A Dreadful Fairy Book
by Jon Etter
“It’s-a nothing! Just a silly misunderstanding that might get us all killed.”
Shade is a sprite who lives in a happy-go-lucky village but who herself, isn’t quite as cheery. When her house filled with her much-loved books is burned down in a fireworks display she journeys away to find a library to spend her days in. Along the way she runs into some interesting characters; a bridge-troll who delights in a good set of manners, a fearless knight who just may be a little bit obsessed with chivalry and a handful of other eccentric beings.
The story is broken up into chapters that act almost as titles to short stories that make up the whole of the book. Each chapter has Shade in a new complicated circumstance with a new set of challenges on her journey whether it be her annoying (and hilarious) companions rubbing her the wrong way, or a new person met along the path. The book is told from the point of view of the narrator, almost a character themself, telling Shade’s story as if reading it from a book sitting on their lap and occasionally adding their own thoughts and commentary. This is a fun effect that makes the book feel like an old fairytale, one that might have been read to you as a child, only of course it is not because it contains 110% more wit and 200% more fairy swear words than Cinderella.
Shade is a dreadful character (perhaps the reason for the title?) in that she never sees the sense of adventure that many of the other characters do like Ginch or The Professor. Those two are the real reason to read this book (and Chauncy of course, can’t forget my manners) because they offer a whimsical comic relief that is weaved through with true wit that makes the book that much more enjoyable. Overall, the book was a fun adventure with a truly amusing narration style that was refreshing and fun to read and feel like I was a part of. I would recommend this book to all ages for the most part, it truly feels entertaining and meant for most ages, though I believe that middle-grade and young adult readers may appreciate it the most.
The Enchanted Sonata
by Heather Dixon Wallwork
“Such a thing, Miss Stahlbaum. For when the world was darkest, I remembered you.”
Clara dreams of nothing so much as she dreams of music and of the music of one person in particular, Johann Kehler. She is sure her dreams of being with Johann will come true when she plays the piano Christmas concert and the sonata she has poured her heart into just for him. However, when she opens up a mysterious gift on Christmas eve she is surprised to find a book with her name on it “Clara and the Nutcracker Prince”. Reading the book, something strange happens and Clara feels almost as if she is thrust into the book herself but it isn’t until she goes to sleep that her life spins and she is actually thrust into a journey like she could have never imagined. Racing against the concert clock, Clara and the Nutcracker face down giant rats and an evil magician to save the Nutcracker’s empire and get Clara back home. Bled through with the classic Nutcracker story and that of the Pied Piper, The Enchanted Sonata is a tribute to the magic of music and an overall enchanting journey.
I may be biased but… I love the Nutcracker. Like the Tchaikovsky classic Nutcracker ballet. I could listen to the soundtrack for days on end (and I have) and still feel cascading emotion every time Pas de Deux comes through my headphones. This is why I was so excited to read a retelling of this classic story and I will be honest, it did not disappoint. The title is very apt for this book as it really grasps the essence of the entire novel. The children were enchanted into toys and I was enchanted in reading this book, I was drawn in and didn’t want to put it down. And at the very core this book was about the magic that lives within music, such a beautiful theme to go along with this classic story, one that fits perfectly. It was enjoyable to feel the cascades of emotion in the Nutcracker Ballet displayed through Clara and her love of music, bringing out my own love of music alongside her.
The Russian setting was great and gave everything that extra, magical touch to picture the old buildings covered in snow. I especially liked the Krystallgrad setting and the journey that Clara and the Nutcracker went on, it was a whimsical quest that was a delight to read along, even when the giant rats were attacking. The giant rats were a great addition to everything, ensuing chaos around the empire, though I was never sure exactly how intelligent these rats were. They seemed to be intelligent enough to be at war and form swat teams to attack trains but still very rat-like and I never really got a handle on their larger meaning in the book and the empire.
The relationship between Clara and the Nutcracker was sweet and fun and I really believed in their growing affection. I liked the banter between them and some of the more complex feelings they were working through with each other on the side. I enjoyed most of the characters overall, though I had a bit of difficulty with Erik Zolokov’s main motivation he was still a fascinating character to follow and frustratingly elusive to the protagonists. Overall, the book offered a beautiful and fun rendition on a few classic stories and any book that has me grinning as it comes to a close has done a great job is a good one.