The Storyteller and Her Sisters by Cheryl Mahoney

The Storyteller is a reimagining of Grim’s 12 Dancing Princesses.  For those not familiar with the original tale, every night the King locks his twelve daughters into their room and every morning when he releases them the princesses are not only exhausted but their dancing slippers have been worn through.  The king decrees that any champion who takes on the challenge and succeeds in uncovering the Princesses’ secret will not only be richly rewarded but will be free to choose the hand of whichever princess he so wishes.  Failure however will result in death – by decapitation.  Rounded up so bluntly like that you can’t help wondering why we read this as a nighttime fairytale to our children!

What I particularly liked about the story was that it adheres in format and style to the original but it manages to give the princesses more character (although given there are twelve they don’t all get equal time – otherwise this would be a very lengthy novel indeed!)  We’re also provided with a little back history into the King and the motives behind the locked door.  Is he protecting his daughters or is he in fact keeping them captive.  I think it also succeeds in making the princesses more likable.  Lets not forget that in the original tale they play a hand in quite a few champions losing their heads!  In this particular story they act quite responsibly towards these men – even though they are unwelcome visitors!  The main character of the story is Lyra.  All the girls not only look very similar but their names all start with the letter ‘A’ and so to assist with identifying each other they usually adopt the end of the name therefore Alyra becomes Lyra.  She’s a book worm who enjoys regaling her sisters with stories about castles and curses never totally putting together the fact that they’re living in their very own story!

I think the author succeeds in delivering a story that gives a bit more insight into these otherwise ‘anonymous’ princesses whilst at the same time giving them an interesting back story.  Plus managing to squeeze in a few more stories along the way.  I thought the change in tack for the last champion was a really good take.

In terms of criticisms I don’t really have anything at all other than I think this could have been shortened a little, simply to strengthen the tension a little.  I also think I could have handled a little bit more creepy darkness or more of a gothic feel but, that being said that would have changed the ‘feel’ of the book.  As it is this has more the feel of a mystery adventure and a race against time to work out a solution.

A lovely retelling of a favourite old tale.  Well written with Princesses that have a little more of a modern outlook.  Talking cats and fairy godmothers.  It will be interesting to go and read the first book by this author – The Wanderers – these books don’t have to be read in order but there is some overlapping of characters and I’d like to find out a little more about Tom.

In the interest of disclosure I have known the author in a blogging capacity for some time and was very happy to read and review The Storyteller.  The above is my own opinion.

Join me in a tour of Sicily..

Posted On 18 October 2014

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We recently spent two weeks touring the island of Sicily.  We started at Mondello – which is about 15 minutes outside of Palermo.  A quiet place with a lovely beach and I imagine a very popular spot for city people come the weekend!

Palermo is amazing.  I just loved it.  We only spent a day looking round but we had some of the highlights of our holiday on that day.  We visited the Capuchin Catacombs (no photos allowed – this article shows more if you want more info:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/picturegalleries/8296522/Ghoulish-mummies-in-the-Capuchin-Catacombs-in-Palermo-Sicily.html?image=17

I must admit I hesitated before going down to see this – I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about it becoming an attraction and almost felt a little bit as though i was being disrespectful.  As it happens the experience was nothing like that. It’s actually quite a fascinating glimpse into the period really.

I’m not sure I’d advise driving round Palermo – unless you want to add that to your ‘experience’ list!  We took a tuk tuk ride (which is a scenic taxi) – and my, what a brilliant experience – I would definitely recommend this.

The following day we spent time in Monreale and this is a picture of the cloisters.  Each of the columns are carved with intricate figures – everything you can think of, even mythical winged things!

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The Cloisters at Monreale

We then headed to Sciacca for a couple of days after which paying a visit to Selinunte on our way to Syracuse and Ortiga.  Ortiga is a beautiful place.  We’ve been before and so only spent a couple of days but really I could have spent a full week.  There is such a lot to do and see.  We took a tour of the hypogea – which was fascinating.  If memory serves this used to hold 10,000 bodies – obviously now removed (second only to the Hypogea in Rome according to the guide)!  Below is a picture of the tunnels that lie beneath the Duomo – used for air raid shelters during WWII and lined with information and pictures.

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The harbour front at Sciacca of an evening

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This is the Temple of Hera at Selinunte

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The entrance to the tunnels under the Duomo, Ortiga

This is Taormina – our hotel was opposite this beautiful spot quite rightly named Isolla Bella.  We had three very relaxing days here.

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View of Isola Bella

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The Greek theatre at Taormina

Then off to Milazzo for a whistlestop visit before arriving in Cefalu.  We’ve spent two weeks in Cefalu on a previous holiday.  It’s a wonderful spot to visit and I would highly recommend it.  It’s perfectly situated to visit other places and it’s a historic town and seaside resort.

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Beautiful Cefalu – setting for more than one famous Italian film!

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Gin Fizz – it would be rude not to!

Our final stop was Castellammare del Golfo which was our final 3 days and literally just a chill out.  We had a lovely room overlooking the harbour.  The weather was scorching and so we basically sat around doing as little as possible!

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Took this because it looks like something out of a dystopian novel! (which my husband thought was hilarious!)

Verdict: I would recommend Sicily very strongly.  It’s packed with things to see and do.  It’s cram packed with history and amazing sights to see.  We’ve spent four weeks there now during two different holidays and yet I still only feel I’ve scratched the surface!

If you get the chance – go.  Amazing people, fantastic food and drink, breathtaking scenery, historical wonders.  An island of passion and adventure and absolutely fascinating.

Badly drawn dragons to badly behaved dogs!

Fan Art Up is a weekly meme hosted by Tabitha over at Not Yet Read.  The idea being to see if you can come up with some inspiration for a little sketch or doodle from your last week’s reading or just anything else in general. This week I’m reading The Tropic of Serpents by Marie Brennan.  I’ve also read the Undying by Ethan Reid.  I seem to be having a lot of dragon books at the moment which is set to continue as I’m about to start Dreamwalker!  I’ve tried a dragon – you have to imagine this is flying at you – hence the bad perspective (believe me when I say this looked so much better in my head!)  The other is my dog – the weather is filthy and so is he!  My drawing ability seems to be getting worse!  Stop on over at Not Yet Read and check out all the loveliness.IMG_0695

‘Where nomad has gone before’

Being Thursday, I’ve packed up my toothbrush and I’m going travelling through the tropes of fantasy with the Fantasy Review Barn.  Hosted by Nathan, every week we dig out examples of whatever trope is the topic and try to expand each others horizons – otherwise known as the TBR.  So, this week:

DESERT NOMADS occupy the hot parts to the south, which is either desert or rather parched grass. For some reason this is ideal terrain for breeding horses, of which nomad clans have in large numbers.

Three by Jay Posey – a strange apocalyptic world where terrible creatures called Weir stalk the night shrieking and causing terror.  Three is the lone gunman of the piece who against his own better judgement turns hero and comes to the assistance of a lone woman and her son in their hour of need.  Can’t say there is any horse breeding going on here but Three is definitely a nomad type character travelling alone through the deserted plains.

The Painted Man by Peter Brett.  Arlen is something of a nomad.  He leaves his home and family in a quest to discover more about the lost wards that prevent the demons that arise at dusk from taking over his world.  I could probably also have the character Jardir from the second novel in the series by the same author – the Desert Spear!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Smilers Fair by Rebecca Levene – probably a slight cheat but Smiler’s Fair itself does have a nomadic lifestyle.  The whole fair packs up and moves on on a regular basis – in order to avoid the ‘worm men’ who come from beneath the ground.  In fact most of the communities of this book have to regularly up sticks and move for that very same reason.

Aragorn – he rides a horse occasionally, I’m sure that some of the weather must be hot every now and again and he’s a ranger which definitely lends him a lonesome style of life.  And, this allows me to get LoTR into my list as usual!

Darn it though – I can’t think of an example from Harry Potter.  Drat and bother.

That’s it for me this week – tell me about your nomads please as I’ve done shockingly badly this week!

The Undying by Ethan Reid

I really enjoyed the Undying.  It’s an apocalyptic type story that (after a short prologue) starts in Paris on New Year’s Eve where a group of friends are dining together to bring in the New Year.  Unfortunately things don’t go according to plan.  Early in the evening a series of strange lights can be witnessed over the City – similar to the aurora borealis – and later on, as the 10 second countdown to the end of the year commences – all the lights go out and the City is plunged into darkness.  The following morning it appears that things have not recovered, in fact things have deteriorated further.

Jeanie and Ben are over from America for the celebration.  On the morning after the ‘lights out’ they begin to discover a little of the nature of what is actually happening and become witnesses to how incredibly quickly things can spiral out of control.  The two friends are faced with a journey across Paris to try and find their friends and check out just what their chances of returning home really are. Of course there’s much more to it than that.  Nobody really knows what’s going on, has there been an extinction level event? Conjecture seems to point in the direction of a large comet colliding with the planet causing a massive cloud of dust and dirt which blocks out the sun and which will eventually fall back to earth, this to be followed by searing temperatures and ultimately a new ice age!  Not much to look forward to there then.  On top of which people are panicking and/or turning to violence in their fear.  And, as if that wasn’t enough something else seems to be stalking the streets – strange pale people, fast and strong who can invade your thoughts and manipulate your feelings and fears.

To break it down.  There isn’t any world building necessary here.  It’s Paris in the current day and age.  This isn’t an alternate setting or a futuristic one.  So, easy to picture and no need to elaborate further.  The people – well, again, probably not the strong point of the book.  Not in terms of me having any problems with them but more they’re not really the main focus either although that being said it is interesting to watch them start to pick at each other as their veneer of politeness wears thin and it’s also interesting to watch not just the friendships as they begin to unravel but also the dawning of realisation when a person’s true character breaks to the surface.  I guess being in a life or death situation will without doubt clarify who your friends really are.  The plot is the key to this story.  It moves fast and is a basic survival story and a quest of sorts.  There is also an additional element to the story when Jeanie ends up taking guardianship of a newborn baby.  Why you may ask?  She just seems to be compelled to do so.

I can see why there are comparisons to The Passage – although the stories are not particularly similar in anything other than that an unusual ‘child’ seems to have been born in amongst the chaos – perhaps a saviour of sorts.  The strange others who now roam the city become known as the moribund.    They seek out and kill other humans, seemingly to continue the spread of whatever infection it is they’re carrying.

Like I mentioned, I really enjoyed this.  It’s a zombie type novel but with a few differences.  It was interesting reading the story from the perspective of two people who are now in a foreign country during a disaster and watching the reaction and negativity of the people around them as they turned from mistrust to blame.  I think the story really excels at showing how the two begin to feel a little like outcasts, even the inclusion of snippets of French throughout the tale – which I suppose if you don’t understand the language gives you a good feel for how these two must feel facing that language barrier during a monumental crisis!  Plus, I enjoy a good survival quest and the groups journey across Paris is definitely interesting to read – particularly as they descend to the catacombs that run beneath the City.

I would point out that there are some scenes of violence – in case you’re a bit queasy.

On the whole a good read, not terribly deep and meaningful I suppose but definitely intriguing and I will without doubt continue with the series.

I received a copy of from the publisher through Netgalley for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

I’m also submitting this for my RIP event over at Stainless Steel Droppings.

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