November Reading Log

Only two books read this month, and both were chosen for me. In contrast, it’s 6 days into December, and I’ve been through 3.5 books. I guess some months I’m just not up to reading.

The Bone Doll’s Twin – Lynn Flewelling

This book was picked for me for a swap on Swap Bot. This was picked for me for pick my next read #12. I had it in audiobook format, and since I’m not driving right now, I had to get it from the library. I read it on my trip to southern California in early November. It was.. ok?

It’s a high fantasy novel, set in a country where women have lead for centuries, and when they lead, the country prospers. Currently, there’s a man on the throne, and plagues, famine, and drought are problems. Things keep happening to the women of the King’s line, and they die. There’s a prophecy that a woman of the old line will come and lead everyone to prosperity and set things right, but no one’s surviving to do it.

Enter two wizards, who, with the help of a hedge witch, manage to disguise a girl baby as a boy, so she can grow up with the chance of one day ruling. Things don’t quite go as planned, leading to a series of interesting and sad events.

I expected more from the book, and about 2/3 of the way through, I began to wonder why we weren’t closer to the reveal of the boy actually being a girl. Then I did some Googling, and found out that it’s the first book of a trilogy. So, no big reveal THIS book. It was kind of disappointing. I’m not so sure I’ll read the rest of the series, but that could change. It just didn’t grip me. It’s a very slow paced book.

Five Glass Slippers – Elisabeth Brown, Emma Clifton, Rachel Heffington, Stephanie Ricker, Clara Diane Thompson, Anne Elisabeth Stengl (editor)

Five Glass Slippers is a collection of short stories all themed around Cinderella. . Each story differs from the other ones, but contains the core elements of a Cinderella story: a girl, a generous benefactor or fairy godmother, glass slippers, a ball, and a prince.

Of the five stories, I really enjoyed two: “A Cinder’s Tale” and “The Moon Master’s Ball”, In a Cinder’s Tale, Elsa is a space miner, mining cendrillon from a gas giant. She’s been a miner for years for the high pay and the ability to see the galaxy. She’s also found her little family among the other Cinders, as the miners are known. She’s happy, and befriends a fay woman, who loans her a beautiful dress (and glass slippers) for a ball. There, she meets the son of one of the most famous space explorers known, and they hit it off.

I enjoyed this one a lot because it was completely different from all the other stories. The rest are largely Regency era stories, with carriages and serving maids, and this one’s all modern and fun. Elsa is content with her life, with the family she’s made with the other miners. The world she’s in is interesting, yet still relatable (the miners have pasta for dinner). The “prince” in this story is a down to earth guy who happens to be related to someone famous. The big event that risks tearing Elsa’s world apart is believable, within the context of the world. So I really enjoyed this story.

I didn’t know if I’d like the Moon Master’s Ball when I started reading it. It’s one of those Regency era stories, where Tilly works as a maid for Lord Hollingberry, who was kind enough to take her in when her parents died. At the start of the story, a new head housekeeper has been brought in, and Tilly’s upset about it. Turns out her upset is reasonable, as the head housekeeper is a nasty woman, and her daughter isn’t any better. They’re only in the house a day before an annual event happens: Bromley’s Circus. It appears out of nowhere and sticks around for a week every fall. And every fall, Tilly spends the week in her room, hiding away. She had a bad experience years before at the circus, and refuses to go.

All of that changes when Lord Hollingberry asks her to deliver a letter to the Moon Master. This sets a course of events in motion that changes many people’s lives. Tilly goes from being a timid maid to someone with a spine, and in the process, saves someone who’s stuck under a curse. There’s a decent mix of magic and realism that comes together for this story, which I enjoyed. The only drawback is the circus reminds me of the one in The Night Circus.

As to the other three stories, I could leave them, and not miss them. They’re ultimately what drags down my rating of the book (3 stars on Goodreads). The first story stays pretty close to the original tale’s events, except that everyone’s personalities are inverted. Arella lives with her stepmother and stepsisters, all of whom treat her nicely. She’s treated as a daughter in the household, not a drudge. But, she hates being the center of attention, and since she’s gorgeous, she often is. She’s taken to being a shut in to avoid attention. Of course, the prince is instantly smitten with her at the ball, and does everything he can to woo her into marrying him. Desperate to not be forced into marrying him, Arella concocts a plan to escape. Ultimately, she’s too whiny and too much of a doormat for me to sympathize, and the personality flip of Arella’s family is a bit much.

The second story is more fun than stories one and three, but not nearly as good as the last two. In it, Rosalind is being forced to marry the prince because some girl wore her shoes to a ball. Yeah, I know. The prince danced with this girl and adored her, and when she ran away, she left a shoe behind. The Prince ordered his servants to find the girl, and they bring him Rosalind, who is the owner of the shoe, but not the one he danced with. The girl he danced with is a cinder girl, one of the girls who stokes the fires in the factories to keep the machines running. It’s a sort of a steampunk world, with steam carriages and the like. The plot gets convoluted, as the Prince’s younger brothers are involved: one’s a schemer who wants the throne, the other is a doormat, and courting Rosalind. Add in a fake death, magic, and a fairy godmother, and it’s quite the plot in a small package.
I don’t know if the third story is my least favorite, or if it just ties with the first for that honour. In it, Alis is part of the traditional Cinderallas tale: dead father, evil stepmother, annoying stepsisters, spends her time as a serving girl. The twist is that she believes she’s the true daughter of the king and queen of the realm, and she was switched at birth with the boy who’s there now. She looks just like them, their son does not, and there’s no record of her father anywhere. She enlists other servants to help her prove the claim. She obtains a fairy godfather in the form of a Lord, and he is willing to help her prove her claims. What she didn’t count on is falling in love with the Prince. Once in love with him, the plot to fake his murder and run away, but things don’t go as planned. I didn’t like this one because Alis is an annoying character, all sharp tongue and no grace. And, she falls in love with the prince right off the bat. Seriously, she’s in love with him after the second meeting. I couldn’t suspend disbelief enough for that.