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The Fellowship

August 20, 2016

Five Magic Spindles - A Review

If you like traditional fairytales but get bored of the same story over and over, then buckle in for some wild and massively creative twists on the story of Aurora (otherwise known as the Sleeping Beauty). Five talented young authors were recently selected to be featured in the Rooglewood Press collection Five Magic Spindles - the end prize of Anne Elisabeth Stengl's yearly writing competition held over at Tales of Goldstone Wood.
I received an influencer e-copy of Five Magic Spindles in return for my honest review - let me tell you folks, you're going to love this! Let's get down to business..



As I've read the past two published collections (with Cinderella and Beauty-and-the-Beast themes) and thoroughly enjoyed them, I had high expectations going in to this one. As expected and anticipated, I wasn't disappointed. Each of the stories had a unique take on the tale of Aurora, which must have been hard to get creative with because at first glance, there's not a lot you can say about a princess that sleeps the entire story through! That being said, let's talk detail.




The Man on the Buckskin Horse - by Rachel Kovaciny
Emma, a good-hearted midwife, rushes to warn a neighbor about the hired gunman headed to his ranch but can't prevent the catastrophe in store for his daughter.
As the title implies, this is a western, set in the post-civil war era of the USA (at least that's what I could gather from the context). It gives the vibe of some of the western Christian romances I used to read back in the day (*blushes* - they're still tucked away on my bookshelf, hah!). Don't shirk away though! This is definitely more action packed than a typical romance - we've got pistol-slinging hired gunmen and a crazy spinster lady intent on stealing a man's hard-worked farmland. Siege is laid in the wild west, but if that weren't enough action, the farmer's daughter falls deathly ill with infection and it's up to the machination's of a stalwart midwife-turned-physician to save her life. The story becomes a fast-paced race against the clock as a young girl's life hangs in the balance... 

Favourite excerpt...
I have learned from my dealings with all sorts of sick folks that there are some diseases you can't see: thoughts that eat you up from inside your own head, and you can't admit they're there until they're about to kill you. Some festering sores in your memory need a lot of time to mend. Some only start to heal once you've told someone else they exist. And some can't be cured, no how.
My thoughts? It was a pretty good story and definitely left me with the whimsical taste of morning porridge mixed with brown sugar and butter, the tang of trail dust, and creak of leather (these are all very very good things, in case you doubt me :P ). If you like westerns, you'll enjoy this! Several parts of the plot could use a little smoothing out, but otherwise I thought Rachel did a fantastic job at putting a unique spin on the story of Aurora (and I especially like her detail on old western medicine - *loud applause*). 

Rating: 4/5 STARS


Guardian of Our Beauty - by Katheryn McConaughty
Palli, the prophesied daughter of a king, is fated to rescue her people from the destruction called forth by a vengeful priest.
I did not expect to read a middle-eastern twist on this fairytale, but here it is! Katheryn writes a unique and humourous story with fascinating poetical additions, mystical creatures, pirates, robbers, and awkward princelings. You'll be cringing along with me as you meet Kashap, the evil chief priest with the equivalent position of Maleficent. As a dreadful curse is set upon the entire kingdom, it falls upon the shoulders of an overlooked prince from a distant kingdom to make a dangerous journey to save an entire country.

Favourite excerpts...
"How can I live? I am drowning in daughters!" the king complained to his chief priest.
There are masterless men in the mountains. Robbers. 
My thoughts? I loved the eastern twist; it was very different from the preceding western and had a welcomed twist of humour scattered throughout the character's dialogue (I'm a sucker for humour, especially if a writer can pull it off successfully, which I think Katheryn managed). However, I felt that this plot really needed a lot more time to develop. There was so much information and so many unique components that probably could have used a chapter of their own, rather than several paragraphs. In the end, I found it slightly lacking, but I think the humour saved the day and so, for a short story, it turned out very enjoyable :)

Author Page: http://thelanguageofwriting.blogspot.ca/
Rating: 3/5 STARS



The Ghost of Briardale - by Grace Mullins
Roselee, a ghost with a faulty memory, flits through the halls of an insane asylum in search of the mortal boy who can help her save the day.
If I could describe this retelling with one word, it would probably be: perfection. Grace writes with a Charles Dickens/R.A. Salvatore voice - so The Ghost of Briardale comes across as a Victorian-esque Pickwick Papers with high fantasy and dark elves... come again?? IT WAS AMAZING. Poor Franz Happernickle gets tossed into an insane asylum because he sees ghosts... or does he? This superbly well-written short story takes you on a wild ride from Victorian politics to the bowels of a dark asylum where Franz keeps company with a curious strongman, a dwarf, and a green ghost. Not to mention the dreaded Slavering Swamp Beast is chained up just down the hall... I honestly cannot explain how unique this retelling is - you simply have to read it to appreciate Grace's ingenuity.


Favourite excerpts...
A True Hero has to have performed one of the Three Great Deeds: save a kingdom, slay a dragon, or move a mountain.
He looked down to see the Slavering Swamp Beast savaging the lace of his shoe.
My thoughts? I 100% loved this story and I adore the Slavering Swamp Beast - definitely on my list of favourite characters. Again, you have to read it to fully appreciate the masterfulness of this story. Grace likely stole my heart with this because of her unique Victorian-esque voice that rings throughout the text; I love Victorian literature and her prose is so musical... yet it's unlike anything I've read before, because it comes across as something akin to Salvatore and his high fantasy. *throws flower petals in air* Mystical magical magnificence - I adored this story 100000%!

Author Page: http://itssimplygrace.blogspot.ca/
Rating: 5/5 STARS


Spindle Cursed - by Michelle Pennington
Arabella, a living spirit trapped in her own comatose body, helplessly watches from the realm of dreams as her usurping cousin plots to destroy her once and for all.
Spindle Cursed is the only traditional fantasy story in this collection, yet it stands out as unique and is very well written. In a world where magic has a severe price, a disregarded prince must avoid the charms of a sneaky lady (who's a LOT older than she looks), fight his way past a dragon, and ensure he doesn't irk the sleeping princess's fairy guardian (lest she turn him into a fish) so that he might save the day. All the while, another prince is on the move... will our hero make it in time? 

Favourite excerpt...
Life and death held hands in this strange green world.
My thoughts? I really liked this story, and it came across quite strongly despite being "traditional fantasy". In particular, I really loved how Michelle wrote the internal struggle that our main character has with the whole true love trope. Here, true love isn't a first sight thing, rather it's something that develops out of relationship and requires, oftentimes, a big leap of faith. If anything, this story felt more realistic than the others, simply because the romance was more believable and honest. Yet it isn't an overpowering part of the story - after all, we're talking high fantasy here and there's a dragon to beat!

Author Page: http://www.michelle-pennington.com/
Rating: 4/5 STARS


Out of the Tomb - by Ashley Stangl
Tanza, a tomb raider on a distant planet, struggles to make a living and doesn't need a long-lost prince to complicate her difficult life.
It wouldn't be a complete collection without a sci-fi short story! This is like Tomb Raider meets Killjoys meets Star Wars <3 I know I've said all of these stories are unique but OH MY GOODNESS, this one trumps all of them (except maybe The Ghost of Briardale - they tie... :P ). Tanza, a native tephan, is a thief by trade... a tomb raider who makes a living off rich, deceased people. She's an energetic, dangerous individual whose past is sprinkled with all sorts of high-status crimes. Little does she know, her next job is going to produce a lot more than just jewels and collectible medical equipment. The reader is taken on a spell-binding ride with multiple heists, alien politics, and a sacrifice so selfless I legit felt my eyes tear up. This is a one-of-a-kind retelling that was a huge treat to read and makes for the perfect closing piece of the collection. 

Favourite excerpt...
Tanza rolled her eyes, "He insisted on looking up the meaning. The name Arthur means 'bear'."
"A brushbeast with legs!" Auren moaned, as if this proved his entire point.
"Not yet, perhaps," Auren said, his voice gentle, "but virtue names aren't about the virtues you already have. They're about what you can be. The name isn't too heavy for you. ... 
My thoughts? This retelling was fantastic. It had no romance (a nice break, I admit) and was focused more on the purity of the heart and the kindness of the soul. The whole concept of virtue names was a fascinating one ( :P go buy the collection and read it to find out more!) and I admire how smoothly Ashley transitioned her scenes. It felt like reading a full novel, but it didn't come across as jam-packed with information. Not to mention all the sci-fi goodness and the twist on Aurora's spindle (*fangirls*). The underlying message was a very powerful one - no matter who you are or what you've done, there's always a chance for forgiveness and change <3

Author Page: ashleystangl.blogspot.com
Rating: 5/5 STARS


TL;DR
So here's my quick overview and I'm pretty much just going to say once again, Stengl and crew picked out some amazing shorts for this compilation and the final product is absolutely magical. In particular, The Ghost of Briardale and Out of the Tomb really shone through as being exceptionally unique, powerful retellings of the classic Sleeping Beauty fairytale. All of the writers did a great job at the task presented and I applaud them for their wonderful tales :) So now, readers, will you be picking up a copy of Five Magic Spindles and joining in the adventure? If I haven't convinced you yet, check out the following links for additional information :)



Signed with pixie dust,
Squeaks.

2 comments:

  1. Wow! That was a most comprehensive and thorough review. I'm so glad you enjoyed all the stories -- thank you for taking the time to write all of this! Authors always hope their work will be read and enjoyed, so thank you for granting that wish!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Fantastic review! I'm really looking forward to reading this gorgeous collection. Your timing is great, by the way, as I just started reading Five Enchanted Roses. :)

    ReplyDelete

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