Triple DNF review time. All three were retellings, and two of them started off really well. Read on to find out more.
Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao
Retelling/prequel of Snow White
Vietnamese/Asian inspired setting
I was really looking forward to reading this book, because I love retellings, and I was interested to see the treatment Dao would give to The Evil Queen’s backstory.
Firstly, I loved the change of setting. The worldbuilding was interesting, and I kind of felt like I was watching an Asian drama with all the court politics and beautiful scenery and costumes. Obviously the plot was a bit limited in where it could go because this is a retelling/backstory, but since that’s part of the reason I like retellings this didn’t bother me.
My problem was with the main character, Xifeng. I didn’t really like her, which I was expecting, because she has to become a villain. What I couldn’t stand was having absolutely no understanding of her motivation, and her wishy washy feelings toward everyone.
For example, she hates her aunt who treats her badly, but then she states that she cares about her, but there’s no indication as to why. We’re just expected to accept it because it’s stated. There are no loving flashbacks to support such a claim. Another example: she loves the village boy, but she doesn’t, and apparently just uses him to get to the palace. But then she is really doing it for him, so he can fulfil his dream to join the army. Or something.
As for her motivation, aside from her horoscope saying she is destined to be Empress of Feng Lu, I can’t understand why she chooses to follow that path. She doesn’t seem to really desire that outcome, so there’s no real impetus to do so. If she truly believed that it was her destiny and in the infallibility of prophecies, I could understand. Overall, I think she lacks conviction. In trying to make Xifeng a sympathetic and likeable character, I feel like it ended up making her weak, indecisive and incomprehensible.
That being said, I’m not ruling out the possibility of trying to re-read this again in the future.
Teeth in the Mist by Dawn Kurtagich
Retelling of Faust
Young Adult Horror
Set primarily in Wales, UK
Firstly, background. The Faust legend is about a man who makes a deal with the devil. In exchange for knowledge and a demon’s service for a set number of years he promises to give the devil his soul. There are variations of course, but that is the basic story. So when I saw that this book was coming out I was interested to give it a go.
This book follows three girls living in different centuries, all of whom are connected in some way to Medwyn Mill House in Wales. The first is Hermione Smith, a young wife living in the 16th century. Her story is told through the occasional diary entry, and chronicles her husband’s obsession with building the house on a rocky, inhospitable mountain. The second is Roan, who becomes a ward of Dr Maudley who lives at Mill House. Roan and the other two new wards all have secrets, and some mysterious connection to an ancient secret. The final girl is Zoey, a sixteen year old photography student who journeys to Mill House in the present to uncover the mystery of what happened to her father. Her story is told through transcripts of film diaries.
I was hooked for most of the first half of the book. The atmosphere was haunting, and the mystery was really compelling. I especially liked Roan’s perspective. As I hit the half way mark it felt like not much was happening, and there hadn’t been much in the way of plot progression at all. It didn’t help that I wasn’t that interested in Zoey’s point of view at all.
For a different reader, I think this would probably be a great story. I have seen quite a few 5 star reviews around. It just wasn’t for me. I like a bit of thrill and horror, but I also like a faster pace.
Miranda in Milan by Katharine Duckett
Retelling/ Sequel of The Tempest by Shakespeare
Young Adult Fantasy Novella
Set in Italy
I’ll start by saying I know very little about The Tempest. It isn’t a play I ever read or studied, so my knowledge is very superficial. Nevertheless, I thought a young adult retelling would be an interesting way to find out more. What I discovered was that this is not a retelling. It is more of a sequel.
This book promises a sapphic relationship between Miranda and her new friend/maid Dorothea, along with a mystery regarding Miranda’s mother. Unfortunately I couldn’t muster up much enthusiasm for either. There are pretty much only two characters in the first third of the book. The dialogue between them feels pretty unnatural, and the development of their relationship goes from 0 to 100 in about 2 pages. Aside from that, I had no huge problems.