story at its core – which is probably why I love the Pre-Raphaelites so much as they were inspired by myth, poetry and fairy tales, just like me.
LORENA: My early work was inspired a lot by modernist photographers like Imogen Cunningham, Tina Modotti and Edward Western, and I think I still keep a lot of those sensibilities, though it may not be immediately obvious in my work! I think they taught me that so much can be found in a single object, yet you can still hold onto its essence. More obviously, I adore the work of illustrators such as Arthur Rackham, Harry Clarke, Edmund Dulac, and Virginia Frances Sterret. The use of silhouettes and broadly coloured and textured backgrounds in Golden Age fairy tale illustrations were a launching point for my own illustration style.
You both work in the arts sector – with recent events and the cancellation of launches and festivals, and booksellers closing temporarily or changing the way they operate for the next few months, how do you think the arts industry overall might be impacted?
KATE: Oh, Ashleigh, this is a terrible time for our creative artists! Our government does not value their work, and does not understand how variable and difficult our income is anyway. The sign of a rich and vibrant culture is always its art, and yet it seems as if we are to live on nothing – creating out of a void. I am so afraid for the young artists, and those that are working outside the norm, and those that come from Indigenous or migrant backgrounds, and those who have staked everything on their creative work. Stories and art are so important! We are not human without them.
Supporting the arts, and in this series, Australian authors and illustrators across the board is something I am passionate about. What is the most important thing about the arts for both of you, and how should Australians support the arts and local bookstores in these times?
KATE: Thank you, Ashleigh, it’s so heartening to know that there are people like you in the world, working tirelessly to help and support our creative artists. What can I say? We should all read more Australian authors, and listen to home-grown music more, and watch more Australian-made films and dramas and dance and theatre and buy Australian art to make our homes beautiful. I do my best, particularly with Australian authors. I buy them, I read them, I post pictures of their book covers on social media, I review them on my blog and for Booktopia, I began a light-hearted book show on YouTube with one of my best friends, I like and share the posts of as many writers as I can, and when they are overcome with hurt and despair, I try and send them loving support and reassurance. I do all this every single day, because it’s all I can do.
LORENA: I second everything Kate says in the last two questions. We need art and books more than ever, and those who make them it haven’t been properly supported, certainly not in our lifetimes, and far less so in times of crisis like these. Our industry will survive: it’s a many faceted thing, but we need to remember that the industry wouldn’t exist without the many individuals that make it. We can all support the arts: by buying a book, chipping in a few dollars a month to an artist on Patreon, purchasing handmade locally made gifts… and by constantly reminding those with money and power that the society they profit from would not exist without the arts.
Do you have a favourite local bookseller, and how are they getting books to customers at this time?
KATE: My local booksellers are Berkelouw Books at Balgowlah, in Sydney, and they have very sadly closed down for the moment. However, The Constant Reader at Mosman are struggling on, having click-and-collect services available – no browsing in the shop allowed but they have a great website (and all of my books are available!)
LORENA: We have a fabulous bookshop in Castlemaine (Victoria), Stoneman’s Bookroom. The staff there are extraordinarily supports of local authors and illustrators. They are taking order for pick-up at the moment, and I hope it’s enough to get them through. I can’t answer this question without also giving a massive shout-out to Blarney Books in Port Fairy. Jo is brilliantly engaged with the Australian book and art community, and works passionately to promote their work. She’s extraordinary.
Favourite author, series or genre to read?
KATE: My favourites genres are historical fiction, crime, fantasy, memoir and – of course! – fairy tale retellings. I have a page on my website that I call ‘Kate’s Favourite Writers’ – I think there’s more than 110 there! https://kateforsyth.com.au/favourite-writers-adult
Lorena: I can’t resist an Australian-written YA or middle grade book. I’m currently reading Alison Croggon’s The Threads of Magic, and loving it. I also have a soft spot for literary fiction by women, classic crime novels, artist memoirs, and historical fiction. I prefer historical novels that deal with the every day, rather than big war adventures. Kate’s Beauty in Thorns and Hannah Kent’s The Good People are two of my favourites from the past couple years.
Best writing companion – cat, dog or both?
KATE: My beautiful dog spends most of the day curled on a chair in my study. My cat wanders home when it gets dark, eats, then wanders off again!
LORENA: I love this question! Once upon a time I would have said cat (warm lap, comforting purrs) but I’m afraid I’ve been converted into a dog person. And there’s nothing like a dog to remind you to get away from the desk for an hour to walk in the fresh air, which is vital to work like ours!
Kate – do you prefer writing by hand, or on the computer, or a combination of both?
I write in my diary every morning long-hand – and scribble down ideas and inspirations long-hand – and write poetry long-hand – and sometimes I do writing sprints long-hand. Everything else I write via my computer. Unless I’m stuck. Then I’ll try writing long-hand to see if it unsticks me.
Lorena – is there a medium you love when it comes to illustrating that you haven’t used in a long time?
LORENA: I still miss the darkroom… And every now and then I like to pick up a pencil and remind my hand how to make marks on a page. Lately I’ve been playing with cyanotypes again and using them to teach illustration workshops. It’s a fantastic way of combining photography, montage and painting. You paint a light sensitive solution onto paper, in any shape you like, lay objects over the top to create a silhouette, and expose it in the sun. You then rinse it to set the solution. It’s (relatively) safe to use, and great fun for students. I’ve even started incorporating it into my work, with a board cover design for a novel coming out through Swan River Press in Ireland, where I combined cyanotype and photography in a digital montage.
What new releases are you both looking forward to in the next six to twelve months?
KATE: Oh my gosh, so many! On my to-be-read shelf I have new releases from Natasha Lester, Kelly Rimmer, Dervla McTiernan, Kayte Nunn, Julia Baird, Alexandra Joel, Melissa Ashley, JoJo Moyes, and Michelle Paver – I want to read them all. So many books, so little time.
LORENA: I recently received a review copy of Shakespeare and the Folktale, edited by Charlotte Artese. I haven’t had the chance to read it yet, but it looks like a fascinating exploration of the tales that inspired some of his plays. I’m also looking forward to Flyaway by Kathleen Jennings, Hollowpox, the third Nevermoor book by Jessica Townsend, A Beautiful Foolish Endeavor by Hank Green, and Vesper Flights by Helen McDonald.
Finally, are there any stories you’d both like to explore in future works?
KATE: I’d like to retell ‘Katie Crackernuts’ and the Psyche myth in novel form. And Lorena and I are toying with the idea of doing a collection of transformation tales next, which means I could do the Welsh tale of Blodeuwedd which has long haunted my imagination.
LORENA: I’m very much looking forward to the transformation tales! I also love the idea of exploring some strange and interesting folktales – it would be fun to make some ghosts and monsters.
KATE: The theme of ‘Snow White, Rose Red & Other Tales of Kind Young Women’ is, of course, kindness. We chose it because we think kindness is the most crucial of all human actions. We are living through dark and difficult times. These stories can help us and inspire us to be more compassionate, more loving, more understanding, more kind. We hope you all read them and are inspired.
Thank you both for appearing here! I can’t wait to read Snow White and Rose Red!
At the start of the year, I pledged to read fifteen books across the year, and ended up reading one hundred, and reviewing about ninety-seven of those – as some were read for my job as a quiz writer and I didn’t get a chance to review them all.
Of the one hundred, it is hard to choose a favourite, however one highlight was meeting the author of the Ella and Olivia books, and the Puppy Diaries books, Yvette Poshoglian, and getting to read and review a book I edited earlier this year. I read quite broadly, in various genres, as well as kids, young adult and adult books.
Four Dead Queens
I completed the Matilda Saga this year – and hope to reread the entire series back to back soon. It was a journey of one hundred years of the people of Gibber’s Creek, and has to be one of the most well written and well-researched series I’ve ever read. Below is my list, and linked reviews.
Synopsis: Do not lose faith. Remember the words of the story, remember the words of the spell…
Quinn, Sebastian, Elanor and Tom have defeated the black witch Githa and found the last crucial piece of the prophecy — the sea serpent’s scale.
Back now at Wolfhaven, they search desperately through the castle crypts for the sleeping heroes, who they hope will save them all … before the dark moon rises and they lose everything.
In the final book of the series, Quinn, Elanor, Tom and Sebastian head back to Wolfhaven Castle with the unicorn horn, the griffin feather, the dragon’s tooth and the sea serpent scale to awaken the sleeping heroes and save those trapped in Wolfhaven. Thinking they have tricked sister witches – Lady Mortlake and Mistress Mauldred, the four children seek to infiltrate the castle. Yet those they seek to destroy are waiting for them, and with only twelve hours to save those trapped in Wolfhaven, they must work quickly and use all their wits and trickery to achieve their goal. But will it be too late, or will Wolfhaven Castle
As the fairy tale quest concludes, each of the four heroes has grown across the series, with Elanor becoming feistier as each book has gone on – which helps her when she faces Mistress Mauldred and helps her friends fight off those who wish to harm them. As the fairy tale quest comes to an end, with a happily ever after and the friends feeling at home with each other and hopefully, their new skills and roles in life, and the series ends wonderfully, with the quest wrapped up delightfully, but a feeling of challenges still ahead. But perhaps these challenges will be of a different kind for these friends.
Having read a lot of Kate Forsyth’s books now, I believe of the ones I own, I only have two or three that I need to read for the first time. The rest will be re-read at some stage as well, and now, with each book I am noticing the fairy tale motifs more and more and the way each motif brings something unique to the book, whether it is for children, young adults or adults. I have loved Kate’s stories for years, and I look forward to each new release from her eagerly.
Winding up a series is always bittersweet – you want it to go on, and to know what happens after the last page has been turned – where do they go to from here, what happens to your favourite character? Yet at the same time, ending it on a high note, where everyone finds a way to fit in with what has happened, and their world, and where it feels right for the characters is enjoyable and brings a sense of completion to the world you’ve been inhabiting for so many books. I can go back and read them again or imagine their lives beyond the page, and know they are happy, and their world has been set right.
Another excellent series from Kate Forsyth for all ages!
Title: The Drowned Kingdom (The Impossible Kingdom #4)
Author: Kate Forsyth
Publisher: Scholastic Australia
Published: 1st of May 2015
Synopsis: Quinn, Sebastian, Elanor and Tom have found a dragon and conquered the dreaded Beast of Blackmoor Bog. Only one item remains on their impossible quest – the scale of a sea-serpent. Now they must journey to the drowned kingdom, where they will face their deadliest challenge yet. And there they will uncover the truth behind all that has happened … the truth that will change everything.
Quinn received her witch’s staff in the last book – and together, with her companions and the unicorn, Quickthorn, Rex, the griffin, and Beltaine, the dragon, they set off to seek the Drowned Kingdom of legend, and find the final piece of the prophecy, the scale of a sea serpent. It seems simple, yet as they seek to find a way to get across the waters, Quinn and Tom discover secrets about Quinn’s past, about where she came from, that will lead them to unforeseen discoveries when they arrive at the Drowned Kingdom, and in their quest to save a sea serpent from being misused by Githa, the evil witch who has been trying to thwart the four heroes the whole way, alongside Lady Mortlake.
Yet more secrets are uncovered, as well as Quinn’s past – secrets about those Ela and Sebastian thought they could trust, and what the people they have left behind are faced with or have been forced to do. In the Drowned Kingdom, the four heroes face life and death, and danger at every turn. Slowly, they will come to find their way to the sea serpents – but at what cost, and will they achieve their goals?
Four books in, and each piece needed to complete the prophecy is on the way to being collected, and from there, only a few elements are needed to complete it – which will become clear in the fifth book, which I have started reading. As the quest heads into its final stages, Quinn, Elanor, Sebastian and Tom must grapple with the knowledge they’ve recently learned and how it changes things – or if it does.
As this series comes to the end, I am hoping that the heroes achieve their goals – which I am sure they will, but it is all about the journey getting there, and how Quinn, Elanor, Tom and Sebastian achieve it with the help of their beasts – a unicorn, a griffin, a dragon and a sea-serpent.
The fairy tale trope of the quest has been cleverly drawn out over the past four books, and will inevitably conclude in the fifth instalment, where they have to get back to Wolfhaven Castle and save those who are trapped by a spell there. Now that they know who is behind it, and helping Lord and Lady Mortlake, the four heroes must get into the castle, and find the heroes – but will they achieve this in the next book?
Title: The Beast of Blackmoor Bog (Impossible Quest #3)
Author: Kate Forsyth
Publisher: Scholastic Australia
Published: 1st February 2015
Synopsis: After escaping the bog-men in the wilds of the Witchwood, Sebastian, Quinn, Elanor and Tom journey south on their impossible quest. Sebastian and Elanor seek help from Crowthorne Castle, but both allies and enemies will reveal themselves. Tom and Quinn venture into the mysterious moors … where a hideous beast lies in waiting. Best-selling, award-winning storyteller Kate Forsyth weaves battles, beasts and bravery in this epic new five-book series.
Quinn and her friends are venturing in search of the third beast – the dragon and the dragon scale. To find it, they separate – Quinn and Tom into the mysterious moors as they are drawn into more danger, and Elanor and Sebastian head to Crowthorne Castle, hoping for help from Lady Ravenna. Yet in both places, the friends will encounter allies and enemies – and begin to find out who and what is behind the dark spell that has been cast over Wolfhaven Castle and its inhabitants, and Elanor’s father. Here, they will find out about the beast in the moors and be thrust into danger that will lead them to discoveries they never thought they’d find on their journey.
The midway point in the series sees our heroes temporarily separated for a while each pair tackles the next part of their journey in unique ways. In this installment, the heroes are in search of the dragon scale for the spell to awaken the sleeping heroes of the prophecy they are following so they can save Wolfhaven.
The fairy tale archetypes and tropes are still there, especially the beasts and the quest, and the magic that unites them and helps them find a way around challenges they face. As dangers grow, so does the tension, and conflict, which will only bring the quartet closer as they discover that for now, they cannot trust anyone else except each other.
I am loving this series and polishing it off very quickly. It is filled with adventure and conflict, and friendship, and the power of friendship. It truly is a delightful series, and one that I am thoroughly enjoying. Aimed at readers aged between eight and ten, I believe it is a good read for many age groups and audiences.
Each character is unique and flawed, and relatable in many ways. They fulfil the fairy tale archetypes, but at the same time, are unique, and very different from the characters of fairy tale traditions, and have many more complexities behind them than usually might be found in fairy tales, depending on which version of the fairy tale you read, and how close to the original it is.
I am now reading book five, and the series is heading towards its ending. Next, I am going to review book four, and as each book builds on each other, the series is growing and building on the previous books, and creating a world that is tight, cleverly created whilst still a bit scary, but also, somewhere that I am sure, by the end of the series, will be light and fun again, as it was before the Mortlakes took over.