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August 1, 2022

3 Books for Fans of Folklore and Fairy Tales

by MK French

If you are a fan of folklore, fairy tales, and mythology, then I have three books you are going to want to add to your reading list. Two of them you can get today and the third you can look forward to as it comes out later this month.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. Free books were provided for an honest review.

Hooked by A. C. Wise

book cover of fairytale retelling Hooked by A.C. Wise
July 2022; Titan Books; 978-1789096835
ebook, print (336 pages); fairy tale

Captain James Hook is the immortal pirate of Neverland, resurrected after every painful death. Finding an escape route, he left Neverland for London. Twenty-two years later, Peter Pan’s monster has found Captain Hook. Wendy Darling, now a grown woman, is another Neverland survivor. To vanquish Pan’s monster once and for all, Hook must play the villain one more time.

Grieving and traumatized in the beginning of the novel, James is in 1939 London and trying to avoid any memory of Neverland and the horrors he endured. Wendy's drawn in when someone kills her daughter Jane's roommate. She knew that something was off in the ordinary world, even before Jane tells her anything, and we get a dizzying kaleidoscope of tangled memories. Peter Pan isn't quite human, and the more we see of the classic tale in the opening chapters, the more we realize that. I love the subtle creepiness of it, the twist and fracture of the story we know so well. All of the people that had been to Neverland are connected in a way, as if a piece of it had followed them back to our world, connecting them to each other as well as Neverland.

Putting the "modern" story in 1939 means there are mentions of the world war, and it's disheartening to see the small cuts that Jane suffers as being a woman in medical school. It's also painful to see Michael and John with symptoms of PTSD that could be from Neverland as much as the war. How people treat their trauma is different, and we see the different ways they ran from or hid from their past in Neverland. Neverland itself is broken as well, fractured with magic gone wrong and the trauma of its residents. As much as the Lost Boys, Hook himself suffered from the magic and trying to escape it. At the end of the story, we see how the characters are themselves all at once: the children they once were, the adults they grew up to be, hurt and whole, time unmoored and shifting. It's a perfect allegory for recovery, for growth, for becoming someone new and able to move forward from the past. It's an enthralling story, one I enjoyed reading and look forward to rereading and catching the nuances I missed first racing through it.

Buy Hooked at Amazon

Dark Earth by Rebecca Stott

book cover of mythological novel Dark Earth by Rebecca Stott
July 2022; Random House; 9780812989113
audio, ebook, print (336 pages); mythology

In 500 AD, Isla and Blue live in exile with their father, the blacksmith able to make the legendary firetongue swords. When he dies and a local warlord plans to enslave the sisters, they escape to Ghost City, the abandoned ruins of the Roman settlement Londinium on the bank of the River Thames. Living there are rebel women, so Isla and Blue must use their skills and the magic of their foremothers to escape the men who hunt them and protect their new community.

Without the Roman oppressors, various groups have returned to the fore in the land. The sisters are part Seax and part Ikeni, which meant their Seax cousins were leery of them. Add in Blue acting odd and otherworldly, and Isla having two colored eyes, and it's a recipe for banishment in those times. The healing knowledge passed down through the women of their family is of course something the men don't understand, so it's easy for the warlord to turn on the sisters. If anything, the son was looking for a reason to do it, and he enjoyed the fear he inspired in others and the devastation he could unleash. The different groups of people only bowed to the power of armies and swords, but even the men feared stories of ghosts and believed in Prophecy. Blue and Isla have some of these gifts, though they don't fully understand it at first. Once they do, they can use it like the tools of the forge that Isla mastered.

The threat to the women of the Ghost City is real, and one that exists for any woman threatened by men. I loved the soft, lulling rhythms of the language of the novel, the world that it paints. If you've ever seen Vikings, the Northman, and series like that, this novel exists in that realm and with that kind of magic. The visions, prophecy, and knowledge are there, and we see the women use it to save themselves and all they care about. It's an underdog story, beautifully written and imagined. 

Buy Dark Earth at Amazon

Small Town, Big Magic by Hazel Beck

book cover of folklore novel Small Town, Big Magic by Hazel Beck
August 2022; Graydon House; 978-1525804717
audio, ebook, print (416 pages); folklore

Emerson Wilde lives a great life in the midwestern town of St. Cyprian until she's attacked by creatures that shouldn’t be real, and kills them with magic. It turns out that Emerson's life for the past decade was a lie, and that her memories were erased when she failed a power test years ago. Now that something evil is lurking the streets, Emerson must control her magic, remember the past, and deal with local farmer Jacob North. She had always wanted to protect St. Cyprian, but now it might take her life.

Emerson is very much a type A personality, and glories in it. She schedules her time for introspection and relaxation, doesn't put much stock in what she can't see or schedule, and is obscenely proud of her little town and its festivals, and holds herself accountable for its success. The battle that unlocks Emerson's power is the tipping point away from that normal and shows that nothing about anyone is what it seems. I loved the battle and how much her friends rallied around her immediately, eager to protect her and enfold her back into magical society even if it must be in secret. They were her chosen family, and they chose her in return. Each has their own magical skills, but they also display their care and concern in different ways.

From the start, Mayor Skip is presented as the bad guy, and his behavior does nothing to dispel that. He's spoiled, the rich son of the very people that had condemned Emerson in the first place, and can't handle disappointment of any kind. Do we want to see him get some kind of comeuppance then? Absolutely. The focus is on an external danger as much as him, and Emerson must learn how to deal with a power hidden from everyone, which is stronger than her friends realized. She is quick to stand alone, push forward, and do things her own way, even against traditions she can't remember. 

This has to be the beginning of a series because there are still so many questions left at the end. There's a cliffhanger of sorts; we know something else must be coming, but we don't see it. I did enjoy what we got, but the cliffhanger ending means it's an unfinished feeling that lingers instead of satisfaction. I do want to see more of these characters. Their coven is a tight-knit group of friends, and I loved spending time with them.

Buy Small Town, Big Magic at Amazon

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