Nothing Special But OK: The Wish Granter by CJ Redwine

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An epic, romantic, and action-packed fantasy inspired by the tale of Rumpelstiltskin, about a bastard princess who must take on an evil fae to save her brother’s soul, from C. J. Redwine, the New York Times bestselling author of The Shadow Queen. Perfect for fans of Graceling and the Lunar Chronicles.

The world has turned upside down for Thad and Ari Glavan, the bastard twins of Súndraille’s king. Their mother was murdered. The royal family died mysteriously. And now Thad sits on the throne of a kingdom whose streets are suddenly overrun with violence he can’t stop.

Growing up ignored by the nobility, Ari never wanted to be a proper princess. And when Thad suddenly starts training Ari to take his place, she realizes that her brother’s ascension to the throne wasn’t fate. It was the work of a Wish Granter named Alistair Teague who tricked Thad into wishing away both the safety of his people and his soul in exchange for the crown.

So Ari recruits the help of Thad’s enigmatic new weapons master, Sebastian Vaughn, to teach her how to fight Teague. With secret ties to Teague’s criminal empire, Sebastian might just hold the key to discovering Alistair’s weaknesses, saving Ari’s brother—and herself.

But Teague is ruthless and more than ready to destroy anyone who dares stand in his way—and now he has his sights set on the princess. And if Ari can’t outwit him, she’ll lose Sebastian, her brother…and her soul.

Source: GoodReads

I think a part of my reading experience was ruined by Robert Carlyle’s portrayal of Rumpelstiltskin in Once Upon Time.  While the writing of the show has gone down the tubes a la Charmed by having black and white morality on the show Carlyle can still make his now demonized character seem complex.  And to be fair, the writing in the first two seasons and half made the character complex before they decided to give everyone on the show 1D morality .  I think it’s why I expected more from the Rumpelstiltskin character than I got.  To be fair, the book description made it seem more interesting to than it really was.

Which was really more or less a Rumpelstiltskin retelling where we get a bland peasant helping a princess who likes to eat pie.

We’re reminded that Ari likes to eat pie every other page of the book which is why I even bring that up.

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It’s really annoying since I just read about another pie loving princess a few months ago in Heartless.

To be fair though, I give props to Redwine for having a full figured MC it’s just that it annoyed me how we reminded of the fact she wasn’t the size of a twig every other page.  In fact, the villain states she’s fat at one point of the book and I just…I don’t know, I just wish that there wasn’t so much emphasis on her size.  Though, on a positive note Ari seems comfortable with her body so the fact that everyone is talking about the size of her butt isn’t really bothering her.

Then again, she has her mind on a lot of other things. So there’s really no time to focus on hateful vitriol.

When I first started reading this book, I thought it was eerily similar to Shadow Queen in its set up.  Two kids on the run from their stepmother, but then it changes.  The thing is like Shadow Queen it never reaches its fullest potential and never veered far enough from the source material to make it original.

The Rumpelstiltskin character, for instance, was as evil as they come.  About three quarters of the way through the novel, after he has done despicable after despicable thing Redwine tries to give him some backstory to humanize him BUT it doesn’t really work.  Maybe it would’ve been if it was a TV show (maybe).  But as it was, there just seemed no evolution for this character or his motives.

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The reason the Rumple character works on Once Upon a Time in the early seasons  is that they had spent time developing him throughout the series.  Here, the Rumpelstiltskin character is pretty much the stereotypical evil character.   Much like everyone else in this book is stereotyped to their specific role.

Aria besides liking pie is the princess who gets things done.

Sebastian is the handsome noble peasant with a sad backstory that helped her.

Thad is the douche brother who gets them in the bad situation from the get go, because his name is Thad and he’s an idiot.

Most of the world building here is loosely done.  Sure, there’s some stuff about fae but nothing out of the ordinary or interesting enough to keep you really that engaged.  And some of the stuff, about how the magic worked (specifically with the souls) was never really fully explained.  Like, can anyone remove someone soul?  Becuase it only seemed like a fae thing at first and then…

Yeah, complication not explained.  Just like the whole servant’s backstory.  The stupid brother who still gets to be king even though his sister and her peasant hero boyfriend save the day.

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It’s just a little ridiculous.

I think if you can look past the faults, this one is okay.  Great no, but okay.    Harmless would probably be the perfect word to describe it.  I mean, I don’t think it’s one I’m  really going to remember one way or the other.

Overall Rating: C+

 

Interesting World Building But Meh On Characters: The Shadow Queen by CJ Redwine

Lorelai Diederich, crown princess and fugitive at large, has one mission: kill the wicked queen who took both the Ravenspire throne and the life of her father. To do that, Lorelai needs to use the one weapon she and Queen Irina have in common—magic. She’ll have to be stronger, faster, and more powerful than Irina, the most dangerous sorceress Ravenspire has ever seen.

In the neighboring kingdom of Eldr, when Prince Kol’s father and older brother are killed by an invading army of magic-wielding ogres, the second-born prince is suddenly given the responsibility of saving his kingdom. To do that, Kol needs magic—and the only way to get it is to make a deal with the queen of Ravenspire, promise to become her personal huntsman…and bring her Lorelai’s heart.

But Lorelai is nothing like Kol expected—beautiful, fierce, and unstoppable—and despite dark magic, Lorelai is drawn in by the passionate and troubled king. Fighting to stay one step ahead of the dragon huntsman—who she likes far more than she should—Lorelai does everything in her power to ruin the wicked queen. But Irina isn’t going down without a fight, and her final move may cost the princess the one thing she still has left to lose.

Source: GoodReads

I was sort of scared about reading this one.  Oh, don’t get me wrong I’m always game for a Snow White retelling,but after seeing some of my friends reviews for this one I figured it was going to be a disappointed.  It was…sort of…but I didn’t exactly hate Shadow Queen.  There were parts of it, that I really enjoyed.

I was actually surprised with how much I didn’t find this to be offensive, because usually I find myself to be on the harsher side when it comes to books.

I’ll talk about what really worked for me in this one the world building.  Particularly I liked the use of magic and the dragon shifting thing did not bother me as much as it could’ve.  Sure, the thing with heart magic was a slight rift off of Once Upon a Time, but I thought Redwine made it enough of her own where it wasn’t a complete ripoff.  In fact, I liked the nuances that were involved in casting spells and such.  Of course, Redwine used faux fantasy language which is always a pet peeve of mine, but it’s not enough to completely derail my feelings of a book.  Rather, it’s just something I roll my eyes at (sorry, high fantasy authors I do it anytime I read high fantasy).

As far as retellings go, it is does rely on the source material.  Snow White, Evil Queen, Huntsman/Prince (which is becoming a bit of a retelling cliche to combine them),  though there are no seven dwarfs, and no suffocating corsets.  The thing with the apples is also handled differently, but at its core (ha, ha, bad pun) this is a Snow White story and if anything is really different it is more or less that Redwine made Snow White a sort of Robin Hood figure-but again, this was already sort of seen already on Once Upon a Time (I’m sure it’s in some other Snow White retelling as well, this is just the first one on top of my head because of the heart magic thing).  It’s not bad per say, and it was an interesting quick read (and I’m pretty sure a standalone, which is something I haven’t seen in awhile in YA)  it’s just not that gripping of a read.

And I blame it partially on the characters.  The two main leads were nice…but I didn’t feel any romantic tension between them and throughout the story I just felt distant from them.  I didn’t even really feel for one character when she had to deal with a death.  Maybe it’s because the character that died barely had any impact on the story, but I really couldn’t give a rat’s ass and it seemed like she got over the death sort of quickly.

The Evil Queen character was interesting enough, but I thought that she could’ve been more formed especially her relationship with her henchman.  That plot twist came a little bit out of nowhere to me.  And I wish that her health and its condition were explained as well.  I think I sort of have an idea of why she was in the condition she was, but it was one of those things I would’ve liked a better explanation for.

So, I did end up liking Shadow Queen.  It was a decent retelling, but it had it’s issues and it’s probably a book I’m not going to be prone to remembering in the long run.

Overall Rating: A B-.