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REVIEW: Rags & Bones edited by Melissa Marr and Tim Pratt

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Title: Rags & Bones: New Twists on Timeless Tales

Editors: Melissa Marr and Tim Pratt

Publisher/Publication Date: Little, Brown and Company; pub. date Oct. 22, 2013

I absolutely love short story anthologies. I lead a fairly hectic and busy life and I have a tendency to get sucked into books. This means I often stay up all night to read just one more page. And then one more. Then just one more. Until it’s 3 AM and I have to be up in 3 hours. It’s not pretty. So short story anthologies are my preferred before bed reading because I can finish a story and almost always pry myself away at a decent hour since I’ve reached the end of something. So between that, the absolutely gorgeous cover, and the amazing author line up, I was sold on Rags & Bones before I even cracked the first page. I was not disappointed.

Marr and Pratt have put together a collection of re-tellings of some great classic tales. When one hears classic tales, fairy tales are probably what first spring to mind. And there are a plethora of fairy tale re-tellings out in the world. These timeless tales are a little bit less of the traditional classic, but still classic in their own right. With re-tellings of tales like Chopin’s The Awakening and Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto, the anthology has a slightly more off-beat feel to it than the more traditional re-telling anthologies.

As with all anthologies, I tend to have mixed reviews about the stories. Some I love, some are just okay, others don’t really appeal. It happens with every anthology I’ve ever read. All the stories in the book were extremely well-written and there’s a little something for everyone, ranging from the magic and mystical to the chilling to the more sci-fiish. Gaiman’s The Sleeper and the Spindle, Marr’s Awakened, and Armstrong’s New Chicago were probably my three favorite tales. Marr’s especially since I love both Chopin’s novel as well as the Selkie myth. Gaiman’s tale has a nice kick-ass heroine who happens to be my favorite princess. Armstrong’s re-telling of The Monkey’s Paw also had a nice nod to The Lady and the Tiger that I particularly enjoyed.

Overall, the book is a great set of tales that is sure to provide something for many different readers. The author line-up is incredibly impressive and the tales are short enough to enjoy a quick read before bed or when you have some down time. The illustrations by Charles Vess add a nice air of magic to the book and remind me of the old school fairy tale books I always read as a kid. So, go read this book. Seriously. Do it.

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REVIEW: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

Title: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown

Author: Holly Black

Publisher/Publication Date: Little, Brown and Company, pub. date September 3, 2013

 

So, as with my review of Curtsies & Conspiracies, I’m going to start this with a little bit of fan girling. I’ve read a few other things by Holly Black and really enjoyed them. Additionally, I was lucky enough to meet her at ALA where I picked up my signed copy of The Coldest Girl in Coldtown. Yeah, she’s really super nice. I’ve seen some authors who just sort of smile and nod at people as they go through the autograph line. She really seemed to make a point to try and chat a little with people, have a laugh here and there. And I squeed out loud at work when she replied to something I posted on Twitter. So yeah, I’m a fan girl and not ashamed to admit it J I really appreciate authors who don’t try to act all fancy pants and better than their fans.

Our main character, Tana, is a seventeen year old girl who lives in a world in which vampires exist and are kept, in theory, under control in walled off cities known as Coldtowns. Tana wakes up the morning after a party to find a house full of her friends slaughtered by vampires, her ex-boyfriend tied to a bed infected with the vampire virus, and a mysterious vampire boy. To her credit, instead of abandoning them to the vampires who perpetrated the massacre, she helps them both escape and the three set off to the nearest Coldtown.

When I started reading this book I described it on Twitter as a nice mix of creepy realism.  I grew up on traditional fantasy and it’s still my go-to genre for when I want to read something I know I’m going to love. Urban fantasy, which is how I would personally classify this particular novel, has also become a favorite of mine. One of the reasons I enjoy urban fantasy, and something that I think is a vital component of urban fantasy, is the sense of realism and contemporaneity that is found. The way that magic intertwines with the mundane fascinates me. While vampires fall clearly into the fantastical realm, Black’s characters, their motivations, actions, reactions, etc. all fall firmly in the realm of realism.

When Tana is confronted by the dead bodies of her slaughtered friends and classmates, Black clearly articulates her growing panic and desperate attempt to smother her hysteria. Anyone who has endured some form of traumatic situation can understand this overwhelming and incredibly awkward desire to laugh hysterically at inopportune moments simply because our mind can’t seem to reconcile what is happening. My father died when I was 19 and I still remember telling incredibly inappropriate jokes to my brother throughout the funeral because I just couldn’t deal with what was happening. It has to be dealt with eventually and we see Tana struggle with this throughout the novel as things swing from good to bad, from terrifying to exciting, and so forth. Watching the emotional roller coaster that she goes through in conjunction with the physically demanding events of the plot kept me drawn in and eager to keep reading. I so genuinely wanted to see how Tana was going to stomp her own path through the opulent and horrifying world that is Coldtown.

So,  as you have probably realized, I thought the book was great. The pace moves along well, Black develops the characters that need to grow but isn’t afraid to give static characters major roles as well. It’s a good mix that keeps the book moving while keeping the reader invested. The quotes located at the beginning of each chapter were a nice touch as well and add a lot to the tone of the novel. Now, go forth and read this book as soon as you can.

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