Short Stories

Poisoned Fruit & Cursed Futures

I recently finished writing a short fiction piece inspired by poisoned apple folklore and legends, the most familiar being the story “Little Snow-White” published by Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm in Children’s’ and Household Tales (commonly known as Grimm’s Fairy Tales) between 1812-1814 . There are, of course, countless folklore and folktales surrounding betrayals and murder often delivered through gifting a consumable item. The apple or similar fruit in folklore is often connected with a betrayal which can be symbolised by a literal poisoned fruit, a cursed future and sometimes, by both. In my short fiction piece, I explored this concept through the idea of dynasty, a kingdom dependent on a ruling dynasty who renew their pledge to withhold their birthright, the use of magic except by the Queen in defence of the kingdom. As with many folktales, civil unrest leads to the Queen’s betrayal, in my short fiction, by her own sister where betrayal sets in motion a greater chain of reactions. I wanted to explore the role of the Queen, in seeking retribution for her betrayal how extensive a curse might be when her vengeance is levelled against her sister’s reign.

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Uprooted

Uprooted by US author Naomi Novik explores the author’s polish heritage through vibrant folklore in this Fantasy novel.
Although Uprooted began like many fairytale retellings with a naive village girl from a rural village, who is taken by the Dragon and trapped in a tower. This is the basic synopsis of Uprooted but the story is significantly more than that. The villages of the valley ordinarily offer an exceptional young woman from their villages as tribute to the Dragon, who is actually a wizard, and the tower is his stronghold.
In Uprooted, Agnieszka is unexpectedly taken by the Dragon when she is chosen instead of her friend Kasia, the likely candidate. But Agnieszka unknowingly possesses a unique magic of her own, the type and depth which even the Dragon, the strongest wizard in the realm finds difficult to understand. As Agnieszka begins to learn how to handle her magic, she begins to find Sarkin (the Dragon) not as remote or indifferent as she once thought. Along with this, Agnieszka begins to understand how the valley she grew up in, lies within a shadow of a much larger and darker force than Sarkin. The burden of Sarkin’s position was more than life in the tower, standing sentinel against the real enemy, the Wood. For as the Wood grows closer to the capital city, a corruption leeching from it that destroys everything it touches, consuming the humanity to leaving only darkness and rage behind in a humanoid husk. Sarkin and Agnieszka soon find themselves united in a battle to save their country and the heirs to the throne, both from their own family and the Wood. Although Agnieszka‘s own magic is very strong, she is untrained and her power so unfamiliar to the other wizards that it is baffling to all but Sarkin who manages to work with her, blending her wilder magic sourced from the wandering wood-witch, Baba-Yaga, with his own, organised formulas. In the end, Agnieszka is able to find ways to understand that how the corruption of the Wood spreads from a single source, but her and Sarkin must choose to purge or destroy the source of corruption if they hope to vanquish the Wood and free the country from its grasp.
Uprooted was a rich and wonderful tale of magic and transformation. I enjoyed the detailed folklore and historical depth to the novel which made the characters both unique and fitting for the style of a fairytale retelling. A highly recommended read!

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The Bee and the Orange Tree

I read The Bee and the Orange Tree by Australian author Melissa Ashley. A wonderful historical fiction set during the early stages of the French Revolution but focused on the female literary circles surrounding Baroness Marie Catherine D’Aulnoy established as an author in her own right after successful publication career of several novels and fairytale collections. The darker, more disturbing undertone throughout the novel is that of female oppression during the reign of the French King Louis XIV, where the fairytales of young heroes and heroines overcoming impossible odds is a glittering hope for the oppressed women and subjugated peasants of France.

The Bee and the Orange Tree follows Angelina, Marie Catherine’s daughter, raised in a convent with barely any contact with her mother or father. Angelina is recalled from her only known world of the convent, to aid her ageing mother as an assistant. Soon, Angelina finds herself among the literary salons of Paris, attended by some of the most talented writers and poets but also many wealthy or noble families. Angelina is disheartened to discover the popularization of the craft and art her mother worked hard to establish herself and which Angelina greatly enjoys. Angelina is quickly confined by the existence of a respectable woman, suddenly missing the relative freedom of the convent especially as Marie Catherine has not written a single word after suffering an unusual form of writers block.

At one literary circle, Angelina is introduced to her mother’s protege, a young talented writer named Alphonse. Although unsure of her feelings toward Alphonse, Angelina is soon aware that Alphonse’s attempts to court her are only aimed at gaining Marie Catherine as a potential benefactor. This revelation hardens Angelina’s mistrust of Parisian society, which only deepens further when Marie Catherine’s good friend, Nicola Tiquet is accused of adultery and attempted murder. The subsequent trial of Nicola Tiquet, an independently wealthy and powerful woman without the need of a husband to support herself, becomes a focal point for Angelina’s realization of the oppressive nature of French society and the discrimination against women and any of unequal status. Against this is the greater landscape of the early French Revolution and the the determination of the powerful to hold onto power. Throughout these dramatic social challenges, Angelina learns disheartening truths about both her parents, discovering both are willing to sacrifice for their own aims and Angelina soon finds she has more in common with Alphonse than she imagined.

The Bee and the Orange Tree was an engrossing, complex historical fiction where the stories of each of the characters were as much the focus as the development of the fairytale literature and women’s rights in France during the eighteenth century. A wonderful read and highly recommended!

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South of the Sun winners!

Australian Fairy Tale Society

At last!

The editorial committee putting together the AFTS anthology “South of the Sun” have finally chosen their winners. It was a truly difficult job – we were inundated with talented submissions and we’ve spent many a long hour short-listing, re-short-listing, arguing and finally agreeing on the following. A big thank you to everyone who sent in their entries.

Congratulations to everyone who’s on the list – and commiserations to those who didn’t make it.

·Anezka Sero ̶The Snowgum Maiden

·Lindy Mitchell-Nilsson ̶Jack, the Beanstalk and the NBN

·Yvette Ladzinski ̶The Lonely Mosque

·Melissa Min Harvey ̶The Wild Moon Call

·Clare Testoni ̶The Lyrebird

·Krystal Barton ̶North Coburg to Flinders St Station

·Rachel Nightingale ̶Riverbend

·Jackie Kerin ̶No Horse, No Cart, No Shoes

·Angie Rega ̶The Tale of the Seven Magpies

·Danielle McGee –The Origami Mother

·         June Perkins – Into…

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Recent Reads

Beautiful

I recently had the pleasure to read Beautiful by Juliet Marillier in audiobook format. I thoroughly enjoy all of Marillier’s re-imaginings and re-telling of classic folktales and mythologies. Beautiful was certainly as detailed and well-written as previous novels I have read by Juliet Marillier. The inspiration for Beautiful was the Nordic fairy-tale East of the Sun and West of the Moon where a princess overcomes numerous tribulations to discover her true self. In Beautiful, the young princess is Hulde of the Hill-folk, viewed as trolls by the human populations, Hulde is completely innocent of the world beyond the Glass Mountain where the queen keeps her secluded and ignorant. Hulde’s only companion is a white bear named Rune who teaches her kindness and to trust her own judgement. Orchestrated by the queen, on Hulde sixteenth birthday, a curse will be fulfilled. When Hulde discovers the falsehood and betrayal, she prevents the curse from coming to fruition and begins her own quest to find her true self, to honour the memory of a father she never knew and to lead the Hill-folk with kindness, wisdom and justice.Beautiful was a story of wonder and wisdom, where beauty should be considered on many levels, different personalities and physical forms.

Recent Reads

A Court of Thorns & Roses

A Court of Thorns and Roses is the first novel in an adult Fantasy series by Sarah J. Maas. Although listed as young adult Fantasy like previous novels by Maas, A Court of Thorns & Roses is unsuitable for younger readers and contains appropriate warnings despite the booksellers listing and conflicting publisher imprint from Bloomsbury YA. A Court of Thorns & Roses follows the protagonist Feyre, the youngest daughter of a once-wealthy merchant but now greatly impoverished. To keep her two older sisters and father from starving, Feyre learned to hunt in the forest south of the great wall dividing the mortal realm from Prythian, the faerie realm. While hunting, Feyre kills a large wolf she suspects is a disguised faerie but generations of mortal hatred toward the Fae justify her kill. Soon, Feyre’s fears manifest when Tamlin, High Lord of the Fae Spring Court punishes Feyre for her crime, taking her to Prythian as his vassal, forcing her to forsake her family.Once in Prythian, Feyre discovers the hatred borne by the mortal world is slightly misfounded, for Tamlin is neither cruel nor merciless. In the relative safety of Tamlin’s power in the Spring Court, Feyre soon learns the greatest danger to the mortal realm is also a threat to Prythian. Although bargaining with the Fae is dangerous, Feyre acknowledges her love for Tamlin, she is determined to break the curse binding him and the other Fae High Lords. So Feyre bargains at great cost to herself to save Tamlin and, in doing so, protect the fragile peace between Prythian and the mortal realm. A Court of Thorns and Roses has a familiar fable quality like the classic tales of Beauty and the Beast but the stronger themes from folktales and folklore of the Fae give depth to the world-building behind Prythian.

A Court of Thorns and Roses is a solid foundation to a series that can only expand and explore the complex history hinted at in this first book.

Recent Reads

The Girl in the Tower

I recently finished reading The Girl in the Tower, the second novel in the Winternight Trilogy by Katherine Arden. After the conclusion of The Bear and the Nightingale, Vasilisa’s life has changed forever. Unable to return to the simple life in her father’s holding, Vasilisa decides to travel. Although Medvedev, the Bear is bound again, Morozko, the Winter King, warns Vasilisa not to leave the safety of the northern forests. Determined as always, Vasilisa takes her stallion Solovey, and travels through the vast Russian forests. Vasilisa happens upon a bandit campsite and rescues several kidnapped girls. When Vasilisa seeks refuge for herself and the kidnapped girls, she finds the nearby monastery and her brother, Sasha, the warrior-monk. Since travelling on the road alone, Vasilisa has disguised herself as a boy. Relieved that Vasilisa is not dead as he had feared, Sasha agrees for Vasilisa to continue her disguise. For Sasha does not travel alone, but in the company of the Grand Prince of Moscow. Conscious of Vasilisa’s safety and reputation, Sasha takes Vasilisa directly to their sister Olga’s household in Moscow where Olga is now the Princess of Septecov. Vasilisa is reunited with Olga but delight quickly becomes restlessness as the claustrophobic lifestyle led by the noble women of Moscow begins to strangle her. For the noble, virtuous women of Moscow, their lives are spent within the seclusion of their households and tower rooms. The Girl in the Tower continues the story of Vasilisa and Morozko. Behind the main events, the scene in Moscow is one of political intrigue and the very real dangers of the Grand Prince’s court at Moscow. When Vasilisa becomes embroiled in a danger far more explosive than hiding her true identity from the Grand Prince, Vasilisa must risk her own life to save her family. Against the fading powers of the pagan magic, Vasilisa discovers a dark, sorcerous magic that holds a generational family truth.
The Girl in the Tower was just as enchanting as The Bear and the Nightingale, drawing on the wonderful Russian folktales and imbued with the same fable-like qualities. Here you can read my review of The Bear and the Nightingale

Recent Reads

Heart’s Blood

Heart’s Blood is a Historical Fantasy by Australian-New Zealand author Juliet Marillier, following the young female scribe Caitrin, who after fleeing her own dark past, takes a commission at the derelict ruins of Whistling Tor in the household of the mysterious Chieftain, Anluan.Caitrin soon earns Anluan’s trust and that of his odd household retainers, a mixture of loyal but bound ghosts. While Caitrin translates records from Anluan’s ancestors, she learns the history behind the dark stories of Whistling Tor and the challenges facing the physically weakened Anluan. Yet the darkest but most important horrific secret resides in one of Anluan’s ancestors and past Chieftan of Whistling Tor, a sorcerer who bound the Host – the capricious army ghosts to Whistling Tor and to the will of its Chieftain. Despite the Host being an unbeatable army, the Chieftain must always reside at Whistling Tor to control the Host. For past attempts to lead the Host to battle away from the control of Whistling Tor led to calamitous and fatal consequences for the Chieftain. While committed to her translations for Anluan, Caitrin is soon determined and consumed by the mystery and plight of the Host. Caitrin promises to release the Host by finding a counter-spell to the one Anluan’s ancestor had used to bind the restless ghosts into an army. The promise Caitrin makes to the Host embodies her own love for Anluan. Parallel to the plight of the Host is the personal battles within Caitrin and Anluan to heal the injuries of their own past and confront the fears that have always constrained them.
Heart’s Blood is a beautiful story, emphasising hope and courage and creating genuine characters. Infused in every facet of the story, the half-seen eldritch world continues as a signature theme for Juliet Marillier.

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Spinning Silver

The best-selling US author Naomi Novik returns to her Polish heritage in a retelling of Slavic folktales. In Spinning Silver, Miryem is the granddaughter of a prominent Jewish moneylender in the city of Vysnia. In a small village outside Vysnia, Miryem’s father is poorly suited to his position as a moneylender, with his own family living in poverty while the villagers he lends money, live without fear of repayment. When Miryem takes control of money-lending, she hardens her heart to the pleas of her community and soon regains the wealth her own family should have possessed. Myriem’s growing reputation as a moneylender and her bold statement to turn silver into gold brings her to the attention of the Staryk, figures from Slavic folklore hunting the winter woods with desire for gold. Myriem is soon taken by the Staryk king where her words become a magic truth. Incorporated into Myriem’s tale is that of Irina, daughter of a minor duke and unintentionally embroiled in Myriem’s attempts to placate the Staryk king. Irina’s father pays Myriem gold for Irina’s jewellery made from Staryk silver. Irina’s jewellery contains a magical enchantment which captivates the Mirnatius, the young Tsar who soon marries Irina. Soon Irina confronts a hidden, dark menace lurking within Mirnatius and Myriem must choose between a known safety and an uncertain future. Interwoven with the stories of Myriem and Irina, is that of Wanda and her poverty-stricken family who become loyal servants and Myriem’s friends.
Spinning Silver is a skilful retelling of Slavic folktale and traditional lore where battles between good and evil require sacrifices extracting a high cost from those involved. Spinning Silver maintains the fable-like quality in the retelling where all life-lessons offer benefit, not without risk and always requiring a cost.