Tag Archives: fairytales

Review: The Magic Fish by Trung le Nguyen

The Magic Fish by Trung le Nguyen cover shows a boy with glasses and a patched jacket looking at an open book. In the background is an illustration of a mermaid.

The Magic Fish
Trung le Nguyen
Random House Graphic
Published October 13, 2020

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About The Magic Fish

Tiến loves his family and his friends…but Tiến has a secret he’s been keeping from them, and it might change everything. An amazing YA graphic novel that deals with the complexity of family and how stories can bring us together.

Real life isn’t a fairytale.

But Tiến still enjoys reading his favorite stories with his parents from the books he borrows from the local library. It’s hard enough trying to communicate with your parents as a kid, but for Tiến, he doesn’t even have the right words because his parents are struggling with their English. Is there a Vietnamese word for what he’s going through?

Is there a way to tell them he’s gay?

A beautifully illustrated story by Trung Le Nguyen that follows a young boy as he tries to navigate life through fairytales, an instant classic that shows us how we are all connected. The Magic Fish tackles tough subjects in a way that accessible with readers of all ages, and teaches us that no matter what—we can all have our own happy endings.

My Review

One of the things this book does so cleverly is clue the reader into the different threads of the story with the color of its panels. There are different timelines and stories all being told at the same time. In the present, Tiến is figuring out his feelings for a fellow classmate and how to tell his parents he’s gay.

His mom shares memories of her own life, and later, her journey back to Vietnam to visit her family. In the midst of these stories, in Tiến’s family, they share a lot of stories with one another. For example, in some scenes, he reads fairytales to his mom. In others, his mother listens while her aunt tells her a fairytale. Each of those threads– Tiến’s perspective, his mom’s perspective, and the fairytales are color-coded so that the background of the panels is one color.

That way when the story switches to a different thread, the panels change color. It’s pretty genius. This is the first time I’ve ever seen anything like that, and I have to say it made the story really easy to follow.

Another thing that I really liked is the fairytales themselves. I loved the choices the author made in terms of what the settings looked like for those stories– that’s something we kind of take for granted in reading fairytales in text, I think. But it’s really clear that the author made very purposeful, carefully considered choices about the clothes and backgrounds of each of the tales. I loved that.

The author’s note points up the fact that cultures all over the world have their own versions of tales like Cinderella. For some of those stories, like Cinderella, the western version wasn’t even the first version of the story. I loved that the author points this out in the note at the end of the book.


So I feel like I talked a lot about the setup and background of the story, but let me say that I also really enjoyed reading THE MAGIC FISH. They way Tiến wrestles with what to say to his family felt very real. I love the way his family used stories to bond with and communicate with each other.

There’s something really special about a story that can transcend genre and tell a transcendent story as well. I think THE MAGIC FISH does that beautifully.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 12 up.

Tiến is gay and Vietnamese American. His best friend Claire is Black.

Profanity/Crude Language Content

Romance/Sexual Content
Tiến has a crush on a boy.

Spiritual Content
A priest speaks to Tiến about his feelings. We only see the beginning of the conversation, but it’s clear he says some deeply homophobic things.

Fairytales contain magic and spirits. One is about the grandfather of the sea, a man who rides on the back of a skeleton and tries to claim a girl for his bride. Others contain mermaids. In one animals speak to humans.

Violent Content
Brief references to prison camps in Vietnam. Some of the fairytales have some dark themes or scenes. In one, a woman stabs another through her heart. A woman unknowingly consumes a meal made from her daughter. A tipped over container of the soup shows it contained human bones.

Drug Content

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Review: The Forest Grimm by Kathryn Purdie

The Forest Grimm
Kathryn Purdie
Wednesday Books
Published September 19, 2023

Amazon | Bookshop | Goodreads

About The Forest Grimm

Where fairy tales come to life with dark, deadly twists…

“Tell me again, Grandmère, the story of how I die.”

The Midnight Forest. The Fanged Creature. Two fortune-telling cards that spell an untimely death for 17-year-old Clara. Despite the ever-present warning from her fortune-teller grandmother, Clara embarks on a dangerous journey into the deadly Forest Grimm to procure a magical book – Sortes Fortunae, the Book of Fortunes – with the power to reverse the curse on her village and save her mother.

Years ago, when the villagers whispered their deepest desires to the book, its pages revealed how to obtain them. All was well until someone used the book for an evil purpose―to kill another person. Afterward, the branches of the Forest Grimm snatched the book away, the well water in Grimm’s Hollow turned rancid, and the crops died from disease. The villagers tried to make amends with the forest, but every time someone crossed its border, they never returned.

Now, left with no alternative, Clara and her close friend, Axel―who is fated never to be with her―have set their minds to defying fate and daring to accomplish what no one else has been able to before. But the forest―alive with dark, deadly twists on some of our most well-known fairy tales―has a mind of its own.

My Review

One of the things that most intrigued me about this story was the idea of a magical forest filled with twisted versions of well-known fairy tales. I was just talking with someone the other day about how many of the versions we’re most familiar with are very different from the darker original versions. I liked the idea of including references to those darker stories in a new tale.

And that’s one of the elements I enjoyed most about reading this book. I really liked the forest, too. It felt old and dark and filled with deadly magic. The story centers around Clara and her developing relationship with Axel, a plotline that I also followed with interest. I think I would have enjoyed a little bit more focus on Henni’s relationship with Clara. The way the story ends left me hopeful that Henni would be a critical character in a follow-up tale. All I can say to that is, yes, please!

On the whole, I think readers who enjoy reimagined fairy tales or books like THE GREYMIST FAIR by Francesca Zappia will definitely want to give this one a read.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 12 up.

Clara describes a back problem as having an S-curve that makes her hips uneven. She wears a special insert in her shoe to help her walk more comfortably.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Mild profanity used very infrequently.

Romance/Sexual Content
Kissing between boy and girl.

Spiritual Content
Clara’s Grandmère uses cards to predict someone’s future. A curse descends on Clara’s town, changing the forest into a dangerous place, isolating the village, and drawing certain villagers into it. In the forest, Clara encounters magic in the form of dark fairytales. She sees a ghost and monsters.

Violent Content
Situations of peril. Some battle situations between Clara and her allies and residents of the forest.

Drug Content
Hallucinogenic mushrooms cause Clara and her friends to see strange things. (They were tricked into eating them.)

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support this blog. I received a free copy of THE FOREST GRIMM in exchange for my honest review.

Review: Mysteries of Thorn Manor by Margaret Rogerson

Mysteries of Thorn Manor (Sorcery of Thorns #1.5)
Margaret Rogerson
Margaret K. McElderry Books
Published January 17, 2023

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About Mysteries of Thorn Manor

In this sequel novella to SORCERY OF THORNS, Elisabeth, Nathaniel, and Silas must unravel the magical trap keeping them inside Thorn Manor in time for their Midwinter Ball!

Elisabeth Scrivener is finally settling into her new life with sorcerer Nathaniel Thorn. Now that their demon companion Silas has returned, so has scrutiny from nosy reporters hungry for gossip about the city’s most powerful sorcerer and the librarian who stole his heart. But something strange is afoot at Thorn Manor: the estate’s wards, which are meant to keep their home safe, are acting up and forcibly trapping the Manor’s occupants inside. Surely it must be a coincidence that this happened just as Nathaniel and Elisabeth started getting closer to one another…

With no access to the outside world, Elisabeth, Nathaniel, and Silas – along with their new maid Mercy – will have to work together to discover the source of the magic behind the malfunctioning wards before they’re due to host the city’s Midwinter Ball. Not an easy task when the house is filled with unexpected secrets, and all Elisabeth can think about is kissing Nathaniel in peace. But when it becomes clear that the house, influenced by the magic of Nathaniel’s ancestors, requires a price for its obedience, Elisabeth and Nathaniel will have to lean on their connection like never before to set things right.

My Review

I didn’t even realize this book was happening until I saw it for sale online. I spotted it while browsing a pre-order sale and immediately ordered it. I loved SORCERY OF THORNS– and Elisabeth especially– so I was super excited to see that there would be more to the story.

It was super fun revisit Nathaniel and his weird house. And Silas and all his careful preferences. And Elisabeth, charging into whatever trouble came her way. I loved it. It was also fun to read a book where the romance was already established and they faced challenges together as a team. I liked that a lot more than I expected I would.

The only thing I didn’t like about MYSTERIES OF THORN MANOR is that the chapters are super long. They do have some scene breaks, so that helps a little bit. I think there are nine chapters total in the 184 page book.

Other than that, though, I loved it. I loved the way the characters interacted with one another and the capricious, unpredictable magic that saturated everything. There were so many great moments. The armor! I think that was my favorite– though Aunt Clothilde’s dressing gown was also pretty great. Ha!

I’m super glad I stumbled onto the book and was able to read it. I hope the series continues beyond this, but I haven’t seen any news on that.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 12 up.

Major characters are white. Nathaniel is bisexual.

Profanity/Crude Language Content

Romance/Sexual Content
Kissing between boy and girl. Obvious attraction between them. They spend some nights together, sleeping. References to a past kiss between two boys.

Spiritual Content
Silas is a demon (here, a being from another realm with great magical power and no moral hindrances) who is bound to the service of Elisabeth and Nathaniel. Nathaniel has the ability to perform magic through memorized spells and incantations.

Violent Content
Elisabeth battles animated topiaries, other household objects, and nightmares.

Drug Content
Nathaniel drinks from a glass of champagne at a party.

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support this blog.

Review: Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust

Girl, Serpent, Thorn
Melissa Bashardoust
Flatiron Books
Published July 7, 2020

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Indiebound | Goodreads

About Girl, Serpent, Thorn

There was and there was not, as all stories begin, a princess cursed to be poisonous to the touch. But for Soraya, who has lived her life hidden away, apart from her family, safe only in her gardens, it’s not just a story.

As the day of her twin brother’s wedding approaches, Soraya must decide if she’s willing to step outside of the shadows for the first time. Below in the dungeon is a demon who holds knowledge that she craves, the answer to her freedom. And above is a young man who isn’t afraid of her, whose eyes linger not with fear, but with an understanding of who she is beneath the poison.

Soraya thought she knew her place in the world, but when her choices lead to consequences she never imagined, she begins to question who she is and who she is becoming…human or demon. Princess or monster.

A captivating and utterly original fairy tale about a girl cursed to be poisonous to the touch, and who discovers what power might lie in such a curse…

My Review

I went into this book a little nervously because I’d read some mediocre reviews, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. The font on my ARC was also super small, so I worried that reading it might give me a headache.

Mainly I say all that to let you know that when I feel like I zipped through the book super quick and found it completely engrossing, you get the kind of obstacles it was up against. Ha.

First, the characters. I loved Soraya and her mom and the complicated relationship between them. The women in the cast absolutely shine, from Parvaneh and the sisterhood of pariks (winged demons) to Soraya and her mom, they were all complex and fascinating.

As far as the story, I enjoyed the story world, which is based on Persian mythology. Some of the titles are a little unfamiliar and confusing, but there is some explanation about them in the back of the book. I think a glossary would have been helpful, too. All in all, though, I as I got into the story, I was able to keep my bearings just fine.

The plot is very twisty. Less in terms of surprises (though every story has its share of surprises) and more in terms of the way things sort of loop back around, where the past connects to the present. I liked that a lot, and it gave the story a layered feel to it that I enjoyed.

One of the things that will stick with me, I think, is the way Soraya talked about making herself smaller early in the story– trying to keep others safe by shrinking herself as small as she could. I felt like that created this incredible picture of who she was at the beginning and showed such a contrast with who she became and how her courage changed her.

I feel like there are areas in our lives (especially as women) where we sometimes do that– make ourselves smaller to avoid conflict or hurt, even when it hurts us. So I loved reading this story about a young woman who comes into her own, learns to take up her space and be bold. It was both validating and freeing.

I think readers who enjoyed FOREST OF SOULS by Lori M. Lee or FORBIDDEN WISH by Jessica Khoury will enjoy this one.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 14 up.

Based on Persian mythology.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Mild profanity used very rarely.

Romance/Sexual Content
Kissing between boy and girl. Kissing between two girls.

Spiritual Content
In this story, the world is ruled by two gods: the Creator and the Destroyer. The Destroyer releases demons, or Divs, into the world. Soraya’s family is protected by a feather freely given to them by a powerful bird.

Violent Content
Some situations of peril. Battle violence and some brief gory descriptions of battle wounds.

Drug Content

Note: I received a free copy of GIRL, SERPENT, THORN in exchange for my honest review. This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support the costs of running this blog.

Review: The Noble Servant by Melanie Dickerson

The Noble Servant (Medieval Fairytales #3)
Melanie Dickerson
Thomas Nelson
Published on May 9, 2017

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

About The Noble Servant
She lost everything to the scheme of an evil servant. But she might just gain what she’s always wanted…if she makes it in time.

The impossible was happening. She, Magdalen of Mallin, was to marry the Duke of Wolfberg. Magdalen had dreamed about receiving a proposal ever since she met the duke two years ago. Such a marriage was the only way she could save her people from starvation. But why would a handsome, wealthy duke want to marry her, a poor baron’s daughter? It seemed too good to be true.

On the journey to Wolfberg Castle, Magdalen’s servant forces her to trade places and become her servant, threatening not only Magdalen’s life, but the lives of those she holds dear. Stripped of her identity and title in Wolfberg, where no one knows her, Magdalen is sentenced to tend geese while she watches her former handmaiden gain all Magdalen had ever dreamed of.

When a handsome shepherd befriends her, Magdalen begins to suspect he carries secrets of his own. Together, Magdalen and the shepherd uncover a sinister plot against Wolfberg and the duke. But with no resources, will they be able to find the answers, the hiding places, and the forces they need in time to save both Mallin and Wolfberg?

My Review
My daughter LOVES these fairytale stories by Melanie Dickerson. They’re sweet, straightforward tales with that classic fairytale happily ever after moment. Very clean, very safe, which is what she often prefers. Sometimes you need a story where everything works out all right and justice is perfectly served, you know? If that resonates with you, The Noble Servant is probably the kind of book you’re looking for.

I enjoyed reading this retelling of the Grimm’s fairytale Goose Girl, though it took me a while to get into it. The writing is a little bit stilted at times, but the characters are interesting. I liked the way Magdalen and the shepherd had to work together, and the secrets they kept made things interesting.

The books in the Medieval Fairytale series and Dickerson’s Hagenheim series are great for readers in that zone where they’re transitioning to stories about older characters but not quite ready for the mature content in some young adult books.

Recommended for Ages 12 up.

Cultural Elements
Major characters are white or not physically described.

Profanity/Crude Language Content

Romance/Sexual Content
Brief kissing.

Spiritual Content
A couple of times characters pray together during a crisis and quote scripture.

Violent Content
Physical fights between some of the male characters. Some peril and limited details about inuries.

Drug Content

Top Ten Tuesday: Thou Art a Villain

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl) is about amazing book villains. While there is no shortage of memorable villainish characters out there, I wanted to go a little bit of a different direction with my post and focus on stories that repaint a well-known villain or villain archetype as the story’s protagonist. So here we go.

Elphaba in Wicked: the Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire

I feel like this list kind of had to include Elphaba, even though it’s not really a YA book (which is what I normally read and review). It’s a pretty dark book, but I was really fascinated with how Maguire incorporated the plot of the original Wizard of Oz story into this book and twisted things around to make a completely different story.


Raven Queen (daughter of the Evil Queen) in Ever After High books

This series was really fun and fast to read. My daughter and I read them together when she was in maybe third grade, and it was a blast.


Agnes in the School for Good and Evil series

School for Good and Evil is a little more serious (classical?) in its fairytale-ish-ness than Ever After High, which really just made me love it even more.

Kara in the In the Thickety books

I guess it’s not new for a witch to be the hero of the story, but I love the writing in this book and the creepy forest. Also, plot twists! I seriously need to finish reading this series.

Mal, Evie, Jay and Carlos in The Descendants

Carlos DeVille pretty much stole the show for me in this book. I didn’t expect to be such a huge fan of a fairytale mash-up type cast, but now that I’m looking at my list, there are a bunch of those types of stories on here. And I really enjoyed them all. I could probably just do a top ten list of those.

Levana in Fairest by Marissa Meyer

Fairest was not my favorite book in the Lunar Chronicles, but it was cool to see a Levana origin story, and Marissa Meyer always does cool Easter egg type elements to her stories, so I enjoyed that aspect of it for sure.

Heartless by Marissa Meyer

Heartless is still on my to-be-read list. The Red Queen from Alice in Wonderland is one of those characters I can’t imagine being actually sympathetic, so I’m super interested to see what Meyer did with this one.

Xifeng in Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie Dao

Somehow I didn’t realize this was an evil queen origin story when I picked it up, so I was super confused by how dark it was. I kept wanting Xifeng to resist or thwart her dark destiny, and kept being disappointed when she didn’t. Then about halfway through the book I read somewhere that it was supposed to be a retelling of how Snow White’s stepmother came to be who she was, and I was like, ohhhhhhh. Suddenly it all made sense. After that, I got into the story a lot more.

Evie in Sea Witch by Sarah Henning

This one is still on my to-be-read list. I love the idea, though – an outcast witch girl who’s trying desperately to help someone only she ends up creating a big mess.

Vanessa in Rise of the Sea Witch by Stacey Rourke

Another from my to-be-read list. In this one, the Sea Witch and Triton are brother and sister, and it’s his treachery which provokes her to witch-y-ness. Yeah, I really have to read this.

Who are your favorite novel villains?

Leave me a comment with your top favorites or a link to your list!