What-the-Dickens: The Story of a Rogue Tooth Fairy by Gregory Maguire

Rating: 2.5 of 5

“As a terrible storm rages, ten-year-old Dinah and her brother and sister listen to their cousin Gage’s tale of a newly-hatched, orphaned, skibberee, or tooth fairy, called What-the-Dickens, who hopes to find a home among the skibbereen tribe, if only he can stay out of trouble.” (source: LOC summary)

How did I end up here, again? Another fantastic premise; another letdown. At this point, I only have myself to blame.

The possibility of wishing strengthens the imagination to consider, at times, that things could improve. Could be different. They could. They might.

Maguire’s stories pose, quite possibly, the greatest conundrum in my (reading) life. I first read Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister at university in 2007. It was good, not great, but it kept my interest. Then a couple years later, I read Wicked. My response was muddled: the premise was fantastic; the characters interesting; however, I just felt meh about the story overall.

At that point I asked myself: Do I keep reading Maguire or are his books just not for me?

Fast forward a few years, I now own a few used copies of his books, bought here and there, just in case. I’m not in a mad rush to read them, though.

Fast forward a few more years to 2016, I read Mirror Mirror. Sigh.

So there I am, last night, browsing my fantasy/ fairy tale/ folklore shelf, looking for something to read (to help support the delusion goal of reducing the number of owned-to-reads quicker than I’m reading to-reads not owned), when I spot What-the-Dickens. Hmm, I think, could THIS be the one?

screenshot spongebob 5 hours later

Underwhelmed, yet again.

I think I might be wishing I’ll find “the one” – the book by Maguire that will WOW! me and finally show me: 1) why I keep reading Maguire’s books; and, 2) what all the fuss is about. I mean, other readers love his stories whereas, when I read them, I’m like contemplating whether or not laundry, or dusting, or scheduling my annual pap smear, might be more worthwhile.

My biggest dilemma at this point is that I own Son of a Witch, A Lion Among Men and Lost. Do I read them anyway despite the odds not being in my favor? I’ve read four of Maguire’s books so far and all but one has felt like walking uphill, in snow, against strong winds. Or, do I throw in the towel and forfeit the cash paid for books I never read?

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(Review posted on LibraryThing and Goodreads.)

Disclaimer: I don’t normally post about books that I don’t like. Please know, I wrote the above with zero disrespect to the author or the readers who love his work. I, in no way, intend to come across like a heckler or a Debbie Downer. This is 100% my personal (subjective) experience thus far.

The Starlit Wood: New Fairy Tales

Rating: 4 of 5

From the Introduction: “From the woods to the stars, join us on eighteen extraordinary journeys into unexpected territories, uncharted lands, and unforeseen experiences. Welcome to an adventure that’s strangely familiar and startlingly different at the same time. You’re likely to emerge changed, but isn’t that the way it is with all the best stories?”

My thoughts: An excellent anthology with lovely, intricate illustrations. (Take a peek at a few on the illustrator’s website.) Most times with collections I’m prepared to trudge through at least a handful of the stories that don’t quite WOW me. Not the case with The Starlit Wood; only one failed to hold my attention, and I’m sure that’s more to do with my personal tastes than its quality or mass appeal. I also loved reading the Author’s Note that followed each story.

There are stories that read like a traditional fairy tale and stories that lean more heavily toward fantasy/ sci-fi / western inspired by fairy tales. Having that blend of cross-genre tales really gives this anthology the extra oomph often overlooked in collections.

There was a tie for my favorite: Kat Howard‘s “Reflected” and Stephen Graham Jones‘ “Some Wait.” Naomi Novik‘s “Spinning Silver” was a close runner-up.

Highly recommend to fairy-tale enthusiasts on the hunt for original retellings.

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(Review cross-posted on LibraryThing and Goodreads.)

Table of Contents (with original tale, hidden in case you want to be surprised):

Opal by Kristina Wojtaszek

Rating: 4.5 of 5

Synopsis: “[A] retwisting of the classic Snow White tale in which the daughter of a snow owl must find her own identity while unraveling the story of her parents and her people.” (source)

My thoughts: Opal set itself apart from others by its premise and its vivid imagery. The main character is an animal transformed into a human just as her journey to the truth begins. Normally, in a fairy tale, getting turned into an animal is a curse the protagonist has to overcome by breaking a spell or accepting their true self. Not in this story, and that was only one of the twists in Wojtaszek’s fairytale-inspired fantasy.

I wasn’t sure if the alternating viewpoints (“Fire” for the owl-turned-human; “Stone” for the abused prince) would work for me, but ultimately, they did; I found switching between the two added a bit of tension and suspense as the owl-turned-human’s journey brought her ever closer to Prince Androw’s tale. All in all, an enjoyable story and I look forward to reading more by this author.

Why not a full 5 stars? I docked half a star because 20-30 more pages would’ve added more depth to three “chapters” of the story that felt a bit rushed.

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(Review cross-posted on LibraryThing and Goodreads.)