fairy tale

All posts tagged fairy tale

The Snow Child – Eowyn Ivey

Published August 27, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Alaska, 1920: a brutal place to homestead, and especially tough for recent arrivals Jack and Mabel. Childless, they are drifting apart. In a moment of levity they build a child out of snow. The next morning the snow child is gone–but they glimpse a young, blonde-haired girl running through the trees.

Alaska, 1920: a brutal place to homestead, and especially tough for recent arrivals Jack and Mabel. Childless, they are drifting apart – he breaking under the weight of the work of the farm; she crumbling from loneliness and despair. In a moment of levity during the season’s first snowfall, they build a child out of snow. The next morning the snow child is gone – but they glimpse a young, blonde-haired girl running through the trees.

This little girl, who calls herself Faina, seems to be a child of the woods. She hunts with a red fox at her side, skims lightly across the snow, and somehow survives alone in the Alaskan wilderness. As Jack and Mabel struggle to understand this child who could have stepped from the pages of a fairy tale, they come to love her as their own daughter. But in this beautiful, violent place, things are rarely as they appear, and what they eventually learn about Faina will transform all of them.

What did I think?:

Oh my goodness, where do I start on this book? First of all, this is one of the most aesthetically pleasing books I’ve had the honour to own, the cover art is simply gorgeous and when I read the synopsis I was completely sold. I actually read it originally in my pre-blogging days, loved it then and gave it four stars on GoodReads and kept it in pride of place on my bookshelves. More recently, I had the opportunity to re-read it and for some reason, this time round, the story hit me like a ton of bricks and I adored it even more than I had the first time. (Definitely shows why you might want to re-read books, am I right?!). The Snow Child spoke to me on such a personal level and as I made little notes throughout the novel, I began to fully appreciate what a stunning story this actually is. It has my whole heart, makes me sad and makes me so happy at the same time and such conflicting emotions makes this novel one of my all time favourite books.

The Snow Child is based on an old Russian fairy tale about a couple that long to have a child of their own. They are unsuccessful so end up making a child out of snow that comes to life and gives them years of happiness until she disappears again and breaks their hearts. The couple in Eowyn Ivey’s tale are Jack and Mabel, who have recently moved to Alaska, a complete departure from their normal lives to live off the land in almost utter solitude with very few neighbours or distractions. Like the fairy tale, our couple have been unsuccessful in having a child and it has been very hard on their relationship. One night, they make a girl out of snow and dress her in Mabel’s scarf and then the next day, they start to see a small girl running about in the woods. She is obviously nervous, flits away and won’t communicate with them but they finally earn her trust and start a relationship with her.

Naming her Faina, the little girl is quite a enigma. She appears to be completely by herself but manages quite well, foraging for food with her pet fox before Mabel and Jack take her under their wings. Faina refuses to be housed like a normal human being however and only stays briefly with the couple before escaping to her own home out in the Alaskan wilderness. As the years pass by and Faina gets older, the relationship between her and her new adopted parents develops and strengthens and Jack and Mabel’s hearts appear to be finally healing and their purpose in life renewed. However, Faina was never born to be conventional and Jack and Mabel have to prepare themselves for the fact that they may never be able to keep their daughter just for themselves.

The magical moments, the fairy-tale aspects, the whimsical nature of Faina as a character and the intense beauty of the Alaskan landscape are all things I could go on and on about that are such a huge part about why I am in love with this novel. To be perfectly honest, I really can’t believe it’s a debut novel – Eowyn Ivey writes with such confidence and her plot is just sheer brilliance that you would believe that she’s been writing for decades. The story itself broke my heart in places then put it back together again and throughout the novel I couldn’t stop hugging myself in glee just because what I was reading was so magical and wonderful. I can’t even understand why the first time I read it I only gave it four stars, it certainly deserves more than that and was such an intense reading experience this time round for me, I don’t think I’ll ever forget it. I keep meaning to read the author’s second novel, To The Bright Edge Of The World (which is on my shelves at the moment) but to be honest, I’m a little scared just because of the outstanding quality of The Snow Child. It really needs to be done though and I’m determined to get to it by the end of the year!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):




Five Star TBR Pile Predictions

Published August 22, 2017 by bibliobeth

Image from http://lithub.com/in-praise-of-the-book-tower/

Hello everyone and welcome to something a bit different on my blog today. One of my favourite book-tubers, Mercedes from Mercy’s Bookish Musings recently posted a brilliant video where she went through her TBR and tried to predict which five books would be five star reads for her. She then did a wrap up video after she had read the books to see how many she had got right. I thought this was a fantastic idea and immediately wanted to do the same as a blog post rather than a video. Honestly, none of you need to see me stammering away in front of a camera – it’s not a pretty sight. I’ll leave it to the experts! Without further ado, I’ve picked five books from my TBR that I think will be five star reads for me and I’ll give you a little bit of background information about how I got the book and why I think I might give it five stars.

1.) Stay With Me – Ayobami Adebayo

Stay With Me came across my radar when it was short-listed for the Baileys Women’s Prize For Fiction earlier this year. I was lucky enough to attend an event where I got to hear the short-listed authors read from their books and answer some questions. I had already heard brilliant things about this book from reviewers whose opinions I really respect and trust but hearing the author speak on the night had me determined that this book was going to be great. Why do I think it’s going to be a five star read? Mostly because people with very similar reading tastes to my own have praised it to the heavens and I’m anticipating I’m going to feel exactly the same way.

2.) The Clay Girl by Heather Tucker

Mercy from Mercy’s Bookish Musings is responsible for my interest in this little beauty. She raved about it in a recent video and after hearing her review, I knew I had to have it. I mean, check out this opening:

“Vincent Appleton smiles at his daughters, raises a gun, and blows off his head. For the Appleton sisters, life had unravelled many times before. This time it explodes.”

Why do I think it’s going to be a five star read? Again, a great review from a person with similar reading tastes to my own, the dark content and that opening is just too intriguing to resist.

3.) The Book Of Strange New Things – Michel Faber

This book has been languishing on my TBR for a ridiculous amount of time and it’s about time it gets read! I’m a big fan of Michel Faber, especially after his beautiful novel, The Crimson Petal And The White and I’ve been looking forward to reading this for the longest time. I feel like it’s going to be a bit like The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell and The Long Way To A Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers, both of which I loved. I understand Michel Faber is either taking a break from writing or has said that he’s not going to write any more novels at all and I think that’s one of the reasons I’ve been putting off reading this book – I just don’t want to admit to myself that I’m never going to read anything new by him again! Why do I think it’s going to be a five star read? Mostly due to the premise which immediately pulled me in and I have to say, that gorgeous cover. Okay I know, never judge a book by its cover! (But I do!).

4.) The Bear And The Nightingale – Katherine Arden

I’ve been coveting this book ever since I first saw it in a bookshop – I mean, just look at that cover! There’s a few buzz words that will guarantee I’ll buy a book and some of them are “fairy tale,” “Russian,” “with a dark edge,” and this book has all these things, I’m certain it’s going to be gorgeous. Why do I think it’s going to be a five star read? It looks to have everything I would want from a novel and yep…..that cover again!

5.) Girls Will Be Girls: Dressing Up, Playing Parts And Daring To Act Differently – Emer O’Toole

I love a bit of non-fiction, especially when it’s a topic that fascinates me, in this case gender stereotypes and feminist issues. There have been some brilliant reviews of this book and I can’t wait to get to it. I think it’s going to be interesting, eye-opening and I’m hoping to learn a lot too. Why do I think it’s going to be a five star read? Probably because of the subject matter which I’m always hungry for and the fact that I’ve heard nothing but good things.

So that’s five books from my TBR which I think (and hope!) are going to be five star reads for me in the future. I’ll get on with reading them in the next few months and then I’ll be back with a wrap up post where I’ll let you know if I was right in my predictions or not. I will also be reviewing each book separately as always but I’ll do that after my wrap up post so as to not give anything away ahead of time. 

Make sure to check out Mercy’s video on her channel to see which books she has predicted will be five star reads for her. If anyone else wants to do this, I would absolutely love to see your choices, please leave a link to your post (or just tell me your choices) in the comments section below!


Short Stories Challenge 2017 – Blue Moon by Lucy Wood from the collection Diving Belles.

Published August 1, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s Blue Moon all about?:

Blue Moon follows our narrator who works in a very unique nursing home where its residents have magical abilities.

What did I think?:

Generally speaking, I’ve been hugely impressed with the quality of writing and the fairy-tale nature of Lucy Wood’s beautiful collection, Diving Belles. There have been a couple of stories that I’ve felt have ended too abruptly but the vast majority of them have been wonderful and means I would definitely recommend this collection for any fans of magical realism or anything other-worldly. Lucy Wood expertly weaves Cornish folklore into this collection in a way that makes each story feel like a fantasy but at the same time very real, a tough task to accomplish I’m sure but she does it with ease. Blue Moon is another fantastic example of the surreal, lyrical nature that has characterised this whole collection and the beauty of the language just washed over me and made reading this story an absolute pleasure.

When we first start reading, our narrator, who works at Blue Moon nursing home is attempting to calm down a very anxious hare in a bedroom. Within a few lines and by the narrator addressing the hare as Mrs Tivoli, we soon realise that Mrs Tivoli is a witch and a shape-shifter, normally taking human form but she has recently had a visitor and something has happened that has frightened or upset her so badly that she has transformed herself into a hare and seems to have lost control of her senses. Our narrator soon takes us back in time, explaining what has precipitated these events and it’s a magical tale of a very odd nursing home that takes in residents with magical powers. Dealing with these residents is not easy as our narrator is well aware but Mrs Tivoli has taken a particular shine to her and opens up to her about her life, her losses and her regrets which she keeps in a series of bottles. The smaller regrets are in larger bottles, her biggest regrets are in smaller sized bottles – the biggest regret of all is in a nail varnish bottle and it is this bottle that Mrs Tivoli opens one day just before her visitor arrives to show our narrator that precipitates her frantic transformation.

It’s only as I’m writing this review up now that I’m starting to appreciate how brilliant this story actually is. Imagine keeping all your regrets in your life in bottles within a drawer by your bedside. Any time you want you can open one of these bottles, view a memory and re-live those feelings you felt when a particular thing happened to you that you feel remorse for. It doesn’t bear thinking about! I adored the magical elements of this story, in particular Mrs Tivoli and her opinionated pet catfish Maria but as I mentioned, the most beautiful thing about this story is the writing which flows like water and is so descriptive. It’s like the author thought long and hard about each word she chose before writing it and her consideration over what she chose is obvious as each word is perfect. Lucy Wood does have a habit of ending each story quite abruptly, leaving the reader feeling like there is unfinished business but I have to be honest. In this story, it really worked. I would have loved to know what happened next to Mrs Tivoli and her mysterious visitor but, in the end, it just makes it more poignant that we don’t know and have to guess for ourselves.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):


NEXT SHORT STORY: Master by Angela Carter from the collection The Story: Love, Loss & The Lives of Women.

August 2017 – Real Book Month

Published August 1, 2017 by bibliobeth

It’s time for one of my favourite months – real book month! This is where I try to bring down that pesky TBR as much as I can. I try to focus on books I’m really excited about and roll my eyes that I haven’t managed to get to them before now. I normally have a list of about ten I want to read, however, because I also participate in Banned Books and Kid-Lit with my sister as well as reading the Richard and Judy book club titles, I’ve felt under too much pressure lately so am just easing that slightly. This month I want to focus on some of the titles my sister Chrissi Reads and I bought recently on our trip to the wonderful Mr B’s Emporium Of Reading Delights in Bath. This is what I’ll be reading:

The Rithmatist (The Rithmatist #1) – Brandon Sanderson

What’s it all about?:

The Rithmatist, Brandon Sanderson’s New York Times bestselling epic teen adventure is now available in paperback.

More than anything, Joel wants to be a Rithmatist. Rithmatists have the power to infuse life into two-dimensional figures known as Chalklings. Rithmatists are humanity’s only defense against the Wild Chalklings. Having nearly overrun the territory of Nebrask, the Wild Chalklings now threaten all of the American Isles.

As the son of a lowly chalkmaker at Armedius Academy, Joel can only watch as Rithmatist students learn the magical art that he would do anything to practice. Then students start disappearing—kidnapped from their rooms at night, leaving trails of blood. Assigned to help the professor who is investigating the crimes, Joel and his friend Melody find themselves on the trail of an unexpected discovery—one that will change Rithmatics—and their world—forever.

New York Times Book Review Notable Children’s Book of 2013.

The Long Way To A Small, Angry Planet (Wayfarers #1) – Becky Chambers

What’s it all about?:

When Rosemary Harper joins the crew of the Wayfarer, she isn’t expecting much. The Wayfarer, a patched-up ship that’s seen better days, offers her everything she could possibly want: a small, quiet spot to call home for a while, adventure in far-off corners of the galaxy, and distance from her troubled past.

The crew is a mishmash of species and personalities, from Sissix, the friendly reptilian pilot, to Kizzy and Jenks, the constantly sparring engineers who keep the ship running. Life on board is chaotic, but more or less peaceful – exactly what Rosemary wants.

Until the crew are offered the job of a lifetime, tunneling through space to a distant planet. They’ll earn enough money to live comfortably for years… if they survive the trip.

But Rosemary isn’t the only person on board with secrets to hide, and the crew will soon discover that space may be vast, but spaceships are very small indeed.

The Immortals – S.E. Lister

What’s it all about?:

Rosa Hyde is the daughter of a time-traveller, stuck in the year 1945. Forced to live through it again, and again, and again. The same bulletins, the same bombs, the same raucous victory celebrations. All Rosa has ever wanted is to be free from that year — and from the family who keep her there. 
At last she breaks out and falls through time, slipping from one century to another, unable to choose where she goes. And she is not alone. Wandering with her is Tommy Rust, time-gypsy and daredevil, certain in the depths of his being that he will live forever.
Their journeys take them from the ancient shores of forming continents to the bright lights of future cities. They find that there are others like them. They tell themselves that they need no home; that they are anything but lost.
But then comes Harding, the soldier who has fought for a thousand years, and everything changes. Could Harding hold the key to staying in one place, one time? Or will the centuries continue to slip through Rosa’s fingers, as the tides take her further and further away from everything she has grown to love?
The Immortals is at once a captivating adventure story and a profound, beautiful meditation on the need to belong. It is a startlingly original and satisfying work of fiction.

Deathless (Leningrad Diptych #1) – Catherynne M. Valente

What’s it all about?:

A handsome young man arrives in St Petersburg at the house of Marya Morevna. He is Koschei, the Tsar of Life, and he is Marya’s fate. For years she follows him in love and in war, and bears the scars. But eventually Marya returns to her birthplace – only to discover a starveling city, haunted by death. Deathless is a fierce story of life and death, love and power, old memories, deep myth and dark magic, set against the history of Russia in the twentieth century. It is, quite simply, unforgettable.

Dreamwalker (Ballad Of Sir Benfro #1) – James Oswald

What’s it all about?:

The dragons of Glwad are dying. Persecuted for over two millennia, they’re a shrunken echo of the proud creatures they once were. And yet in new life springs hope: Benfro, son of Morgwm the Green, the first male kitling in a thousand years. Long ago dragons wrought a terrible wrong to the land, and now is the time for redemption.

Every young boy in the Twin Kingdoms dreams of being chosen for one of the great orders, and Errol Ramsbottom is no different. He longs to be a Warrior Priest of the High Ffrydd, riding to glorious victory in battle. But you should be careful what you wish for; it might just come to pass.

For almost a century there has been an uneasy truce between the Twin Kingdoms and the godless Llanwennogs to the north, but as King Diseverin descends ever further into drunken madness, his ruthless daughter Beulah takes up the reins of power. A time of war looks set to descend upon Gwlad, and it will surely draw everyone, man and dragon both, into its cruel game.

The booksellers in Mr B’s Emporium are so fantastic that they sold every single book to us, I honestly am looking forward to each and every one of them. I’m probably most excited for The Long Way To A Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers as it has been absolutely everywhere and I’ve been meaning to get to it for the longest time but I’m also quite excited to read some Brandon Sanderson after seeing some book tubers raving about him. Also, Deathless is based on a Russian fairy tale…yep, sold sold sold! Have you read any of these? I’d love to know what you think!


Short Stories Challenge 2017 – Gallowberries by Angela Slatter from the collection Sourdough And Other Stories

Published May 16, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s Gallowberries all about?:

Gallowberries is about a young woman who has recently lost her mother. Both women are witches and this story focuses on how the daughter manages to take care of herself as she learns more about her own powers.

What did I think?:

I can already tell that this short story collection has the potential to be the most fantastic one I’ve ever read and I’m only two stories in. The first story, The Shadow Tree had me falling completely under the author’s spell and Gallowberries was much the same. It encompasses everything I love in a story – a bit of fantasy, a lot of fairy tale, beautiful lyrical writing and the edge of darkness to make something that is so wonderful to read that you are sorry when you reach the final page as you just want it to go on forever. A huge thank you again to the lovely Fiction Fan for recommending this author and this particular collection, I’m one hundred percent bowled over by it.

Gallowberries is almost like a novella in itself. Not length wise, as it’s regular short story length but the amount of time and events it covers is epic in scale and you almost feel you are seeing a large portion of someone’s life, written in Angela Slatter’s inimitable style that gives me such a warm fuzzy feeling inside. The story involves a young woman called Patience whom when we meet her is admiring the apples growing on a tree that are managing to flourish with a little help from her magical powers. It is while she is looking at the fruit that she happens to notice a handsome man who speaks to her causing her to fall. This is Gideon Cotton who she ends up getting to know romantically (although sadly for her he is never planning to introduce her to his family or indeed marry her….he has a more “suitable” wife-to-be all lined up!).

However, little does Gideon know but Patience is already very familiar with him and his family. He is desperately seeking a witch that murdered some of his family, poisoned others through the wells, cursed cows to be barren and ensured that fields propagated dead crops. Patience is well aware of this as she is the witch he is seeking. In her mind, she had good reasons for revenge. Her mother was due to be hanged for witchcraft by his family and at the last minute she escaped by using the magical properties of gallowberries. This does mean that Patience is unable to see her anymore as she has passed over to another world where Patience cannot follow. With the help of her new friend, Dowsabel who takes Patience in when she is destitute and has nowhere else to go, Patience begins to use her magic for good and see hope and happiness in her life again. Nevertheless, this is an Angela Slatter fairy tale….a happy ending is not guaranteed and with the threat of Gideon finding out who she really is always a concern, Patience may have to call on her dark powers again to ensure her survival.

Loved, loved, loved this story. As I mentioned before, it is a truly epic narrative with so much content, action, heartbreak and sorrow jammed into a relatively short space of time but the brilliant thing is, it never feels rushed or “too much.” The fairy tale-esque nature of Angela Slatter’s writing is always a bonus but she always chooses such strong and interesting female characters like Patience herself and her friend Dowsabel whom I found fascinating to read about and indeed, ended up fully championing despite the questionable things that Patience had done in the name of revenge. Also, the darkness. Oh, it’s incredibly dark! Some of the things that occur might make you cringe, may make you squirm but it’s such amazing storytelling that you simply cannot look away before you find out how it all ends. So far, the two stories in this collection I’ve read have been incredibly strong and if this is an indicator of how the collection is going to continue, I’ve got many more treats in store. Is Angela Slatter a new favourite author? You’re goddamn right she is!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):


NEXT SHORT STORY: Thorn In My Side by Karin Slaughter (stand-alone)

Cress (The Lunar Chronicles #3) – Marissa Meyer

Published October 21, 2016 by bibliobeth


What’s it all about?:

In this third book in Marissa Meyer’s bestselling Lunar Chronicles series, Cinder and Captain Thorne are fugitives on the run, now with Scarlet and Wolf in tow. Together, they’re plotting to overthrow Queen Levana and prevent her army from invading Earth.

Their best hope lies with Cress, a girl trapped on a satellite since childhood who’s only ever had her netscreens as company. All that screen time has made Cress an excellent hacker. Unfortunately, she’s being forced to work for Queen Levana, and she’s just received orders to track down Cinder and her handsome accomplice.

When a daring rescue of Cress goes awry, the group is splintered. Cress finally has her freedom, but it comes at a higher price than she’d ever expected. Meanwhile, Queen Levana will let nothing prevent her marriage to Emperor Kai, especially the cyborg mechanic. Cress, Scarlet, and Cinder may not have signed up to save the world, but they may be the only hope the world has.

What did I think?:

Isn’t it strange how your opinion on a series can change so much from the first book? Mine certainly has. Not saying I didn’t enjoy Cinder, the first book in the Lunar Chronicles but it wasn’t a series I saw myself continuing. If it wasn’t for my sister and fellow blogger Chrissi Reads assuring me how great the second book, Scarlet was, I probably wouldn’t have carried on! I’m ever so glad I did, because the world that Marissa Meyer has created is truly magical and each book in the series just keeps getting better and better.

Each book is loosely based on a fairy tale (and has the most fabulous covers known to man). So, with the first book it was Cinderella quite obviously, the second Little Red Riding Hood and in this third offering, Cress could otherwise be known as Rapunzel. She is an employee of Queen Levana, villain extraordinaire and a talented hacker for Luna. Levana has kept her isolated on a satellite for her entire life with her only point of human contact being Sybil, Levana’s head thaumaturge/flunkey. As a result, Cress is incredibly naive, quite socially awkward and desperately in need of friends and her freedom.

See where I’m going with this? Cinder, Captain Thorne, Scarlet, Wolf and Iko are all rattling around in a spaceship on the run from the evil Queen Levana and her dastardly plans (which I’m not saying anything about for fear of spoiling the series for anyone who hasn’t started it yet!). They immediately mount a mission to rescue Cress from her lonely, humdrum existence, guessing that her talents with I.T. could make her quite valuable to them in the future… Of course, this wouldn’t be an adventure if things didn’t go slightly haywire along the way and they do, for a number of our characters which could affect the whole game plan of overthrowing Queen Levana, preventing her hideous marriage to the wonderful Prince Kai and clearing the way for the rightful ruler of Luna to take the throne.

This book is quite a hefty, meaty read at nearly 600 pages but please don’t let the size put you off, it was so action-packed that I seemed to read it in no time at all. I’m loving the mixture of characters that the author is producing, they’re all so endearing in their own ways and I’m beginning to appreciate each one for what they bring to the narrative: Cinder and her burgeoning leadership skills, Thorne with his wicked sense of humour, Scarlet for her fiesty attitude and Cress for her sweet innocence. Then BAM! right at the end, we get introduced to a new character that will play a prominent role in the next novel – Princess Winter who appears to be all kinds of crazy but utterly bewitching. I literally cannot wait to see how this series is going to pan out.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):



Gingerbread – Robert Dinsdale

Published September 20, 2015 by bibliobeth


What’s it all about?:

Fairy tale and history, wilderness and civilisation collide in this brilliant and magical new novel from the author of Little Exiles.

In the depths of winter in the land of Belarus, where ancient forests straddle modern country borders, an orphaned boy and his grandfather go to scatter his mother’s ashes in the woodlands. Her last request to rest where she grew up will be fulfilled.

Frightening though it is to leave the city, the boy knows he must keep his promise to mama: to stay by and protect his grandfather, whatever happens. Her last potent gifts – a little wooden horse, and hunks of her homemade gingerbread – give him vigour. And grandfather’s magical stories help push the harsh world away.

But the driving snow, which masks the tracks of forest life, also hides a frozen history of long-buried secrets. And as man and boy travel deeper among the trees, grandfather’s tales begin to interweave with the shocking reality of his own past, until soon the boy’s unbreakable promise to mama is tested in unimaginable ways.

What did I think?:

This is the first book of Robert Dinsdale’s that I’ve read and picked up this copy from a wonderful Oxfam charity shop near Tottenham Court Road in London where the synopsis immediately intrigued me and begged to be bought and devoured. I love fairy tales, fairy tale re-imaginings, alternative fairy tales… you name it. Just the mere mention of the word fairy tale will ensure it gets put in my basket and after reading lots of positive reviews of this novel on Good Reads, I was eager to get stuck in and form my own opinion. Gingerbread is like nothing I’ve ever read before and although fairy tales play a huge part in this novel, it’s not your average “happily ever after” read. If I had to compare it to something, I would probably choose Roald Dahl’s version of Cinderella from his Revolting Rhymes book (not entirely sure why!) except that the story is incredibly unsettling and plays on your mind long after the book has been closed.

Our narrator for Gingerbread is a young boy (unnamed at least in the beginning) who has moved in with his grandfather (known as Papa) in Belarus with his mother who is herself dying of cancer. Before she passes away, the boy’s mother manages to extract two promises from her son. One, that he will scatter her ashes in the forest by the cottage where she used to live in her childhood and two, most importantly, that he will look after his grandfather, no matter what. Unfortunately, the boy is about to discover how hard it is going to be to keep these promises to his mother. Papa is hugely reluctant to go into the forest but after a lot of pestering the boy manages to persuade him to go there so that he can fulfil part one of his mother’s wishes.

The problem is, now that Papa has arrived in the forest at his old cottage, he becomes increasingly loath to leave it again which is okay at the start as the two ensconce themselves safely within the house. The boy has always enjoyed the magical stories his papa tells him and indeed he seems to have a gift for luring the listener deep within a time where a Winter King wars against enemies of the West. It is not long however before everything slowly begins unravelling leading to the cottage being abandoned, the two living in make-shift shelters in the woods and practically starving and the stories that Papa tells becoming more frightening erring on the monstrous. The boy stops going to school and is filthy, thin and very concerned about the transformation he sees day by day in his grandfather’s character. The lines between fiction and reality become blurred and when a family with a girl called Elenya moves into the cottage it could be a desperately needed lifeline to bring the boy and his grandfather back to civilisation. Or, it could be very dangerous for them all.

This was such an intriguing novel and definitely not what I expected when I first picked it up. I loved the way in which the author used historical fiction blended in with fantasy and even at some points horror, to create a mish-mash of genres that fit so perfectly in this unique story. It’s a fairy tale yes, but a very different one and I really enjoyed the pockets of darkness that Robert Dinsdale placed within the narrative to illustrate a descent in mental health that takes the characters back to their very basic selves. I think the phrase “survival of the fittest,” definitely applies to this story and there are certain depths you think as an individual you would never stoop to but perhaps when your life is on the line, this attitude no longer holds weight and you have to fight to stay alive.

For some parts of the novel, you have to suspend your disbelief which wasn’t a problem for me personally but I can understand why some people may find it difficult or too unbelievable. In this way I thought Papa was a fantastic character and loved exploring his murky depths but my heart also bled for the boy who at the end of the day is just trying to keep his beloved mother’s last wishes and look after his grandfather. The addition of Elenya was also a nice choice, bringing new life to the story and it was interesting to follow her growing relationship with the “wild boy.” This book probably isn’t for you if you like your endings all wrapped up with a little bow and everyone living in harmony together – it’s incredibly dark and twisty and will play with your mind for days after finishing it. However if you’re a big fan of the darkness and subtle horror like me, read this book immediately (and maybe don’t go into the woods on your own).

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):