Three great YA fantasies

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

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A couple weeks ago I picked up some crafting books and three YA fantasies. Last week, I made it to the novels. Wonderful. All three of them rang with their own harmonies.

First was Dragon Sword and Wind Child by Noriko Ogiwara. I admit I picked this one because it said dragon. But I really enjoyed how the author used the mythology and setting of ancient Japan to create her world. Saya is thrust into the conflict between Light and Dark and comes to realize that it is not a matter of good versus evil like she'd been taught. She must accept her birthright and figure out the meaning behind an ancient legend regarding the Wind Sword in order to save her world.

For a retelling of a Grimm's fairy tale, Shannon Hale does a great rendition of The Goose Girl. Princess Ani starts off timid, but it's hard to learn confidence or social graces with such a dynamic mother. Nothing is ever good enough. After the king's death, her mother declares her to not be fit as Crown Princess and sends her to their neighboring kingdom as bribe, err, bride to prevent the larger country from carrying out possible plans to invade. But on the journey, Ani's maid stages a coup and usurps Ani's place and her name, sending Ani fleeing for her life. The former princess must learn to both survive and find her strengths in order to save her old home, her new home, the people who've accepted her, and the man she loves. When you wants a cozy fairy tale but with more scope than the typical one, this is a fun read.

Toads and Diamonds by Heather Tomlinson is another fairy tale rendition. This one has the feel of India, something that intrigued me because of my friend Jai. Out of the three, this book was probably my favorite. It has a gorgeous cover: lovely sari fabric and golden bangles above hands decorated with henna tattoos and a large pink blossom cupped between them. In the original tale, one sister is sweetness and light but bossed around and made to do drudge work. One day at a well, she is kind to an old woman who turns out to be magical who grants her the gifts of jewels and flowers dropping from her lips when she speaks. The other sister, in jealousy, goes to the well herself but is haughty to the old woman. As punishment, the magic woman makes toads and snakes to fall from her mouth. The kind sister gets to marry a prince, while the mean sister is driven into the wilderness.

This version is wildly different in how the story happens, beginning with the characters. The sisters love each other, though they each have their unique talents. Diribani isn't used to working so hard, but she tries her best in order to provide for her stepmother and stepsister after her father's death. While fetching water at the well, she is kind to a goddess disguised as an old woman. She is granted the first gift. Tana, her sister, feels unworthy next to Diribani's goodness, so when she meets the goddess herself, she feels she deserves the unpleasant gift. Diribani is taken up by a prince and Tana is forced to leave her home. However, blessings and curses are not always what you expect. A gift may be both. Wisdom, good fortune, or death. Which fate will each girl find?

I recommend all three books, but if you can only find time for one, get your hands on Toads and Diamonds. *mutters* Now to go find Tomlinson's other books.


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