by Thomas Wharton
The first book of the trilogy follows a boy named Will Lightfoot, whose father has packed his family up to move them across the country. Will is unhappy about moving away from the house he lived in when his mother was still alive, and as an act of defiance steals his father’s motorcycle to go to The Perilous Realm, a circus he sees from the highway. On his way, he crashes the motorcycle and is hurtled into a tumultuous alternate reality where the stories from our world originate. He teams up with a motley crew and sets out to find the gate through which he may return home.
This is an epic quest type of book, with references to Lord of the Rings, Little Red Riding Hood, and the King Arthur legends. The idea of a world where all of our stories originate is super interesting, as is the idea that malicious characters can wage wars within that world in order to make all stories their own. The ideas are what made this not a tedious read for me, but the characters are so stock it hurts. What? A boy who is secretly special? A feisty girl who is smarter than the boy but who has no character development? How about a wise old man who knows everything but says very little at a time? The reviews of this book all laud Wharton’s writing style, but the first 80 pages are brutally amateurish. Will looked into the shards of mirror and got that feeling–you know, the one where you know the person looking back at you isn’t you but some malevolent force that now knows your thoughts and memories and will try to find you to harm you? Get that one every morning! The book does pick up, though, and the twists and turns are compelling. I’d read the next one.
A good read for kids who are willing to pick up thick books and who love adventure, Arthurian legends, or creatively imagined worlds. And there’s a talking wolf!
by Malinda Lo
An amazing Cinderella story with dark fairy lore weaved in. The fairies in this book are not like the ones Disney shows you. They are dangerous and irresistible and if they catch you alone at night they will lure you into a fairy circle from which you can never escape. Aisling, the Cinderella character, meets a fairy man in the woods, but oddly he lets her go. Since Aisling’s life is so horrible anyway, she wishes he would just take her away to live with the fairies so she would never have to return to her home with her wicked stepmother. He meets with her regularly, but says that he will not take her away until she is older. Obsessed with the fairy and the thought of being taken away by him, Aisling thinks of nothing but him as she trudges through her increasingly unbearable life… until she meets and starts to fall for the King’s Huntress.
Unlike most other queer books for teens, this one isn’t about coming out and it’s not a big deal that Ash likes a guy and likes a girl. Definitely in my top five for queer books and also one of the best supernatural teen stories I’ve encountered. The fairy stuff is well researched and adheres to traditional tales of malevolent fairies. The Irish names are also a plus.
A fantastic read for anyone looking for a queer story or a supernatural story, even if they’re not looking for something that has both. The cracked fairy-tale crowd will also enjoy it.
by Shannon and Dean Hale, ill. Nathan Hale (no relation)
Rapunzel lives a sheltered life within high fortress walls that surround the house she lives in with her mother, whom everyone calls Mother Gothel. One day, Rapunzel decides to scale the walls and sees that Mother Gothel has used her magical green thumb to control the land and make the villagers slaves for her coal mines. Rapunzel discovers that Gothel stole her from her birth mom when she was a baby and sent her mom to work in the mines. When Rapunzel demands to be reunited with her real mom and refuses Mother Gothel’s offer to inherit the family business, Gothel locks her up in an enchanted tower of a tree. As the tree continues to grow, so does Rapunzel’s hair. She uses her lasso skills and her long braided hair to rescue herself from the tree and begins a wild west adventure to undo Mother Gothel’s evil deeds and rescue her birth mother from the mines.
The only negative thing I can say about this book is that it raised my expectations for other cracked fairy tales. I was incredibly disappointed with Tangled after having read this. Thankfully, there’s a sequel: Calamity Jack, which focuses on Jack’s backstory. I can’t stress enough how much I love this comic. Strong female main character, positive First Nations secondary character, incredibly clever writing, and good consistent drawings make this story stand out as one of the best books for kids I’ve picked up in the last few years.
Anyone who liked Jeff Smith’s Bone series will enjoy the humour and adventure of this story, and it’s a good one for those who love cracked fairy tales. Kids enjoy this book, but I also recommend it to adults who are interested in comics and appreciate a good parable about unchecked capitalism.