‘Recommended to all of those who are young at heart’. @OlgaNM7 Reviews #fairytale retelling Heartless Hette by @FarbMl For Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Today’s team review is from Olga. She blogs here https://www.authortranslatorolga.com

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Olga has been reading Heartless Hette by M.L. Farb

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I am not going to say this is not going to be a long review. I hope it isn’t, but I’m not very good at keeping reviews succinct, especially when I am enthusiastic. And I can tell you now, I loved this novel/fairy tale retelling. But I am decided not to make it heavy. I love fairy tales, and if you want to read about them from an academic or more analytical perspective, there are many books you could check. Among my favourites, I recommend Bruno Bettelheim’s The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy tales and, although it is a work on comparative mythology, Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces, because the quest motif features not only in mythology but also in fairy tales, and it is central to this story. But my review is just going to tell you why I had such a great time reading this novel.

The author explains where the idea for this story came from at the end of the book, and it was a combination of the dream of one of her sons and her own inspiration of combining it with a classic fairy tale, ‘The Princess Who Never Laughed’ (not one I’m very familiar with, although I think I might have read it once, a long time ago). There are multiple references to other fairy tales, mythological and magical beings, and objects throughout the story, and also true facts, inventions, and knowledge, and the author’s research shines through, although always at the service of the story and its many adventures. I do recommend reading all the back matter of the book because the author explains the meaning of the names of the characters; she shares some of her research (who knew CPR was so old?); and also includes some reflections about the story, which she calls “food for thought”, that would make great starting points for endless discussions at book clubs.

Retellings of all kinds of stories are all the rage, and retellings of fairy tales are quite popular as well. By choosing one of the, perhaps, not so mainstream fairy tales, Farb gives herself plenty of room for manoeuvre, and she makes great use of it. I love the characters. Hette is a favourite of mine, perhaps because we have much in common. No, I’m not a princess, and no, I don’t have a long queue of men knocking at my door, but her love of knowledge, her no-nonsense attitude, her determination to lead her own life, despite conventions, and her decision not to marry (precisely because she wants to be in charge of her future and her kingdom) spoke to me. She is not perfect, though. She is also rigid, lacks a sense of humour, is determined to not let her emotions rule her, and can appear cold and uncaring, but she is honest to a fault, and she discovers many things about herself and others by the end of the story. I also loved the other characters who accompany her in her quest: Konrad, the Fool (fools are always interesting, and he is one of the best); Demuth, a maid who is much more than that; Peter, a talking toad who is also more than a toad (of course). They all teach Hette the importance of friendship, help her learn to look beyond appearances, jobs, and titles, and to appreciate different types of knowledge and points of view.

There are many other wonderful beings and characters scattered throughout the books: sorcerers, witches, magical owls that love riddles, knights gone mad, Nereids, a wolf-man (not a werewolf as such, at least not your standard one), a Kobold (a German house spirit, a pretty naughty one in this case), and many more,  but one of the things I most enjoyed in the story is how most of the characters are not cardboard cut-outs and simply good or bad, without nuances. Even the bad characters have depth and are not just “bad” but have their reasons and sometimes have survived pretty extreme experiences that go some way to help us understand the kinds of beings they are now. We also come across all kind of magical objects and places (rivers of fire, mountains of ice, stone horses, books and sextants with their own ideas, mechanical hearts…), and of course, secrets, curses, and plenty of stories as well. In fact, the main story is framed by another one, like John, a new steward working at a rural estate is forced to attend a performance by a bard, a female bard, even though he thinks it’s a waste of time and nobody should be allowed to attend before all the “important work” is finished. By the end of the story, it seems John has plenty of food for thought of his own.

Apart from the wonderful characters, as you’ll probably have guessed from my comments about the other characters and magical objects, the quest Hette and her friends embark on sees them through many adventures, and anybody with a bit of imagination and a willingness to join these motley crew is likely to enjoy the wild ride, full of scary moments, puzzling events, riddles galore, difficult decisions, sacrifices, heartache, revelations, laughs, and plenty of moments that will make one think and wonder. In my opinion, this story is suitable for most ages (apart from perhaps very little children, although parents will be the best judges of that), and although there are scary moments, and the characters are put to the test, both physically and mentally (the challenges do take a toll on their health and their spirit as well) and suffer injuries and even violence, this is not out of keeping with the genre, or extreme and gore, and I think most older children would enjoy it.

The writing is beautifully descriptive, rich, and fluid; the pace of events is fast (and at some point we get an added ticking clock, so things accelerate even more), and the imagery is vivid and should capture most readers’ sense of wonder and imagination. You can check a sample if you want to make sure you’d enjoy the writing, but here go a few snippets:

“A promise is but the stomach’s wind after dinner, all stink and no substance.”

“Yes, many things are foolish to those who only see things in categories. But life doesn’t sort out so neatly.”

“Seeing paradoxes and allowing that something may be two things at once is one key to wisdom.”

“Who but fools can tell the truth to the great one? Priests are too timid and ministers too selfish.”

I’m sure you already guessed that, but in case you needed me to tell you, the story ends happily, and there is the promise of a short story with more adventures for the main characters coming  up soon.

In summary, this is a delightful fairy tale for all ages, that works wonderfully even if you don’t know anything about the original story, full of heart, inspiring, funny, and packed with wonderful characters, all kinds of scary and challenging adventures, and a perfect ending. Recommended to all of those who are young at heart and love a story full of imagination, romance, and, especially, magic.

Desc 1

When Princess Hette refuses a sorcerer’s proposal, he retaliates by stealing her heart—literally.

Desperate to resist his influence, Hette makes herself emotionless, stifling all feelings until she can find her heart and win it back. Only Konrad, the despised Court Fool, knows where to find the sorcerer, and he has his own curse to battle.

Riddles and magic plague their path, including a memory stealing witch, an unbeatable knight, and a magic book that would as soon drown them as lead them to their destination. Yet, if Hette can’t find the sorcerer in time, her heart will be the least of her losses.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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‘Not your average entry into the annals of retold stories.’ @deBieJennifer reviews Heartless Hette by @FarbMl, for Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Today’s team review is from Jennie. She blogs here https://jenniferdebie.com/

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Jenni has been reading Heartless Hette by M.L. Farb

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In the saturated market of retold fairytales, it can be hard to stand out. The past decade or so have seen gritty remakes on the big screen, noir reimaginings on the pages of comic books, dark video games, jukebox musicals, and endless shelves-worth of novels rewriting these tales from centuries past.

There’s a reason a reason authors return to this well time and again. Even a mediocre creator can bring something new to Cinderella or Snow White if they want to.

M.L. Farb is no mediocre creator, and the tales she weaves together to craft her novel, Heartless Hette, are not so pedestrian as a reworked Disney movie from decades gone by.

Lovingly threaded with pieces of eight different fairytales and legends, with nods to German history, lore, and court culture throughout, Heartless Hette is not your average entry into the annals of retold stories.

Helmed by a protagonist who knows her own mind and stays true to it throughout, with a delightful supporting cast that includes a talking toad, an insubordinate maid, and a court fool complete with a bell-laden cap, Heartless Hette follows this unlikely quartet in their quest for (what else?) a heart. Along the way they tangle with naiads, puzzle through an inordinate number of riddles, and keep the promises they make to each other, and those they meet.

No re-told fairytale would be complete without magic, and Heartless Hette has magic in spades. Predicated on some truly cockeyed logic, and delightfully mechanical at times, Farb’s magic system is not typical for the genre, and works seamlessly with the world she has crafted for it. Magic in this world can be a tool, a weapon, a map and an inconvenience all rolled into one, and is never the same thing twice. In the hands of an unskilled author that could be confusing at best and outright annoying at worst—luckily Farb is skilled at her craft and her magic, with all its contradictions, fits the story nicely.

Lush in details, rich in characterization, and written with (forgive me) heart, Heartless Hette is far more than just another rewritten fairytale. This is many fairytales woven into an epic quest, one that will test Farb’s characters and delight readers for generations to come.

5/5

Desc 1

When Princess Hette refuses a sorcerer’s proposal, he retaliates by stealing her heart—literally.

Desperate to resist his influence, Hette makes herself emotionless, stifling all feelings until she can find her heart and win it back. Only Konrad, the despised Court Fool, knows where to find the sorcerer, and he has his own curse to battle.

Riddles and magic plague their path, including a memory stealing witch, an unbeatable knight, and a magic book that would as soon drown them as lead them to their destination. Yet, if Hette can’t find the sorcerer in time, her heart will be the least of her losses.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #FairyTale Retelling The Silent Beauty by @DGDriverAuthor

Today’s team review is from Georgia, she blogs here https://www.georgiarosebooks.com

#RBRT Review Team

Georgia has been reading The Silent Beauty by D.G. Driver

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I do so love it when you open a book and within the first few lines you know you are in for a treat. The Silent Beauty is just such a read.

Colleeda has been bestowed with not only beauty but also a wonderful voice yet she is a horribly, horribly vain and selfish woman with not one redeeming feature. She treats everyone around her appallingly, her thoughts and manners ugly and breath-takingly arrogant. However, her favourite pursuit of luring men to her, then leave them heartbroken, proves her undoing when she seeks to distract a good man, dismissive of the fact his fiancé is rumoured to be a witch.

The Silent Beauty is book three in a series of fairy tales and contains all the magic of such tales with good and evil, heroes and heroines, and characters brought low by their own weaknesses. Does this one offer the possibility of redemption and send out a moral message? Well, you will have to read it yourself to find out and I highly recommend that you do. At only 80 pages long this is a gem. The writing is excellent, the descriptions rich and the storytelling wonderful.

Book description

If you’re a fan of fairy tales or retellings, D.G. Driver’s delightful, and occasionally dark series checks those boxes quite well, and can be easily read in one sitting.

Colleeda is a beautiful but wickedly vain young woman. Of all her assets, the one she prizes most is the sound of her voice. Her favorite game is to attract young men and then leave them heartbroken. It’s all fun until she chooses to lure one man away from his fiancée—and that woman is rumored to be a witch bent on revenge. Colleeda is cursed to never speak or sing again, except for a couple minutes in the wee hours of the morning when no one can possibly hear her.

For years, Colleeda mourns the loss of her voice, believing she is no longer beautiful or desirable. She lives in solitude as her house falls into disrepair around her.

Is there any way to break the curse? Does she deserve to have it broken?

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